Opportunities for brands abound as new data finds Reddit users rethinking resolutions
Just in time to ring in the new year, new Reddit data indicates that users are focused on approaching resolutions with more candor, an eye toward long-term planning and a focus on collaboration. For brands, the opportunities to tap into these trends are nearly endless.
Redditors are leaning into authenticity as they approach the new year / Cristian Escobar
Exclusive data on Reddit activity for The Drum reveals that users are looking ahead to 2023 with a newly sharpened focus on making strides in their personal lives and in their broader communities.
But beyond making new commitments, a macro-level trend is running through conversations about behavior changes and resolutions on Reddit. As Rob Gaige, the company’s head of global insights, puts it: “It is not necessarily [that] the types of resolutions are going to be different, but the way in which people are going to be approaching those resolutions – the mindset and the attitude behind them – is a little bit different.”
In particular, new insights reveal a growing desire to authentically own up to personal missteps, to focus on measured, careful decision-making and to collaborate in the pursuit of shared goals. These trends create new opportunities for brands to engage audiences in meaningful ways both on and beyond Reddit by speaking to such aspirations.
Here are some of the key takeaways.
1. Putting a premium on authenticity – even when things go poorly
Reddit users are generally pretty gung-ho about New Year’s resolutions.
Their top resolutions include learning a new skill or hobby (82% more likely than the average internet user); eating more healthily (12% more likely); spending more time with friends and family (38% more likely); focusing on mental health (45% more likely); reading more (49% more likely); and engaging in more self-care (26% more likely).
And whether or not they’re regular Reddit users, some 37% of consumers turn to Reddit to find inspiration for their resolutions, and about a third of consumers are motivated by communities they find on Reddit to continue pursuing their resolutions.
But gaining inspiration and motivation aren’t the only reasons that consumers rely on Reddit when it comes to making commitments. They’re also increasingly using the platform as a kind of digital confessional, new data finds.
In 2022, r/TIFU (Today I Fucked Up) shot from the 47th to the 27th most-viewed subreddit. In similar shifts, r/TrueOffMyChest saw a 345% year-over-year (YoY) lift in views and shot to the 30th most-viewed subreddit, up from an unranked top-50 position. Finally, the infamous r/AmItheAsshole secured its spot as the platform’s number one most-viewed subreddit in 2022, up from the third-place position in 2021.
These trends point to a growth in open self-reflection and a rising interest in self-improvement.
“Where we see that intersecting with resolutions is that people are starting to really say, ‘I need some outside validation – not from friends and family who maybe aren't always going to tell me the unvarnished truth. I need that from people outside my network who can really just tell me honestly, ‘Am I making progress? Is this working? Am I doing it right?,’” says Gaige.
Gaige says this trend fits into a broader shift happening within contemporary culture: the growing demand for authenticity, driven in large part by younger internet users on TikTok and Instagram who reject the hyper-curated yesteryear of social media. “Right now, we're in a place where we need candor. And we need candor both ways – both in terms of me telling you the truth, but you also giving me an honest reaction to that truth.”
Reddit, he says, is the optimal forum for this kind of interaction because users are empowered to select their level of anonymity when they engage with others. Because most users on the site are effectively strangers, they are incentivized to be more transparent and honest on both sides of the conversation.
For brands, this trend presents ample opportunities. “People come to Reddit with the understanding that transformation is the prize on the other side of discomfort and vulnerability. Brands are now coming to Reddit with that understanding, too,” says Will Cady, global director of Karmalab, Reddit’s creative strategy agency.
Cady points to recent work by the not-for-profit media organization Ad Council, which took to Reddit to create what he calls a “series of megathread discussions” focused on mental health. The threads created “space for Redditors to exchange ideas [about mental health] with each other, alongside their recommendations for how to talk with your loved ones about their mental health,” he explains.
The campaign, which generated impressive engagement, evidences opportunities for other brands “to have these kinds of ‘keyboard confessional’ conversations,” Cady says.
2. Focusing on ‘building blocks over bets’
Another key trend uncovered in recent Reddit data is the shift away from more impulsive decision-making and toward more measured, thoughtful approaches.
The trend is most evident in Reddit’s flourishing finance-focused communities. In 2022, the viral r/WallStreetBets lost some of its dominance; it dropped to the 14th most-viewed subreddit, down from the number one spot in 2021. At the same time, a troubled crypto market drove r/Cryptocurrency to dip to an unranked top-50 position from its former ranking at #33.
On the flipside of the coin, r/PersonalFinance saw a 34% spike in YoY views. Regionally, these trends were even more stark – r/PersonalFinanceCanada became the country’s seventh most-viewed subreddit; r/UKPersonalFinance became the 13th most-viewed subreddit in the UK; and r/AUSFinance snagged the #14 spot in Australia.
Views of the r/FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) community rose 66% YoY, while views of r/PovertyFinance and r/BuyItForLife jumped 92% and 44%, respectively.
To leaders at Reddit, the trend implies a growing prioritization of long-term value and quality over short-term gains. And it’s not restricted to the world of finance – Gaige says similar behavior is playing out across the platform, especially as it relates to users making new resolutions. “It paints a picture of people punting on the notion of taking these large swings in their finances or trying to make massive progress in a very short period of time,” he says. “Instead, [they are] saying, ‘How do I put some fundamental building blocks in place, slowly over time to make gradual and incremental progress?’”
As the macroeconomic climate grows increasingly tenuous, Gaige predicts this trend will hold. “It’s not that users aren’t still doing little things to treat themselves – but they’re planning for that treat ahead of time.” And instead of making rash or frivolous purchasing decisions, they’re “pre-buying for big events – for the wedding they’re going to have or the child they’re going to have next year or the home they want to move into.”
And when it comes to advertising, the ripple effects of this sea change are huge. “As a marketer, this trend is so rich, because it’s a shift in the story,” says Cady. “It impacts creative strategy in your storytelling. It’s discipline over aspiration. It’s power over pleasure. People are really taking time to invest in those building blocks over making big bets.”
Cady points to Peloton’s new holiday campaign as a strong example of a brand getting this messaging right. Of the 30-second anthem film, he says: “You see that the trainers are helping Peloton users to prepare their homes for their families to come over for the holiday. It’s off the bike and it’s in their daily lives. It’s about how that motivation brought to them by the brand helps them power through the basics of life. That’s a beautiful example.”
On Reddit itself, Fidelity is connecting with users by using messaging about mid- and long-term financial planning. “Brands like Fidelity – that have been in this game for a long time as an incumbent – are actually at an advantage here because people trust brands that have seen a couple of [economic] cycles and have demonstrated some discipline,” says Cady. “Consumers can look to [these kinds of brands] for some tips on building blocks rather than big swings.”
Considering that 75% of US Redditors are willing to try new products or brands to help them achieve their resolutions, per data from GWI, this trend is especially promising for advertisers.
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3. Prioritizing collective action
Finally, new Reddit data reveals a trend surrounding solidarity and collaboration in an effort to advance broader change.
“What we’re seeing… trending on our platform are subreddit communities that are dedicated to making an outsized impact by joining hands and gathering together,“ says Gaige.
For example, the global subreddit r/Place, which is a kind of collaborative digital art project, saw more than 160m digital tiles placed by users from 236 countries – all within 87 hours. It resulted in the number one most upvoted post of 2022.
Other shows of solidarity evidenced Redditors’ dedication to teaming up with like-minded individuals to advance causes they care about. r/AntiWork – which Gaige calls “an amazing example of people finding an alternative place to gather, rally, collaborate [and] create action plans” – became the fourth most-viewed subreddit, up from an unranked top-50 spot last year. More niche social movements performed similarly: r/FuckCars saw a 2,500% increase in views YoY, while r/NoLawns saw a seven-fold increase in views.
“This trend starts widening the aperture – [it’s about] people thinking about and talking about their impact on the broader society. If we only focus on the change that we can make in our lives, that’s going to be too small for the change that’s needed in the world. It’s a little less about ‘me’ and a little bit more about ‘we.’”
Reddit is especially well-positioned to capitalize on this kind of movement because it is built for collaboration rather than simply outbound communication, Gaige argues. And this kind of structure lends itself well to achieving higher-level and community-focused resolutions. “I liken it to the difference between, ‘I’m going to help the environment by recycling plastic,’ versus, ‘Imagine what I could do if I got 10, 20 or 50 million people together, and we all rethought the… ecosystem that plastic exists within, and how we can reduce our overall reliance on it.”
Internet users at large, he argues, increasingly “want their impact to be multiplied by… coordinating with other people.”
For brands, Cady says, the opportunities are endless. “These are the communities where collectives are talking about the changes that they want to make on an industry level, on a systemic level or on a community level. The way that people relate to their work and careers, how they get around, what they do in their homes and on their land, is all transforming right now.”
Brands have the opportunity to rise to the occasion and meet consumers’ demands for high-level change by leading with purpose and developing innovative solutions. “These are like New Year’s resolutions for industries,” says Cady. “How can we imagine the role of a brand or a business in that future?”
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