A few years ago, a developer released a user interface that looked like an ordinary Word doc but let you browse Reddit without fear of your boss catching you.
As a 'boss' I feel bad for any creative person who has to go to these lengths to browse one of the best sites on the internet. In my experience, creatives who spend their days on Reddit have been, hands down, some of our agency’s best hires.
It’s why I now ask this question in every interview: “Where do you lurk on the Internet?” If the answer is Reddit, I’m intrigued.
Let me tell you what this little internet habit tells me about who you are as an employee. (And if you’re prepping for an agency interview right now, here’s how to spin your Reddit obsession into a marketable asset.)
It shows me you’re curious, engaged, and don’t suffer fools
There’s a reason Stephen Colbert once said he could “burn my entire life on that site.” It’s perfectly organized for the innately curious. As this guy put it: “It’s all the most inane, time-sucking things on the Internet, compiled and rank-ordered by how addictive they are, then categorized by topic.”
To a creative, Reddit comments are the focus group you never knew you needed on topics you never even thought to Google. One of my team members said she randomly spent five hours in a Reddit wormhole on The Office, which led to another wormhole on scenes featuring tacos. (As it turns out, it’s a thing.) We ended up basing an entire marketing campaign off of one deleted scene featuring a briefcase full of tacos. Die-hard fans instantly recognized it and the campaign was a hit.
To engage on Reddit, you’ve got to have guts and some seriously thick skin. According to Reddit’s general manager and former community manager, Erik Martin, “It’s a site where an unspoken etiquette reigns.”
But it’s not just about knowing how to use the lingo, like OP (“original poster”) or TIL (“today I learned”) – it’s about nailing the internal cultural cues, quirks and in-jokes of every subreddit you visit. One misstep (like – gasp! – writing LOL in a comment) and you’re toast.
Reddit can be a harsh place, but if you’ve actually got the chops and are humble about what you can bring to the table, the community will take notice. When we were on the lookout for a designer, we posted to all the usual job sites and had some decent interviews, but no one really stood out. One night, one of our strategists was browsing the /idesignedthis subreddit and noticed a portfolio posted by a recent grad. The post was innocuous – he was simply looking for honest feedback. He wasn’t pushy or trying to oversell it. The work spoke for itself. So, our strategist commented on it and invited him in to meet us the very next day. We hired him right on the spot.
It shows me you’re in-the-know before anyone
If I see a piece of news break on social, chances are my Reddit-reading employees have seen it hours before me. I can always count on them to not only know every detail of what happened, but I can also expect 75 theories about the backstory and 25 different hot takes on why everyone should pay attention to it.
Most Redditors I’ve worked with have this unique ability to see what’s bubbling up in culture before it even becomes a “thing.” In my world, this skill is crucial. Since the dawn of the Internet, brands have been slammed for hopping on an Internet craze way too late (if I see one more Bottle Cap Challenge social post, I’m going to scream). If you have a knack for spotting these trends way before the mainstream Internet catches on, any agency will find you indispensable.
It shows me you’re authentic. And you know how to earn a reaction
Redditors live and die by the “upvote,” which lends itself to more authentic, creative, grounded ideas. There are no courtesy upvotes on Reddit. Every upvote – and downvote, for that matter – is a completely anonymous act designed to empower readers with a means to judge the quality of the content itself and its importance to the discussion.
This small distinction gives Redditors an eye for what makes a piece of content really great. You know what’s really funny. Or crazy. Or what tugs at someone’s heartstrings. The copy, the timing, the cadence, the context of great Reddit posts and comments – it all becomes innate. Whether you’re a designer teaming up with a community manager on a branded social post, a strategist pitching your client on how to respond to a brand competitor’s clap-back, or an account person adding your $.02 on the best way to stretch a PR story – the storytelling skills you inherit through Reddit are crucial in the agency world.
If you’ve wasted hours of your life browsing the Internet’s most high-stakes message board, please don’t hide it. In your next interview or team brainstorm meeting, make it known. And if you’re applying to my company, put it on your resume. Seriously.
Josh Rosenberg is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Day One Agency.