As I have taken recently a bigger interest in my blogging methods I have started paying a bit more attention to what services work and how. I have taken a special interest in what is related to Atheism and how the Atheosphere (which I’m hoping you’re a part of) can utilize them to increase our visibility.
To this end I wanted to raise your attention to the Atheism subreddit which has gone live a short 6 months ago, shortly after the creation of custom reddits was implemented. Within that short time it has acquired more than 15K subscribers which, if you consider that the most any subreddit has is 53K is pretty impressive.
Some of you may wonder how reddit:atheism has achieved this significant amount of users when The Atheist Spot is still struggling to get more than 5 votes on any individual post. The answer lies in usability.
Reddit is really simple and really minimalistic. Most things take just one click to achieve and you’ll be hard pressed to find anything requiring more than two of them. Indeed, a lot of care has been put to create widgets and bookmarklets that make voting and submitting as quick and painless as possible for logged in users.
How does this simplicity help?
First of all, as a simple reader you can just grab the bookmarklet(s), (put them in a folder if you want) and once you’re in an article worthy of your interests (not just atheism) just vote it up. If it’s on reddit you’re just told that it’s voted (without leaving the page!) and if it’s not, you can submit it with an extra click. How easy is that?
Contrary to digg (and clones) you don’t have to type a description or check for duplicates and pass through a 10 step process to submit. The only thing you need is the url and title which are automatically grabbed. If you have your favorite subreddits selected, the choices of where to submit are one of them, which make it a breeze to send to where it belongs.
As a blogger, all you have to do is grab one of the widgets and put it in the area of your choice. You can see mine on the sidebar under the “popularity” header. Not only does this allow your visitors to vote up/down and see how popular a post is but they (if they are good an loyal readers ) can submit it with an extra click of the mouse. There’s practically no reason not to have the widget somewhere.
How about increasing readership?
Until now I considered Stumbleupon one of my better referrers as I would get at least a 100 hits per time one of my articles was stumbled. However after using reddit for a while now, I think there’s a new contender. Since the 7th, I have had five of my posts sumbitted on reddit, of which just one passed 5 votes (none passed 20) and I still got almost 600 unique visitors and my subscibers increased by 1/3. Compare that to Stumbleupon in which I had five posted since the middle of July and it still only barely managed to exceed 600 hits.
To be fair, Stumbleupon had a much lower bounce rate but I was pretty much testing the waters in reddit and submitting anything. Which leads me to my next point.
As I said above, my submissions above ended up with me just getting downmodded quite aggresively. Even the post I assumed would do well barely got 5 points. It became obvious that the reddit crowd is quite opinionated.
To tell the truth, I still haven’t found the winning formula (impossible in 2 weeks) but I have noticed that news usually hit the top but insightful posts tend to do quite well. This is good news for people like me who generally don’t just repeat the same content over and over. Hell, even my interview did ok.
One good tip is to provide some kind of image for your posts. As reddit grabs an image automatically, it usually grabs the first image in the page. If you don’t have a header image like me, the first one is usually the article related pic which should hopefully be related to your content. From personal experience I find that images tend to attract attention.
There are two other good things about submitting in reddit however.
1. You can submit to more than one subreddit at a time.
While news tend to do good in Atheism, in the small cousin subreddit of Freethought, blogposts and opinions tend to do quite well. If you submit to both and someone votes from your site or with a bookmarklet, both will rise in votes.
If you write something that might be of interest to different crowds (say, Atheists and Bloggers) you should submit to all the appropriate categories.
2. New posts are not hidden away
It is a classic problem in Digg and Atheist Spot (for me at least) that when one submits a new post, that is hidden away in a special tab reserved for upcoming stories. This means that unless your topic happens to hit the front page by the few(er) that view these submissions, you’ll rarely see any referrals.
Reddit does this differently, when a new post is sumbitted, it appears without a rank on the front page and can be voted up and down. Once some time has passed, the rank appears and you can see how well it does. This hiding of the rank and appearing on the front means that even if you get downvoted by the various trolls that lurk in reddit, you can still get some views and hopefully catch up.
Another interesting thing is that the front page is not just the top posts but rather the order is decided by time and votes. Thus, as time passes, a post starts dropping and can only be buoyed up by getting voted on. Eventually there’s no one else to vote and it drops off, but until then it’s quite possible for a post to hang around in the middle of the page for a day or so, even with less than 10 votes. For blogs where we might get our normal visitors over the span of two or three days this is especially useful.
As I mentioned above, there are troll that lurk in reddit and opinions can differ quite a bit and as a result we may need at least a bit of solidarity as Atheobloggers. I make it a habit now to always vote up articles of bloggers where the widget is displayed (and the article is voted), unless I outright disagree. The more of us that register and do this, the better all of us will do. Since voting up is so quick & simple, I don’t see why we shouldn’t.
To be continued…
This post is starting to get a bit long winded with all the things I want to say so I’ll stop here. Look for the next (and hopefully last) part of this series where I’ll explain how the commenting system of reddit gives some unique opportunities for extended dialogue, the fun of memes, karma, maturity and various other little tidbits.