Progressives Guide to Social Media 2: Reddit

This is the second in a series of short articles that are intended to help grassroots activists better utilize social media websites. These are the definitive and comprehensive guides for progressives. Every week after the Intro, there will be a new guide published about how to more effectively use Reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Other Sites, and on Advanced Strategies.

Reddit is a rapidly growing social news website with over 20 million active users. It does not have the aesthetic design of Digg, although it tends to generate more quality discussions and is far more versatile. Reddit is now the traffic king of the social news sites and an excellent place for advocates of real reform and progress to gather.

The concept is simple: democracy of the internet. Reddit users (called Redditors) post links to articles in various topical sections and ideally the best content rises to the top. The very best content can make it to the Reddit front page where thousands of people will see key articles, videos, or pictures. Reddit already has a strong activist community, and Redditors have been behind such things as Jon Stewart’s Rally To Restore Sanity, anti-SOPA campaigns, and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities like Doctors Without Borders. A good visual primer can be found here.

General Strategies
There is no place to write a short bio or upload an avatar on your profile page, so you will be known strictly by your username, submissions, and comments. Whereas getting stories off the ground on Digg depends on having a strong base of loyal and active friends because votes are visible, the rise and fall of content on Reddit is largely organic. Good fresh content from solid and/or original sources tends to float to the top and the Reddit community is merciless in downvoting bad articles and spammy websites. Images tend to do very well, try to use Imgur which was developed by a Redditor or the original picture source.

To begin with, familiarize yourself with the interface and Reddit subsections (subreddits described below). Try to submit ~5 articles/pics per day from a variety of sources, read the comments, browse various sections, and throw in a few good comments elsewhere on the site. Submit from any good source as quality blogs have as much of a chance at getting traction as well established sites, but make sure not to submit more than 10% of your total subs from any single source.  Mix it up.  Upvote the submits and comments you like or that contribute to the overall quality of Reddit.

After about a month when you are familiar with how the site works, you can start to submit more content (try to not exceed 20/day), engage in more discussions, and begin to message other Redditors for more personal conversations. Your New-User badge will soon disappear, and it is time to verify your email address to get the ‘verified user’ badge (it demonstrates you’re not some type of troll). At this stage, you should know the best subreddits to post material in and how to customize the titles to get better traction. Another thing to note is that Reddit is one of the social media sites that allow multiple accounts (as does Twitter), so long as you do not use them to ghost vote (aka vote pad) submissions or comments.

Be sure to give an honest effort to truly participate in the Reddit community. Not only is it worth it, but if you just use the site as a link dump, you will be sent to Report The Spammers and possibly hellbanned.  It takes a while to learn the ropes, establish a strong presence, and acquire a good group of friends on Reddit, but it is the key social news site to share important progressive articles. Be patient, eventually, 10-20% of the articles you submit should get decent penetration, generate some excellent discussion, and help to inform win over some hearts and minds to real change and reform.

External Websites
While there aren’t many useful external websites to make Reddit an easier experience, it is a MUST to install the Reddit Enhancement Suite (RES).  RES makes Reddit far more functional and user-friendly. Note that this will require using the GreaseMonkey extension for your browser. There is an official Reddit App for your mobile device, but a far more useful one is Alien Blue (freeware works well or use the Pro version for $2). You can also upgrade to Reddit Gold if you send them a little bit of cash or a postcard.

If you are posting an image, check to see if it has been previously posted on Reddit at KarmaDecay. For those who want to create and customize their own subreddit, find tips and tricks at RedditHax.  You can quickly post content you find by using the Shareaholic browser extension, but never vote on previously submitted content using it. The #1 reason folks get hellbanned on Reddit is for being in voting cliques, and Shareaholic cannot distinguish between active and banned/spam-filter submits already on the site. If you like an article and want to give it some love on Reddit, best to just take the extra time to manually search for it directly on the site.

Instead of being required to make the submit title exactly what was on the article, properly editorialized titles or strong excerpts tend to get far more traction as long as it accurately reflects the article (except in places like r/politics). Reddit submits titles are limited to 300 characters, so for particularly long excerpts use a character counter to see how much you need to trim down. One can also repost the same article as many times as they wish, provided each time it is to a different Reddit community (also referred to as sections or subreddits). Reposting multiple times can be considered bad Reddiquette, so cross post sparingly.

Although there are hundreds of different Reddit sections, the most important for the progressive internet activist is probably /r/politics.  There are a million subscribers, so when you find some powerful articles, this is the place to post it. A smaller community where you might want to get more familiar with the process and find some solid folks would be /r/progressive, which has over 10,000 members. You can find a complete list of reddits sorted by number of subscribers and a list of reddits by general category.  Other communities you might be interested in could include:

Large Subreddits (with approx. subscribers):
/r/politics 1,000,000
/r/news 115,000
/r/worldnews 1,000,000
/r/worldPolitics 45,000

Left-leaning Subreddits:
/r/occupywallstreet 29,000
/r/progressive/ 13,000
/r/liberal 3700
/r/democrats 2700
/r/obama 17,500
/r/2012elections 600
/r/AmericanPolitics/ 2500
/r/rpac/ 2300
/r/neoprogs/ 1000
/r/alltheleft/ 1300
/r/demsocialist/ 1400
/r/labor/ 800
/r/greenparty/ 600
/r/americanpirateparty 2700
/r/sopa 18,000

Various Subreddits:
/r/science 560,000
/r/atheism 170,000
/r/skeptic 32,000
/r/education 11,000
/r/environment 66,000
/r/energy 29,000
/r/green 9000
/r/trees 113,000
/r/Marijuana 41,000
/r/drugs/ 43,000
/r/health 41,000
/r/vegan 7100
/r/Economics 81,000
/r/Equality/ 8000
/r/women/ 13,000
/r/TwoXChromosomes 50,000
/r/feminisms 10,000
/r/lgbt 31,000
/r/gay 1000
/r/wikileaks 12,000
/r/anonymous 2000
/r/Anarchism 20,000
/r/Anarchistnews 1000
/r/Bad_Cop_No_Donut 17,000

Although the design has no aesthetic appeal, Reddit has a versatile interface on finding quality content. For instance, you can just go to the front page for all topics (sort by Hot, New, Controversial, or Top), check the various sections (like /r/politics), browse by site (like the NYT), or keep up with what your friends are submitting.  Do not blind upvote. Check out the content you support and make sure the Reddit sub is active (in the /new section or front page). The best way to keep a good community with quality content is by having a community that supports only quality content.

Since Reddit consistently has the best content that also goes popular the quickest, this is also an excellent source to find bold progressive articles that can be reshared on other social media sites. Submit quality content yourself, contribute to the awesomeness that is Reddit.


You can easily see who has responded to you and also who has sent you a private message at your Inbox.  As with every social media website, comments are an excellent way to connect with like minded people, but can be a tremendous investment of time.

While there are some trolls, getting banned for comments is very rare, and the quality of discussion at Reddit is often exceptionally good. Witty and intelligent comments do well regardless of political orientation, and the caliber of discussions for social news is only exceeded by the tiny site MetaFilter. “Republicans are corporate whores” may be fun to say, but that type of comment will not be well received on Reddit. Citing direct Republican actions that are selling America down the river for corporate profits and control will work much better.

Top Progressive Redditors
Below are some of the top progressively-oriented users on Reddit.  While the community is far too large and diverse to list everyone, this representative sample should get you started.  Some of these folks are in the top 20 list of karma accumulation of all time.

Big Redditors

Strong Submitters

Bold Commenters

Notable Users

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