How to use Reddit to incubate your million-dollar idea

reddit mod million dollar idea have a killer website try it on first

These days, virtually anyone can start a website or other online business with just an idea, a little investment, a bit of technical know-how, and some good ol’ fashioned gumption. Of course, growing a successful business takes much more than that, but just getting your entrepreneurial feet wet has never before been easier – at least, that’s what all those SquareSpace ads that saturate every single NPR podcast have taught me.

Problem is, figuring out if you have even a drop of what it takes to be successful can be a tricky endeavor. And it’s possible to blow through hundreds or thousands of dollars just to find out that your ideas suck, or that you simply don’t care enough to make your idea work. But what if I told you that there’s a way to test out your ideas, one that gives you access to millions of built-in users, and costs zero dollars?

What if I told you that there’s a way to test out your ideas, one that gives you access to millions of built-in users, and costs zero dollars?

Enter Reddit. One of the most popular sites on the Web, Reddit has a unique feature that allows anyone to start their own community, called a subreddit. (Indeed, Reddit is essentially the sum of all its different subreddits.) Doing this can be a great way to see if you have the time, energy, and savvy to turn an idea in your head into something other people want to be part of, without dropping a dime. 

At least, this is my theory. Two years ago, I launched a subreddit called r/germanshepherds, devoted to my favorite breed of dog. There were already a slew of other dog breed-specific subreddits, but none existed for German shepherds. Seeing an unfilled niche, I created r/germanshepherds in about 10 minutes.

As the founding moderator, or “mod,” of my own subreddit, I quickly became responsible for a slew of tasks and decisions that I never thought about when I clicked “create subreddit” – responsibilities that I now see could have significant value, if I ever choose to launch my own online business. Here is a quick run-down of a few  experience and lessons I’ve learned so far.

Vision and flexibility: While the name of my subreddit basically says all you need to know about it, I had to make a few key decisions at the start, which would guide its direction. For example, would I try to limit the community to only purebred dogs, or should people with GSD mixes be welcome as well? (I decided they are.) Further, should I limit the types of content people can post (e.g. no picture posts, only picture posts, etc)? On that front, I placed no limits. As a result of its loose restraints, the community has grown to a respectable 6,600 subscribers – and most posts are just pictures of people’s dogs. Had I been more restrictive, I believe it’s unlikely that r/germanshepherds would have been as successful as it is thus far.

Community: Just as it’s important to have a clear vision for what you want your subreddit (read: online business) to be, it’s also key to pay attention to how people use what you’ve given them. Being a mod has taught me to listen to what other users are saying, and act according to their wishes. If, for example, I suddenly tried to limit the number of photo posts on the subreddit, many of my users would likely unsubscribe. Further, were a growing number of users annoyed by a certain type of post, or even a certain user, it would be wise to find a remedy to that situation. This process of navigating the desires and complaints of your users/audience/customers can become valuable later on, when you have money on the line.

Marketing: Simply creating a subreddit doesn’t mean users will find it. So, just like any other endeavor, you have to find ways to get your name out there. Reddit is unique in that its system already has a number of avenues for promoting a new subreddit, such as asking the mods of related subreddits to post a link, or submitting it to other subreddits devoted to new communities. Given that all of this is free, marketing your subreddit is a low-risk endeavor, but it still helps you figure out what works and what doesn’t.

“Hiring”: Reddit mods should not take or pay money for anything – that’s one of those unwritten laws of the land. But as a mod, you will find yourself needing to build out your team by adding other users as co-moderators, just as a business owner would hire new employees.

Of course, running a business and running a subreddit are two entirely different beasts.

Because other mods have the power to help or hurt your subreddit, picking the right people is key. The process of adding (or, more often, denying) people to the list of mods has taught me to figure out what skills I lack, and who I need to “hire” to make my creation better than it could be with my abilities alone. It has also taught me to use my research skills and intuition to find out when someone is claiming they are something they are not. Going through this process in the low-key context of a subreddit gives you some first-hand experience with bringing in good people – and can show you exactly what can go wrong when you let the wrong ones in.

Innovation: Any good idea that becomes popular will eventually face competition from someone who thinks they can do it better. Even little ol’ r/germanshepherds has competition in the form of, you guessed it, r/germanshepherd (no “s”).  Because of this, I’ve had to come up with new ways to keep people from preferring the other community to my own, through added features, better design, and better community engagement.

Of course, running a business and running a subreddit are two entirely different beasts. Nothing but proper schooling and doing it for real will teach you about the far more complicated aspects of being an entrepreneur: Financial costs and risk, inventory management, laws and regulations, human resources problems, on and on. Still, testing the waters with your own subreddit can a least help you turn the first page in what could become an exciting chapter of your life. And besides, with a subreddit, you really have nothing to lose 

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Home Theater

Why I still won’t wear wireless headphones

Wireless headphones promise liberation from cords, tangles, and snags, but there’s just one issue holding them back: battery life. And until manufacturers figure it out, sales numbers prove consumers aren’t yet biting.
Mobile

Memoji in iOS 12 lets you create an avatar that looks and moves just like you

Apple's Memoji feature on iOS 12 allows you to send a customize Animoji that looks exactly like you. In comparison to other apps that allow you to make your own custom avatar, Memoji doesn't overcomplicate it.
Social Media

A lot less clutter! Twitter relaunches purely chronological timeline

If you still miss the reverse-chronological timeline that Twitter ditched two years ago and you're fed up with all of the extra algorithmic tweets appearing in your feed, there's now a way to return it to how it used to be.
Emerging Tech

Forget hands — this 3D-printed clock keeps time using nothing but marbles

Based on the innovative rolling ball clock design created by Harley Mayenschein in the 1970s, this awesome 3D-printed variation is yours to make at home, courtesy of free instructions.
Smart Home

Brew it fast, hot, and flavorful with our favorite coffee makers

Whether you're looking for a simple coffee maker to get you through the morning or a high-end brewer that will impress your taste buds and your friends, you'll find some of the best coffee makers around on this list.
Home Theater

We all cut cable, and now we’re just as screwed on streaming

As live TV streaming services like Sling TV and PlayStation Vue raise prices in tandem, it raises questions about whether these services were ever a viable alternative to cable in the first place.
Home Theater

AT&T wants to make HBO more like Netflix, and it could be a disaster

After acquiring HBO parent company Time Warner, AT&T is pushing HBO to become more like Netflix, but for all of Netflix’s success, this plan might not be great for either HBO or its customers.
Virtual Reality

HTC says ‘it takes time to launch a new technology,’ claims lead in VR revenue

HTC posted a response to a Digital Trends editorial charting VR headset sales on Amazon. The company said "it takes time to launch a new technology," and posted data showing it makes the most revenue among its peers.
Mobile

What’s the point of the Note’s S Pen? Samsung needs to find one or kill it

The Galaxy Note 9’s announcement will bring with it another S Pen stylus, a feature only the artistic will get excited about. Samsung should be embarrassed about its lack of use, and we’re hoping the Note 9’s stylus includes new…
Mobile

No, blue light from your cell phone won’t make you blind

A new study from the University of Toledo reveals the process by which blue light impacts the photoreceptors in our eyes and leads to macular degeneration, an incurable eye disease that causes blindness later in life. The fact that blue…
Computing

Nvidia’s new GPUs look amazing, but that doesn’t mean you should buy one

Nvidia's GeForce 2080 is a powerful graphics card that supports ray tracing to deliver real-time cinematic renderings of shadows, light, and reflection in games, but unless you were already planning on upgrading, you'll probably want to…
Wearables

New Wear OS smartwatches have arrived! Here’s why you shouldn’t buy them

The likes of Skagen and Diesel have unveiled new Wear OS smartwatches at IFA 2018. You shouldn't buy them, because they're utilizing an old processor. Qualcomm is expected to announce a new wearable processor next month.
Home Theater

8K is the next big thing in TVs. Get over it

8K is the next big thing in TV. At least, that’s how LG, Samsung, Sony, and Sharp would have it. At IFA 2018, Samsung announced it would begin shipping its gorgeous Q900R series series 8K TVs this year. LG arrived with a glorious 88-inch…
Movies & TV

Bored with Netflix? As it goes global, the selection is about to explode

Netflix is going global. And even if you never leave step foot outside America, you should be excited. More subscribers abroad means more original, diverse content, and plenty to watch when House of Cards gets stale.