Reddit encourages human conversation

CHICAGO—"Show up like a human being and engage in conversation," said Alexis Ohanian, co-founder and executive chairman of reddit, during his special guest presentation this morning at IRCE.

Ohanian was referring to his social website with about 10,000 communities. Reddit was launched in 2005 as a way for online communities to share their links.

The idea was developed by Ohanian and college friend Steve Huffman soon after Ohanian walked out of an LSAT prep course and decided law school was not in his future.

Though the two envisioned a mobile platform that offered a way for consumers to avoid waiting in line, that initial tech startup was shot down. In 2005, mobile was too young and did not seem to be a viable option. Instead, the two shifted gears to create reddit—whose name was developed only after the original name, S'new, was already taken.

The two quickly focused their platform to include user feedback. "We early on attracted a user base that let us know what kind of job we were doing," Ohanian said. "Building for users was so obvious to us."

Eventually, the look of today's reddit came together. For years, the company had a competitor, known as Digg. But the team never let competition be a factor in their work and continued to develop the product. For many years the company consisted of just two men in a small upstairs apartment in Medford, Massachusetts, and advertising was around $500, spent on stickers.

"This proves that making a great products online in the age of social media is all you need to be successful," he said. "The rest will start to take care of itself."

Ohanian ended the talk with advice on being authentic. "Reddit works for anyone who wants to come authentically into communities," he said.

He advised retailers to "act like a human" when communicating with users on reddit. Don't use the platform as a way to market or push a product. Instead, allow it to be a place to engage with consumers in a real conversation, he said.

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