In the English language, a large number of seagulls is a flock, a group of buffalo is a herd, and the variety of social media platforms available to a utility is absolute chaos. Utilities aren’t faced with listening to the voices of customers on just traditional social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram; they also have to deal with nontraditional contenders such as Snapchat, Google+, Tumblr, YouTube, Ello, and Reddit.
Reddit, the self-proclaimed front page of the Internet, has not only survived the rise and fall of other social media platforms, but has also cultivated subscribers who are extremely engaged, informed, and excited to take part in critical analysis of issues. Take for example the followers of /r/FFRecordKeeper, a subreddit (area of interest) dedicated to a free-to-play mobile game Final Fantasy: Record Keeper. In addition to posting general discussion comments and help threads for the game, this community also collects data on in-game events and gacha mechanics. Gacha, the mechanism that allows free-to-play games to make money, is tracked so religiously by this community that the group was able to find evidence that it had been tampered with. This information prompted the forum to erupt into articles about how to complain to the game manufacturer and how to lobby Congress for reform. These customer voices resonated so loudly that they were featured in the Forbes article “Final Fantasy Record Keeper” Event Suffers Community Backlash Over Item Drop Rates, and in Siliconera’s article Final Fantasy: Record Keeper Community in Uproar Over Final Fantasy Tactics Event.
The Reddit community doesn’t agitate around just pop-culture issues. The site’s Ask Me Anything (AMA) posts have also generated a lot of commentary and engagement. For example, President Obama’s AMA had 2,987,307 page views on the day it went live, as reported on the Reddit blog POTUS IAMA Stats.
As a utility, you probably wouldn’t generate as much traffic as POTUS, but Reddit can still be an interesting place to delve into the depths of customer conversations. There are topics that stream aspects of quotidian life such how to deal with utility billing errors and what it means to be a Southern California Gas Company customer with a smart meter. Reddit readers can also take part in discussions, debates, and diatribes about utility-related news such as the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. pipeline explosion in 2010.
Furthermore, Reddit’s user base is made up of early-adopter techies who can provide insight into some of the technologies we aim to use for energy efficiency. The /r/Nest subreddit offers information on how customers are getting the most from their smart thermostat installations. The subscribers to /r/LED_lighting ask questions about how to improve efficiency and install LEDs in new places.
Some utilities are starting to take notice of Reddit’s influence. Recently, a large western utility told us:
Reddit is one channel that we need to pay extra attention to in the future. We don’t have the bandwidth right now to monitor it regularly, but are hopeful that some of our new listening and reporting tools will help us gain some insight. Periodically—or when we get a lead from another social channel like Twitter—we dive in to see what is going on.
However you choose to look at Reddit—either as a way to understand your customers or a method to find information on technology applications—follow these tips (Figure 1) to maximize your engagement.