Influencing Social Media: What Drives Digg And Reddit Users

Disclaimer to Digg and Reddit users who also read my blog: this post is to educate those external of these communities. If you’re an active member of either of these sites, the content below may not be new to you.

Digg and Reddit are two of the most powerful communities of social media users on the web. They are the evolution of message boards and message forums that were the previous forefront of the social web (and continue to be popular as well).

Most marketers would be lucky to have their campaign succeed in spreading on these networks, most bloggers are ecstatic when something they’ve written makes page one, most reporters are buzzing when something they publish hits page one and most artists would love to have something they created on page one — in all cases, getting there is the result of doing something exceptionally cool.

The types of content that drives these networks

What drives Digg and Reddit users? I’m going to let you in on the not-so-secret.

Any regular user of these sites knows that the types of content which spread within these networks:

  • Has novelty
  • Draws unique discussion and interest
  • Fits with or reinforces the worldview of the network
  • Goes 100% against the worldview of a network
  • Is incredibly creative
  • Is stuff the users deem worthy of the world to know
  • Is outside the box
  • Causes conflict or controversy
  • Breaks the mold
  • Is clever, but not gimmicky
  • Is gimmicky, but clever
  • Is surprising or hilarious
  • Is incredibly emotional

You can see it is quite a wide swath of content. In one sentence, what succeeds here most is something that is standout in at least one way.

The content that goes popular on those sites can be corporately produced or produced by an individual, the networks are open to anything and everything as long as it’s worthwhile to the user base. They certainly don’t discriminate, the playing field is open to all.

EA on Digg, for example – a smart corporation can make their way into this space just as a smart independent can:

Background for the uninitiated

The user base of the sites prove two different demographics: Digg skews more towards the middle, and Reddit more towards the early adopters. I notice this as I see stories consistently float from Reddit to Digg, but hardly vice versa.

Traffic to Digg, Reddit and StumbleUpon

While the traffic to Reddit is certainly less than that of StumbleUpon and Digg, several power-users to Digg are known scrapers of Reddit. So, if something you create goes popular on Reddit, it may also end up on Digg by one of these content scrapers. (Side note: there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, the best content probably will spread around everywhere eventually even if it reaches one network first.)

Fostering community

Due to the layout of Digg and Reddit, there is a more communal feel to the sites than StumbleUpon, which does a great job at separating users into micro-networks. Certainly, that is a positive differentiation factor of StumbleUpon, and to many it makes it a more useful network.

But for this post, let’s just focus on Digg and Reddit, both of which are the evolution of the web 1.0 message boards of the 90’s everyone is familiar with.

The heavy users of Digg and Reddit, whether they mostly submit, comment or consume content off the sites are a part of a massive community of users that spans demographics and is evolving over time. The core community is made up of the most active users, but even the users who participate infrequently are familiar with the popular memes on the networks, and can step into conversations easily.

Many are active bloggers, Twitter users, and active on other social networks, and most have a large digital footprint and are quick to send stuff to their friends they find interesting. Certainly to go popular on these networks is to reach the influencers of the web. And when you permeate these communities, your content tends to trickle down to everyone, slowly but surely.

The ultimate web lens for influencers

While these sites are not overnight king makers of your brand (you need to focus on other strategies for organic traffic building), they do a great job of putting one idea, story, or piece of content on the radar screen and can bring a great deal of attention to something that resonates with the hip demographic.

Digg and Reddit focus the fleeting attention span of thousands or tens of thousands of unique people intently on one thing. The users then proceed to vehemently discuss it, and share with their friends – as users to these networks tend to be the most connected from their group of peers. Reaching page one of Digg and Reddit is to reach the current round of influencers of social media.

Three ways to learn about Digg and Reddit:

1) Study the headlines on these networks. Of course, the popular stories on these networks are constantly in flux, but the archetypes for stories that succeed here can be understood by participating in the networks daily.

A snapshot of Digg page 1 at the time of writing this:

A shapshot of Reddit page 1 at the time of writing this:

2) Click through and read the sites you notice that frequently make page one of Digg and Reddit. What design elements do they possess? Is it purely the content on the sites you notice that makes page one, or do certain types of sites have more appeal for these networks? I leave that observation to you.

3) Participate in the discussions, Digg and vote up stories. By diving in head first and becoming an active user on the network, you’ll be joining them and really getting a feel for what the networks are all about. Don’t just be an idle consumer of the content, get involved and participate. This is how you’ll truly grasp what works and what doesn’t in this space. And, when you understand Digg and Reddit, you’ll understand what drives the popular internet.


All bloggers, reporters, marketers, PR people and anyone who would like to yield influence on the web (and in the modern world) would be wise to register and become active users on Digg and Reddit. They are absolutely worthwhile communities not only for finding great content, but sharing content you like as well.

One final word of caution: don’t bother submitting your own content to these networks if you’d like to see something go popular. Remember, these are community driven sites. If your work is that cool, others will find it and submit it for you. You can go ahead and submit your own content if you’d like, but it probably won’t make it very far.

Related articles from The Future Buzz

Geeks: The New Influencers

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Related articles from Around The Web

How To Level The Playing Field With Digg (Skelliewag)

How To Get To The Front Page Of Digg: 6 Ingredients Of A Successful Digg Campaign (ProBlogger)

You Might Be A Digg Spammer If… (10e20 Blog)