Facebook’s Real Threat is Reddit

When Google Plus launched, there was a lot of discussion about whether Google could unseat Facebook as the reigning social network.

We all know how that’s turned out.

Then along came an app called Instagram.

If you’re among the unwashed peasants who doesn’t own an iPhone (like me), then you weren’t a part of the insane user growth on the popular image-sharing site.

When Instagram became available on Android devices in April 2012, user growth accelerated further. The current tally is somewhere in 50-60 million user range.

And Facebook came calling.

Facebook thought it smelled a challenger. One of the core strengths of Facebook has been photos. We love sharing pictures of our vacations, our dinners, our kids.

And Instagram was an app that was doing it “better” than Facebook. (Better is a subjective argument for another time.)

So Facebook pounced and bought out Instagram for $1 billion. A freaking billion dollars!

Was it the Right Call?

Truthfully, I think Facebook misjudged. Many critics proclaimed Facebook overpaid for Instagram.

They probably did. But I think it’s more than that.

What makes Facebook popular? Why have users flocked to it? What is that addicting quality about it that makes us want to log in every damn day?

At the very core, it’s our human need for social acceptance and acknowledgement.

We have an absolute need to share ourselves, our lives, our beliefs, and our moments with a subsection of our peers. We need to feel acceptance from this. It’s just part of being human.

Facebook built upon this in a remarkable way.

They made it easy to reach out to distant (and not-so-distant) friends, relatives, and strangers and say: “this is me.”

We share pictures of our lives, random thoughts, memes, music tastes, etc with these people… and the acceptance is built right in!

We judge ourselves on those Likes, Comments, and Friend Requests.

Facebook is a community of our peers where we share things in our lives, and receive (or not!) acceptance from those peers in the form of Likes, Comments, and Requests.

We could even throw Pokes in there, for good measure.

Seriously, stop that.

Now, enter Reddit.

Reddit was launched in ’05, bought out by Conde Nast in ’06, and split again in 2011.

The site has always been somewhat popular, but in 2010, the site’s traffic boomed. (And it’s still booming.)

Memes were popular, user-generated content was finding its way outside of subreddits, and visitors flocked to the site for “I Am __ Ask Me Anything” (IAmA) threads by celebs.

Content could be submitted to Reddit from virtually anywhere on the web. Content is voted on by the community with a simple “upvote/downvote” system.

If you managed Joe’s Meat Market blog, and you created an awesome meme-worthy ad, you have a valid chance of hitting the front page, where the most popular content lands.

Reddit users (Redditors) can “friend” each other on the site, and can comment on each others content. Users build “karma” by receiving points for highly-rated content submissions.

Users may also create subreddits – a category-type subsection of the site where similar content submissions can congregate. To date, there are over 67,000 of these.

So with Reddit, we have a community of peers, who share various types of content (photos, memes, etc), and the posts all receive (or not) acceptance from the peers in the form of upvotes/downvotes and karma points.

Seems familiar.

Much of the popular content that ends up on Facebook began as a submission to Reddit.

For post-IPO Facebook, with the pressing need to further monetize, I have to wonder if many users will find themselves better served by a site like Reddit.

I won’t go so far as to say Reddit can replace Facebook.

It’s harder to earn the empathy vote on Reddit than Facebook. Reddit doesn’t care if you “have the best kiddos in the world!”

I certainly can’t envision too many grandparents roaming the site.

But with an increasing amount of social good done by the community, Redditors have grown far beyond the stereotypical male teens.

I’ve already noticed I log in to FB less than I used to.

It turns out I can get my social acceptance fix elsewhere, and it doesn’t come with advertisements for PioneerVille.

Instagram image credit: Techi.

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