Monday, 3 March 2014

Reddit: The Professional Networking Tool You’re Missing Out On

I still remember being utterly confused and disappointed the first time I was introduced to I had heard so many great things about this magical website that was an even bigger time suck than YouTube. There I was attempting to browse, lost in an endless sea of unfiltered information. It was like someone had opened the floodgates to the Internet and pushed me in. I quickly decided it wasn’t for me and went back to browsing my regular sites. Fast forward two and a half years and now Reddit is my daily source of information whether it’s news, entertainment, or work-related. There really isn’t much you can’t learn with Reddit. So sit back and prepare to discover how awesome Reddit really is.

Your face when you discover some of Reddit's weirder subs...

At this point I feel like I should issue a small disclaimer: Reddit is a huge community. I cannot overstate this enough. There are millions of users every day, each one with vastly different opinions, ideas, and tastes. It’s very easy to find yourself in some parts of Reddit you did not want to be in. If you’re inexperienced with Reddit and intend to use it as a business tool I suggest turning on all of the filters that make it more safe for use at work, such as hiding all NSFW content and hiding comments with a negative karma threshold. If you intend to use it for both work and personal use I also recommend you make a separate account for work. RES, which I’ll cover later, makes it very easy to switch between accounts.

So how can you make Reddit an effective business tool? The first step, as with most things, is learning the interface and interpreting the design of the site. The entire site is, but the information you’re trying to get at is stored in community pages known as 'subreddits', or subs. Once you understand how subs work and the different ways to filter/view the subs you’ll be able to find the target information and users you were looking for.

For example, some of the subs that I frequent that are relevant to my job are /r/photography, /r/videography, /r/editors, /r/movies, and /r/television. You may have noticed the /r/ in front of each sub. This designates the page as a subreddit and is a quick way to identify or find them in a search. If I wanted to search ‘movies’ on Reddit I could just type that into the search bar, but if I wanted to find a sub specifically dedicated to movies I would search for /r/movies.

Once you’ve found some subreddits that appeal to you, you may find yourself wanting to view all of them at once. After all, why browse just one when you can browse them all? This is where the real power of Reddit starts to surface. Once you make an account you can subscribe to the different subreddits so that the content from each is displayed right on your front page. When you first make an account you’ll notice that by default you’re subscribed to a set of subreddits such as /r/pics and /r/funny. These are largely entertainment based and can be unsubscribed from (which I recommend) if you don’t wish to have them at work.

I would also strongly recommend installing the Reddit Enhancement Suite (RES) plug-in on either Chrome or Firefox. It adds a ridiculous amount of features that would need several blog posts to delve into. The great thing is that most of the features you’d want are turned on by default so you don’t have to go poking around through the menus if you don’t want to. It’s also fairly intuitive so learning how to change even the complex stuff is pretty simple.

Everything I’ve talked about is still only 30% of what makes Reddit such an incredible tool. The best part about Reddit is the interaction with other Reddit users. Think about it; you’re one of thousands, if not millions, of people browsing content that is interesting to all of you. Every post on Reddit has an individual comment section where users can interact and discuss the post. This is the real power of Reddit: networking and community-building.

Any professional will tell you that networking is one of the most important keys to success, if not the most important. What better way to network than through a website with thousands of users that all want to talk about your field? You can even find and meet other people who work in your field in your local area!

Many subs are link focused, meaning people post links to other websites to provide most of the content, but some subs are focused purely on discussion. /r/editors, for example, is largely based around editors asking one another about workflow or problems they’re having. In the extremely rare event you don’t find a subreddit that meets your needs, you can create one! All content and subreddits are user driven, so all the subs you see are run by users just like you. All of Reddit is one big community brought together by the ease in which Reddit lets you filter and view only the information you want to view. It’s truly exceptional.

Second disclaimer time: you should never get all of your information from one source, ever. As powerful as it is, Reddit is an anonymous website and just because someone puts forth information does not mean they know what they’re talking about. Reddit is a tool, a single tool on a belt that should include many. Forums are one of the oldest site types on the Internet. If you’re interested in photography don’t just subscribe to /r/photography and be done with it, check out the Photo Forum or a blog centered around your interests like Eric Kim: International Street Photographer.

The point is that in your quest to become better than good at what you do, you should never stop seeking information that could give you an edge. We live in a time where information is largely free yet people want to look at pictures of cats or watch a funny video. Next time you want to kill some time on the Internet try instead learning something interesting about your field; you may like what you find!

What are some ways you stay in touch with the changes in your career field? Are there any websites that help you condense information similar to Comment below or tweet to us at @Swagger_Media!

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