How Can Reddit Solve its Growth Problem?

Reddit has been undergoing a lot of turmoil lately. CEO Ellen Pao resigned ostensibly because she felt she couldn’t deliver the growth numbers the board wanted to see in the next six months. A question was posed yesterday on /r/Entrepreneur about “What would you do as Reddit’s CEO to grow the user base in the next 6 months”. The comments in the post were filled with ideas of new features that could be added or existing features that could be tweaked. For instance suggestions were to tweak the upvote/downvote system, build improved moderator tools, or give greater visibility to underused features such as multireddits, etc

Do Features Drive Growth?

I think one mistake people often make is thinking that new features can help spur growth. They think more features == more user value == more growth. Whether you’re a tiny startup just getting off the ground or a mature product used by hundreds of millions of people, I think new features rarely lead to a significant change in growth trajectory. I believe this is because for a new feature to drive more growth it can’t just add incrementally more value; it has to create a step change in the amount of value that the average user gets from the product.

Reddit has a few rough edges, but they couldn’t have grown to 130 million monthly unique visitors if they didn’t have solid product/market fit & weren’t delivering a ton of value to users already. So, I don’t think adding new features are the answer.

So What Should Reddit Do?

I hypothesize reddit derives a majority of its traffic from core users who by habit check reddit on a daily basis, referral traffic from blogs, and SEO. I think the biggest thing Reddit is missing is an engagement loop to bring non-core users back. Reddit currently does a very poor job of utilizing email, push notifications, and other social media platforms to re-engage users. My guess is because they are worried about being spammy, which is a huge mistake, since these channels can be leveraged in a non-spammy way that actually puts users first.

So what would I do?

1) Re-engagement emails for non-daily active users that give them a digest of the top 10 posts of the previous day or the previous week. I think less active redditors would get a ton of value because it would allow them to discover content they may have otherwise missed.

2) Push notifications for trending posts where timeliness matters (ex: AMAs, breaking news, etc). Often users complain that they discover a post too late after it already has thousands of comments and they feel any comment they make at that point would just get lost in the crowd.

3) Currently Reddit has about 130MM monthly uniques, but only about 9MM registered accounts. In order to make the engagement loop work Reddit would need more aggressive signup prompts for unauth users. Reddit’s user base are pretty anti-signup but I think communicating the value of creating an account would help convince users. Once a user is signed up they can start curating their subreddit subscriptions, they can start engaging in discussions and submitting links (and they can also start receiving the previously mentioned  re-engagement hooks).

4) Finally Buzzfeed, 9gag, the chive, etc., leech a ton of their traffic by repackaging stuff from Reddit and posting it to social media (namely Facebook). Invest in making sharing much more prominent so Reddit can start to capture some of that traffic. This doubles as both an acquisition strategy & a re-engagement strategy.

What would you do?

Share your thoughts in the discussion on If anyone from Reddit (or any other startup for that matter) wants some Growth advice, feel free to drop me a line.

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