‘Tis the season to be viral

Marketing | Technology

We love it when we hear about really cool, workable ideas that catch people’s imaginations and show how powerful online communities can be.

So we’re big fans of Reddit’s Secret Santa initiative, which started in 2009 and has grown every Christmas since. This year, it’s attracted over 200,000 participants – way more than double the number that took part last year – making it officially the world’s biggest Secret Santa.

The concept is simple: participants are matched randomly with another Reddit user. They then have to search that user’s posts to get an idea of their interests with a view to choosing the perfect gift.

It’s popular because it taps into the idea of spreading joy and goodwill over the festive season – magnified by the fact that strangers on the internet are more used to exchanging put-downs than presents. Even celebrities have taken part: one year Bill Gates gave a teenage girl a cow-shaped soft toy with a note saying a real cow had been given to an impoverished family in her name. Christmas gifting doesn’t get more worthy than that.

But of course there’s a commercial element to Reddit’s scheme. All the additional traffic this generates gives them a unique opportunity to sell advertising space to retailers, and the PR has helped attract thousands of new users. Already it’s spawned copycat initiatives like the city-wide Edinburgh Secret Santa, which began online but has a stated aim of supporting local shops by using them as drop-off points for gifts.

Stories like this show that Reddit is at the forefront when it comes to devising and executing properly viral ideas – it’s not the world’s largest live-wire of current and trending information for nothing. We take inspiration from Reddit and other digital services like it. They show that good digital marketing can be simple, beneficial to individuals and commercially effective all in one go: everyone’s a winner. Which is exactly what you want, especially at this time of year.

Happy Christmas to all our friends and clients, and here’s to a successful 2015!