Reddit 101 for Historians

The following is written by histcomm-er Luciano Gonzalez. Check out Luciano on YouTube, Twitter, the blogosphere (where he writes for Patheos) and the podcast The Benito Juarez Experience. Also check out the histcomm subreddit, /r/histcomm, started by Luciano.

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Above: Screenshot and title from one of Luciano Gonzalez’s YouTube videos

History Communicators have a great opportunity to begin making use of Reddit. That’s why I’ve started a “sub-reddit” (see definition below) dedicated to history communication: /r/histcomm.

The sub-reddit /r/histcomm provides a central hub for Reddit-users to talk to history communicators, and for history communicators to contact each other and submit links that would be useful for other histcomm-ers.

First, a few facts about Reddit:

Timeline:

  • 2005 – founded in Medford, Massachusetts by two alumni from the University of Virginia: Steve Huffman, and Alexis Ohanian.
  • 2006 – fused with Infogami, owned by Aaron Swartz, who became an equal owner.
  • Late 2006 – Conde Nast acquired Reddit and moved the team from Medford to San Francisco.
  • Has participated in protests against invasive legislation, made moves against online harassment, and steadily & consistently increased traffic as well as the number of people employed.

Statistics:

  • 8th most visited site in the world
  • 4th most visited site in the United States
  • 500 million+ monthly visitors
  • 234 million unique users

Reddit Glossary:

  • Subreddit: A forum based on of a central theme or topic.
  • Karma: The total amount of support a Reddit-user has acquired over the course of their usage of the site. The easiest way to gain karma is to submitt links, text posts, images, and videos. Support is measured by “upvotes”, measured against “downvotes”. The total amount of karma accumulated by a user is visible next to her username in the top right corner of the screen, but individual posts have their own karmas which are visible wherever the posts are visible. With a higher overall karma score, you can do things like make your own subreddits and have more visibility in general. Higher karma scores for specific posts elevate their visibility, and could eventually result in them being visible on Reddit’s front page.
  • Text Submission/Post: A type of post that doesn’t require the posting of a link to a video, article, or image. For example, /r/History is filled with text posts. These posts are useful for learning what sort of an audience a subreddit has prior to posting anything yourself.
  • Link Post/Submission: A type of post that involves, and is centered on, a link. These posts are probably the most common posts on the site, and discussion of the material within them is often carried out on the linked material rather than on the link. However it’s not uncommon for conversations between Reddit users to occur on Reddit using the link as a basis for discussion and debate.

Tips & Tricks For Aspiring Reddit Users:

  • Follow the rules of the moderators, as specified in each subreddit. Automated moderators can (and do) ban you from some subreddits for not following the rules and your materials can get deleted or rendered invisible until they are corrected and approved by moderators.
  • Make sure your thumbnails are in place and set up properly. Not every subreddit lets thumbnails appear but in those that do they matter. Readers aren’t going to click on sites with no thumbnail unless you write a stellar title.
  • Use your limited space carefully. You don’t want overly long titles because they will likely lessen the chances of someone clicking on your links or text posts. You also don’t want immensely short titles that reveal very little, or worse make things clearly click-baity. You need to give your links and your text posts a chance to draw in participation.
  • Use the comments section of your posts to intelligently engage with others. Show the moderators of each community you want to become a familiar face in that you will engage and have relevant conversations, even if they aren’t conversations you started.
  • Share other people’s materials first. Reddit is a difficult place for you to share your own work, especially in the beginning. That said, once you’ve taken the time to build a rapport with other users in threads you like and in communities you love you should go for it. At first, I recommend sharing things of interest by others to people who’d share your passions and your research and eventually and slowly deciding to share your own content. It’s not often wise for the first thing you share to be a link to your own material.
  • Post something new each day or as many days as possible. It’s also worth starting your own text posts on subreddits you like and getting involved with the discussions taking place there. Your comments also have karma and can be judged and elevated using their own karma rather than your own, although your own can definitely help since it helps determine your own visibility.
  • Use the appropriate subreddit. If you focus on a specific nation’s history, the best thing you can do whenever you have relevant material to share on social media and online is go to that nation’s subreddit. Whether you’re talking about the history of Krav Maga, or the history of the Mapuche civilization, it’s vital that you visit the subreddits of the nations affected by, or that caused, these events and share them with those subreddits. It will help your upvotes and your karma, plus you’ll share valuable research and painstakingly crafted materials to people who genuinely wouldn’t be able to learn many of these things in more traditional ways.

In Summary:

Reddit is worth investing in. It’s worth sharing the work of your peers in order to harness the tens of thousands of additional views you could get on Reddit for your own work, passions, and projects. It takes time, and it’s worth being patient.

In time, Reddit will help you increase your traffic. It’ll also help you improve your immediate presentation skills and fine-tune your ability to write short and compelling copy which generates clicks. Making the decision to add it to the list of sites you use can be intimidating, but I can promise it’ll be worth it.

Luciano Gonzalez is a historian, blogger, and podcast co-host of The Benito Juarez Experience. Follow him on Twitter: @Lucianowrites

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