Building for a Highly Opinionated User Base: Lessons from Reddit and Evaluating Growth Opportunities


Hatched by Glasp

Sep 27, 2023

4 min read


Building for a Highly Opinionated User Base: Lessons from Reddit and Evaluating Growth Opportunities


Building and maintaining a product for a highly opinionated user base can be a challenging task. Platforms like Reddit have experienced instances where the community's intense and vocal ownership of the product led to conflicts and even the ousting of CEOs. In this article, we will explore the lessons learned from Reddit's experience and discuss the four most important factors when evaluating growth opportunities.

1. Identify and Measure Your Trust Vault:

Trust is a crucial element when dealing with a highly opinionated user base. Reddit recognized this and developed the concept of the Trust Vault, which represents the level of trust the customer base has in the company. Measuring the Trust Vault can be done through surveys like the Edelman Trust Barometer, which assesses people's trust in organizations.

By understanding the trust levels of different groups within the user base, such as moderators, product managers, or teams, companies can make informed decisions. For example, if a product update threatens to increase the workload for moderators and their trust score has been trending downward, it might be wise to delay the launch and focus on addressing their concerns before proceeding.

2. Find the Right Customer Voices to Listen to:

When dealing with feedback from a highly opinionated user base, it is essential to distinguish between the loudest voices and the majority. Often, the loudest individuals do not represent the general user base or the ideal customer profile. Negative feedback can overshadow the positive experiences of the majority.

Customers often do not go out of their way to provide feedback on useful features or functionalities because they consider them as expected. To evaluate user feedback effectively, consider two factors: the feedback's representation in a significant portion (10% or more) of the user base and the influence of the users providing the feedback on others.

If it becomes necessary to deprioritize a group's feedback, it is crucial to communicate the reasons behind the decision clearly. Transparency and open communication help maintain trust with the user base.

3. Take Actual Discussion Out of the Public Square:

One significant lesson learned from Reddit is that the public square is not the best place for nuanced product discussions. Instead, companies should establish an advisory council, consisting of passionate community representatives, to foster safe and private discussions.

Creating a space and culture for reasonable discussions allows for more clarity and avoids unproductive back-and-forths. It is essential to reward candid feedback and thoughtfulness within this council. Live conversations, forums, or chat rooms can be used depending on the volume of items being launched.

Building a process and cadence for connecting with the advisory council early and frequently is crucial. Involving them from the conception stage to design and beyond ensures relevant feedback and signals that their input is valued.

4. Listen, but Act:

When seeking feedback, it is vital to be open to considering it. However, it is equally important to weigh the potential impact on metrics and the user experience. Not all feedback will align with the company's goals or benefit the majority of users.

Explaining why certain feedback is not being acted upon, even if it may be painful at the moment, builds long-term trust and understanding. It is crucial to consider not only the current user base but also potential future customers and their needs.


Building and maintaining a product for a highly opinionated user base requires a strategic approach. By identifying and measuring trust levels, listening to the right customer voices, creating private discussion spaces, and considering feedback thoughtfully, companies can navigate the challenges effectively.

Three actionable pieces of advice to keep in mind when building for a highly opinionated user base:

  • 1. Regularly assess and measure trust levels within different user groups to make informed decisions and prioritize user concerns.
  • 2. Look beyond the loudest voices and consider feedback that represents a significant portion of the user base, while also evaluating the influence of those providing feedback.
  • 3. Establish an advisory council or private discussion space to foster meaningful and productive conversations with passionate community representatives.

By implementing these strategies, companies can build better products, maintain trust with their user base, and navigate the challenges of catering to a highly opinionated community.

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