That One Weird Trick

Kyu Shim, Reddit

What does Reddit do, in your own words?

Reddit’s mission is to provide community and belonging. You may know these communities as “subreddits,” where people engage with each other around user-generated content.

What might be different about marketing on Reddit?

Reddit is an anonymous platform. When you think about other social networks, the focus is typically on the individual; users willingly upload and share information about themselves. Reddit’s emphasis is on the community. The most successful marketers tend to have a pulse on the community’s mindset and tailor their messaging accordingly. Another factor to consider – we’ve seen that Reddit users are often incremental users from a marketer’s POV (i.e. many Reddit users are not found on other social networks), so we encourage marketers to strategize with us in executing a campaign that will resonate with their targeted audience.

On your team, are you more focused on acquiring new customers–whether that be Reddit users or advertising partners–or growing engagement of existing ones?

Both. My focus area is Direct Response advertisers – these are marketers who are primarily interested in measurable outcomes (e.g. CPA, conversion rate). We are constantly looking to improve the efficiency of their campaigns (thus growing their engagement) through enhancements to our measurement and targeting capabilities. Naturally, these improvements to performance will also attract new DR advertisers to our platform. Reddit is a relatively new channel for marketers – we are seeing a shift from Reddit being an “experimental” buy to something that is more “core” to their marketing strategies.

From your perspective, how does personalization give a marketing edge? This can be from a previous employer, but give one concrete example of how this is done via outbound marketing or in-product experience.

From my POV, personalization gives an edge for two reasons: (i) it typically provides a better experience for the user, and (ii) it is more performant for the advertiser. It is worth mentioning that I use the word “typically” here. We have seen cases in tech where user data is not handled ethically, hence the rise of privacy-focused legislation like GDPR and CCPA.

As an example, many social networks with a wealth of behavioral data on individuals are able to deliver a better advertising experience than one where that data is lacking. This is backed up by the allocation of marketing spend. In 2017, the overall growth of the digital ads market was ~20% year-over-year, with 99% of that growth going to the duopoly of Facebook and Google.

What’s the largest single marketing initiative (spend, audience-size, etc.) you’ve participated in and what lessons did you learn from it? If discussing your current employer is off-limits, what about in a previous role?

I used to work at a start-up that was integrated with FBX – Facebook’s Ad Exchange (now defunct). One of the largest initiatives we did was around dynamic creative, specifically for travel clients. We were one of the first partners to build the capability to ingest a “product feed” from large marketing agencies, and then dynamically insert / swap out elements of the creative based on parameters from the user’s query, in real-time. For example, if a user were to visit an agency website and enter a query with certain parameters (date, price, etc.) we’d be able to retarget that user on Facebook with the exact parameters of their query, and our bidding algorithm would bid more or less aggressively depending on how far out they were from that travel date. This capability is fairly common now, but for 2015 it was quite exciting and a key differentiator for our company.

What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career so far?

The thing I’m most proud of has nothing to do with any type of product, but a realization I had when I became a product manager maybe in year two.

When I first started PM-ing, I remember thinking it would satisfy my desire to sit at the center of the business, technical, and user context. In other words, nothing but good things. I enjoy thinking about product strategy and business objectives, digging into technical details, and spending time with customers. But something unexpected happened – I started to feel pressure to be the one to come up with great ideas, as if it was my responsibility alone. I spent a good amount of time second-guessing my ideas and opinions.

What I gradually realized was that good ideas can come from anywhere within the company. It can come from Sales, BD, Execs, Engineers, Designers, Users, Interns, you name it. For me, it was really about letting go of my ego, and finding what the right answer is for the business. It doesn’t mean you have to be right, it just means that there is a right / optimal answer, and your job is to find it while being intellectually honest with yourself and others.

What are you most looking forward to working on?

I’m looking forward to working on projects that involve the transition of a simple heuristic-based model to one that is powered by machine-learning. The idea of bootstrapping a product with simple rules as a proof-of-concept, then growing it to something that is more complex and intelligent is really interesting to me. There will be a ton I can learn from that.

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