We all know Reddit as one of the places where most of the internet's top stories are born.

This is the tale of one of those stories, told by its founder, Alexis Ohanian.

Get ready to meet Mr. Splashy Pants, the whale that stoped the Japanese government.

Context: what's Reddit?

If you don't know what Reddit is, the best definition would be a "democratic front-page of the best stuff on the web"

How does it work?

  1. Find interesting content
  2. Submit it
  3. People upvote or downvote
  4. Content moves up or down the ladder

The whales

But this is not Reddit's story, this is actually about humpback whales.

Greenpeace, a well-known environmental organization, wanted to stop the Japanese government's whaling campaign (whale hunting).

One of the ways they wanted to do it was to put a tracking chip inside one of the whales. And, to personify the movement, they wanted to name it.

The naming process

They put together a poll, where they had a bunch of very thoughtful, cultured names.

  • Some names like Anahi (the Farsi word for "immortal.")
  • Other names were Kaimana ("divine power of the ocean" in a Polynesian language.)
  • And then there was this: "Mister Splashy Pants."

Mister Pants, or "Splashy" to his friends, was very popular on the Internet.

The Reddit effect

Someone on Reddit decided to share and ask people to upvote Splashy as a name.

The thread became insta-popular. Even Reddit got behind that, changing their logo for a day. Some other internet pages got behind the proposal too, creating a wave effect.

The internet was screaming "We love Splashy Pants!"

The voting

Early on, MrSplashy Pants was at 5% of the votes on the poll.

After the Reddit thread, that number rose to 70%

Mr Splashy Pants seemed to have won, but Greenpace wasn't so happy about it, so they decided to give one more week to vote for other names.

Reddit and its redditors weren't very pleased, so they went from Splashy to Angry Splashy.

The rest of the Internet got behind this. Facebook groups (popular at the time) were created. The idea was, "Vote your conscience, vote for Mister Splashy Pants."

People were even putting up signs in the real world about this whale!

By the time of the final vote, the percentage was 78%.

The consequences

Instead of being a sore loser, Greenpeace decided to embrace the new name.

They created Splashy merch (shirts, pins), and even an e-card for Christmas.

But even more important, because of the big repercussions the campaign had, the Japanese government was forced to call off their whaling expeditions.

Mission accomplished!

The lessons

This is how the Internet works. This is that great big secret.

  1. The Internet provides a level playing field. Your link is as good as your link, which is as good as my link. With a browser, anyone can get to any website no matter your budget. That is, as long as you can keep net neutrality in place.
  2. It costs nothing to get content online. There are so many publishing tools available, it only takes a few minutes to produce something. and the cost of iteration is so cheap, you might as well.

Be genuine. Be honest, up-front.

Lesson for brands: you can do well online. But no longer is the message coming from just the top down.

If you want to succeed you've got to be OK to lose control.

Source: Alexis Ohanian: How to make a splash in social media

Learn more

If you enjoyed this article, you can find more strategy related posts, "How to's" posts here, or you can learn more about how I tweet here.

I am always down to chat if you have any doubt or question. You will find me on Twitter (my DMs are always open!).

Last but not least, find the original Twitter thread below!