How a bank got reddit talking about Roth IRAs

Reddit long ago established itself as the go-to spot for links to and discussions about oddball news, entertainment, relationship advice and dirty pictures. But serious financial advice?

Enter Transamerica, the financial services company, which is braving reddit’s notoriously brand-unfriendly waters to engage with the community directly, by offering to help them out with the nuts and bolts of personal finance.

“Personal finance can be overwhelming, especially when it’s thrust into your life and you’re not adequately prepared to deal with it,” says a promoted post by the company on the platform.

“What we’re really trying to work on doing is kind of filling in all the gaps,” said Allan Gungormez, director of social media strategy at Transamerica. “And at the end of the day, we obviously hope you end up picking Transamerica. But if you are at least able to walk away and make a better, informed decision, that’s really the win, because financial literacy is so low across the board.”

The post by Transamerica, which went up about two weeks ago, asks users to submit their most puzzling personal finance queries. It intends to turn these questions over to a content creation team, which will churn out meaningful and explanatory articles, especially for the reddit community.

“Redditors love reddit, they’re always on reddit. So if your brand can understand how to talk to them on that platform, it’s an absolute success,” Gungormez told Digiday, “We want to go towards that captive audience and just kind of have them be a mini-focus group in terms of what they wanna know about financial terms and how can we help.”

The queries posted by redditors are on topics ranging from mutual funds to 401k. Most of them are serious, but there’s a fair amount of trolling as well. Such as a redditor “Trinitykill” going on a tangent about finance puns. Others, like “Idontwantanykarma” completely ripped the attempt to shreds.

“You wouldn’t expect a conservative financial services company to use Reddit as a tool of engagement,” said Mike Cole, sales director of brand strategy at Reddit, “But there is no better platform out there for genuine human exchange, and Transamerica is at the forefront of building their brand by engaging in such an exchange.”

Reddit, of course, isn’t shy about calling out brands that try to game the system. The popular subreddit r/HailCorporate is dedicated to shining a light on some of the real or perceived brand messaging that often gets posted to the site. Recent targets include Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.

But Cole said that the key to an effective engagement campaign on reddit is creating a value proposition for the community. “Whether that’s a chance to win a fake horse race or actually get professional financial advice, give our users value and you can win the day. Actually, that should be a rule for any advertiser,” he said.

Transamerica’s post had over 200 questions from redditors thrown at it in a week, many of which were personally responded to by Transamerica’s in-house team of redditors, actively engaging with the community on the platform. The most popular and pertinent among them have now been compiled and are being carefully curated into informative articles.

“When people think of a financial service brand, they think of a large faceless institution that manages money and is run by a bunch of old guys,” Gungormez said. “We’re trying to change that.”