Commentary

6 Keys To Growth: Lessons Learned From The Success Of Reddit, Quora

In the competitive online market for information and “info-tainment,” two recent success stories stand out: Reddit and Quora. Our data show that both are big sites experiencing big growth:

  • Reddit.com is now one of the 40 largest websites in the world, and in the top 15 in United States. In the past two years, Reddit’s typical monthly visits rose about 30%, from 1.3 billion to a Q4 2017 high of 1.7 billion.
  • Quora.com is smaller than Reddit, but is still big in absolute terms. It is in the top 150 websites worldwide and sees a half-billion visits a month, up about 50% over two years. 

How have they grown?  I’ll explore six keys to their success.

1. Be really good.

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Not a shocker: thriving brands are exceptional at what they do — satisfying unmet needs in novel ways. But being exceptionally good is more important than ever.

In yesterday’s markets, consumer decisions were driven by advertising before the purchase. Today, consumer decisions lean heavily on the post-purchase experience of others – customer reviews, word-of-mouth, social media buzz, etc. The result? Crappy stuff doesn’t cut it, at least not for long. It is now much harder to fool people into consuming bad products or information. Reddit and Quora offer solid, substantive, relevant content — curated in the new ways that consumers trust.  

2. Leverage the wisdom of crowds and communities.

Reddit and Quora are on the forefront of monetizing the growing trust in the wisdom of crowds, and communities of shared interests. Both are full of concise information from experts, and curated at scale by upvotes and downvotes from the community. Both sites effectively (although imperfectly) balance being unfiltered and uncensored on the one hand, with maintaining a sense of quality, civility and relatively reasoned discourse on the other. Reinforcing this positioning: both have interfaces that emphasize utility and simplicity over glitz. 

3. Find positivity in being hard to describe.

What is Reddit? Well, it’s hard to describe. Wikipedia: “Reddit is an American social news aggregation, web content rating, and discussion website.” That’s a mouthful, and still hardly does Reddit justice. But it underscores a key point — it is truly venturing into new territory. Reddit doesn’t neatly fit into existing boxes. And that’s a good thing. Being hard to describe is a sign that you are truly innovating, or combining unlike things in meaningful ways, or inventing a new category.  

4. Answer the questions. 

Both Reddit and Quora are fundamentally about answering questions. The interview format that helped take Reddit mainstream is “Ask Me Anything.” Wikipedia describes Quora “as a question-and-answer site where questions are asked, answered, edited, and organized by its community of users.” Questions are hot, and increasingly how consumers interact with the Internet. 

Search activity is no longer about consumers typing in three keywords and hoping for relevant results; now, consumers ask specific questions and expect quality answers. Google suggests questions based on searches, and voice search (Amazon Alexa, Google Home) is more fundamentally training us to phrase our interests in the form of Trebek-ian questions. Questions provide rich insights as well, shedding light on consumer motivations, the consumer’s place in the funnel, etc.

5. Rethink success metrics.

Reddit and Quora have taken different paths to growth. Reddit gets half of its traffic direct, and has strong engagement metrics (visits average eight pages viewed over ten minutes). Their bounce rate (the percent of visitors who look only at a single page) is only about one-third.

Quora, in contrast, gets nearly three-fourths of its traffic from organic search, with lower engagement metrics, and a bounce rate approaching two-thirds. Historically, this implied unengaged users (or even fraudulent traffic). Here, it may be sign of visitors with specific questions getting compelling answers that required no further digging. This puts on the pressure to monetize even single-page visits, but underscores the need to rethink success metrics. 

6. Recognize that buzz is a fickle mistress.

Reddit and Quora stand out by delivering substance, not clickbait or fleeting distractions. Several “traditional” buzz media sites have been struggling, even before Facebook’s algorithm change that will likely challenge them even more. Buzz is a fickle mistress, eager to move to the next fizzy brand, and around which it is hard to build a lasting business.

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