Reddit-co-founder-turned-investor Alexis Ohanian’s Twitter feed shows he’s the type of husband who flies his wife to Venice when she craves Italian food. He also isn’t afraid to break the rules and wear jeans to the New York Stock Exchange. Ohanian even throws out the occasional #ad.
Yes, Ohanian’s an influencer on social media, and he’s proud.
Speaking at an event with 1850, a coffee brand by The J. M. Smucker Company, Ohanian spoke about how his influencer marketing has helped his career, policing hate speech on platforms and his wife’s Snapchat bitmoji. The interview has been condensed and edited.
You’ve participated in influencer campaigns before with Chase and HP, for example. But in your Twitter mentions, some people seemed confused and annoyed. What would you say to them?
I don’t spend a ton of time reading my @ replies on Twitter. I think that’s a good life policy, but I do think these platforms need to come up with a better product solution. Instagram has a pretty good one, with the partner field, a cleaner experience.
[Influencer marketing] has dovetailed nicely with my full-time jobs. When I was with Reddit, too much of the work was meeting with CMOs and agencies and showing how brands can integrate with the platform. This was a helpful way of working with brands and bringing them onto Reddit. The recent campaign with Audi, that’s something that wouldn’t have happened three years ago. Now I’m on the board at Reddit and full-time at Initialized, a lot of the things on my mind are in support of the companies in the portfolio the least of which are a handful of new ones.
Facebook has been in hot water about content moderation, and Reddit for a long time has had to deal with hate speech. Do you think it’s possible to police?
I use my board seat to be rather vocal and outspoken about the things that I see now with the benefit of having founded this company, having left, having returned, and now, having left again. Everyone at Reddit knows that we need to keep improving, and I really think that the platform can deliver to its full potential when people can feel safe being their most authentic selves. I want Reddit to feel like a home to as many people as possible. I’m confident the team’s going to get there.
Do you think there needs to be more product change for policing hate speech? Reddit has the upvote-downvote system, and Facebook adapted that type of system into the News Feed algorithm.
The most effective things that have happened started with policy and creating more rigorous policies and then focusing on building software to make enforcing these policies easier for the humans that are all working full-time at the company on the community side and the trust and safety side. At Reddit, that team is called the anti-evil team and has some of our best engineers. Taking some of the best minds of the company and focusing not on growth, not on revenue, but these anti-evil tools. they’re not focused on growth and traffic but focused on the long-term value of having these tools in place.
What’d do you think of your wife Serena Williams’ AR bitmoji and the tennis game on Snapchat?
That’s a project we had worked on together. She’s a very early adopter of tech. She’s been on Snap for quite some time. She launched the first ad game with Gatorade, and this was the natural next level of that. [Snap’s] going all in on AR, and they had the next level opportunity. You wouldn’t win, obviously. But it was a great opportunity and a natural fit given what an icon she is not just in sport but in business and becoming more so in tech. I was pleased to see I was as bad at the game as I would be in real life.
You haven’t tried to play tennis against Serena?