For marketing purposes, Reddit can seem like a closed book.
It seems elusively out of reach—a huge platform, yet with users that are vehemently against most forms of marketing and the kind of self-serving posts you see elsewhere.
Yet with large groups of highly targeted audiences, it’s worth a closer look—and a potential goldmine when approached in the right way.
This post looks at what Reddit is, why businesses use it for marketing, and 5 key steps to start taking advantage of this powerful platform for your business...
What Is Reddit?
Reddit might not be the first site that springs to mind if someone asks you to list social media platforms.
Most of us jump to the usual contenders like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
But Reddit is not just a social media platform, it’s one of the biggest.
It’s larger than Twitter and LinkedIn, with LinkedIn coming in at around 300 million monthly active users alongside Quora.
In addition, Alexa (which used to list websites in order of relative popularity) used to rank it at:
- Around #20 in terms of the most popular sites globally...
- #3 in the United Kingdom
- #7 in the US, Canada and New Zealand, and...
- #10 in Australia
According to SimilarWeb, most of Reddit’s traffic comes from the United States, with the average user spending 9 minutes 37 seconds on the site (nearly as long as Facebook at just over 10 minutes), each visiting over 6 pages.
In short… Reddit’s a hugely popular site and attracts a ton of traffic.
Reddit was built, and is usually described as, the “front page of the internet”.
The idea behind it is that users submit news within an appropriate community related to the topic, and then other users vote it up and down.
Stories with the most upvotes rise to the top, with the value of the stories and votes decaying over time in order to give fresher content the chance to rise.
At the time of writing, Reddit has over 3 million communities (known as subreddits, sometimes just reddits), rising particularly rapidly for the past couple years.
There’s even a subreddit (posted to by a bot) that displays trending reddits, with new reddits sometimes attracting hundreds, even thousands, of subscribers within just 24 hours.
According to Digital Trends, some of the best subreddits include the following (which also gives some indication as to the variety on offer):
- r/Futurology—some of “the biggest, sexiest, and most ambitious technologies that humanity is currently working on”.
- r/IAmA—one of the most famous subreddits, it allows people to do informal “AMA” (Ask Me Anything) sessions, from celebrities to firefighters to lawyers.
- r/Books—information and discussions about books, whether more recent or old-style literature, along with regular discussions with authors. Memes here are banned.
- r/Games—a strongly moderated subreddit for discussing video games, including the gaming industry and the technical side of game development.
- r/battlestations—head here for inspiration on setting up your desktop in new ways, whether for gaming or work.
- r/RenewableEnergy—as the name suggests, this is one for hearing about the latest ecotech, discussing the renewable energy industry and sustainability in general.
- r/100yearsago—one for the history buffs. Each day, find out what happened 100 years ago, including relevant photos, newspaper cuttings, quotes and more.
How Does Reddit Work?
To use Reddit, you don’t have to contribute at all, and instead can simply consume the content in the relevant subreddits that interests you the most.
That changes of course if you want to market on the platform, requiring more active participation (covered in more detail below).
Once logged into Reddit, your homepage will be tailored to topics you’re most interested in—so content from subreddits you’ve subscribed to.
To subscribe to or join a particular community, simply click the Join button.
Usage of Reddit is free, though you can subscribe to Premium for a few dollars a month to take advantage of ad-free browsing on the platform, along with some other benefits.
Most communities are moderated, and participation involves adhering to the rules they may have in force.
Failure to do so can mean ejection from the community in question.
The general culture of Reddit is a dislike for spam and content that purely serves to self-promote.
With that in mind, and to protect their content feeds, some communities also require you to have a certain level of good standing on Reddit before you’re able to contribute to them.
That’s measured on the platform as karma—essentially, you earn good karma from positive activity, and can get karma taken away by negative activity.
Roughly speaking, each upvote you attract gets you 1 karma point, each downvote loses you the same—and your karma points can go into negative territory.
But as Reddit state, there’s not a 1:1 relationship—it is only “an approximate indication of the total votes you have earned on your submissions”, and there is both “post karma” and “comment karma”..
The idea behind karma is simply to avoid users coming onto Reddit, spamming links and other content, and just leaving again without any real participation.
It’s effective, helps ensure engagement is real and not purely self-serving, and is part of what makes Reddit one of the most popular sites in the world.
You can find out more about how karma works from this post on the—you’ve guessed it—r/karma subreddit.
Why Should Businesses Use Reddit for Marketing?
Reddit is one of the largest platforms available, provides hyper-focused, engaged communities, and yet is mostly overlooked by marketers.
But given its mostly anti-marketing culture, and the need to fully understand the individual rules and cultures of relevant subreddits, who can blame them?
Of course, it’s not as straightforward as heading to mainstays of the social media marketing world like Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.
Yet it is still worth exploring as a marketing channel. There are ways to market effectively on the site (see below), and lots of examples of businesses making a success of it.
In fact, according to ModernRetail, “Brands are increasingly seeing Reddit as a marketing goldmine”, such as their example of a $3.8 billion dollar pizza chain who ran an #UnlockPrezelCrust campaign across social media, but cited Reddit as central to its success.
Other brands like Sony’s PlayStation run their own subreddit, have a huge following and attract a ton of engagement.
For smaller businesses, a similar strategy works too, but more on that below.
Many subreddits also have regular “self promotion” threads where you can for example post self-serving links.
In other words, even on a platform that appears at first glance to be less than friendly to marketers, there are still opportunities to connect with and find out more about people in your marketplace.
In fact, one of the best ways to use Reddit for marketing is as a source of market research.
Unlike other social platforms, where the modus operandi tends to involve people presenting the best version of and otherwise promoting themselves, on Reddit people are mostly anonymous and self-serving content is generally prevented.
That means they share real problems, share what they really think… and you get to look directly into their hearts and minds.
Last but not least, Reddit provides the opportunity for some extremely targeted advertising, right into relevant subreddits for your products and services.
5 Steps to Effectively Use Reddit for Marketing
1. Create a Reddit Account
If you want to be able to contribute to the content on Reddit, the first step, if you’ve not done so already, is to simply sign up for an account on the platform.
Once signed in, spend a while simply exploring the site, the type of content shared, and the various communities available.
This will also help you to...
2. Learn Some Terms Used on Reddit
Don’t start posting content on Reddit until you’re more familiar with the way they communicate, including some of the terms in frequent usage.
Here are some of the terms you’ll see pop up most frequently and what they mean:
Upvote / Downvote
As already discussed, posts can be voted up or down. This is done via arrows at the side of the post.
This stands for “original poster”. It’s helpful for identifying who the original poster is in the comments, and might be used by other commenters to refer to them.
As in some other communities, AMA means “ask me anything”.
A familiar term to most, such as an email thread with replies going back and forth.
it means much the same on Reddit.
In other words, it encapsulates a particular conversation. Someone publishes a post, others comment, and comment on those comments. That’s a thread.
Short for “moderators”, responsible for enforcing the rules within a particular subreddit, such as banning users and removing posts.
You’ll see a list of moderators in the right-hand column, and can even message them.
The system of points referred to above—you earn a point for an upvote, lose a point for a downvote.
Your karma helps indicate to others on the platform your level of credibility, and the value of your previous content.
An acronym for “Today I Learned”. Almost obligatory in the r/todayilearned subreddit, you may see it elsewhere as well.
3. Find Relevant Subreddits
As already mentioned, there are literally millions of Reddit communities or subreddits.
That means you are highly likely to find at least one or two subreddits, maybe several, that are likely to be of interest to people in your market.
So start exploring, and make a list.
The easiest way to do this is to simply search on Reddit using some of your main keywords.
After searching, click the ‘Communities and users’ tab to find relevant subreddits, and start exploring.
However, watch out for those that are no longer active. Scroll down and you should see some relatively recent posts. If not, try the next one along.
Once you have found at least one or two that seem a good fit (have a good look around though, you may find several more), start to hang around in them.
Just keep an eye on the conversations, become familiar with the moderation rules if you intend contributing, and get used to the general “vibe” of the community.
If you wish to contribute, rather than just listen in for market research purposes, start gently. Begin by upvoting, engaging with others and leaving comments, aiming to simply add value to the discussion and starting to build some karma.
Your aim is two-fold.
First, simply for your handle to become more familiar to others in the community.
And second, to build some karma to allow you to start posting.
Different communities have different requirements. Some require 1000 karma points or more, including lots of commenting activity.
But don’t be too dismayed—many others require a lot less.
You might also consider, as many have done, creating your own subreddit.
That means you can effectively moderate your own content, though note you still have to abide by Reddit’s rules on self-promotion.
Even if you don’t have much of an audience for your community to start with, your content can show up on Reddit’s search, and Reddit content in general can also show up on search engines like Google.
4. Share Content
For sharing content in other people’s subreddits, once you’ve commented for a while and built enough karma for the community in question, you can start to post directly rather than just commenting.
The types of content you can share might depend on the subreddit in question, but popular content types include the following.
Perhaps a little surprisingly given the highly visual nature of other social platforms, many communities are built almost entirely on text-based posts.
Reddit is largely a text-based platform, and users are there because they love active discussions and conversations on a topic.
With all of these, it depends on the community in question, but relevant news items are often well-received.
That doesn’t necessarily mean what shows up in mainstream news media, but can include for example the latest opinion piece from a thought leader in your space, or perhaps relates to a recent controversy.
Sometimes this can be as simple as posting an image of a post from another social network.
But images in general can attract high levels of attention.
However, as always, it must relate directly to the community in question.
Like the rest of social media, videos do well on Reddit too.
Another option is animated GIFS.
You should be aware that Reddit is not the platform to go to if you want to let users know about your latest blog post.
They regard it as “blog spam”, and you’ll find people in most communities will smell self-serving content a mile off, however disguised you try to make it.
But if you have a useful and valuable blog, try simply posting a version of it without a link, just to add value.
Or posting parts of it to help someone out via a comment.
Note that most of the above doesn’t benefit you directly in terms of marketing—because posting self-serving content on Reddit just doesn’t work on Reddit as it does elsewhere.
But it’s a great place to test ideas out, and see what gets your market really fired up and engaged.
And this can feed into what you later post as ads on the platform (see below)
If you stay anonymous in your organic posts, there’s also no danger of repercussions or embarrassment as there can be on other networks.
If nothing else, you’ll get some (often extremely) honest feedback, which may sometimes be painful to hear, but can prove instrumental in how you approach your market elsewhere, or via ads on the platform, and help avoid costly mistakes.
5. Use Reddit Ads
Yes, you can also use more traditional advertising on Reddit via ads—which allows you finally to post content that is promotional and leads back directly to you!
As you start to use Reddit, you’ll start noticing posts with the Promoted text appearing at the top next to the user name.
And the opportunity is pretty large.
Many highly-specific communities still have no ads targeting them.
Or the ads that do appear have little relevance to the community in question, so are likely performing poorly.
(The one above, relating to security in cloud computing, was in a parenting subreddit!)
It’s easy to get started, with the minimum spend just $5 a day per campaign.
And ultimately, ads on Reddit can be more effective, including far lower costs per click, than other networks.
For example, Agorapulse recently found that in comparing:
- Reddit to Instagram, CPCs were $0.44 versus $1.33 respectively…
- Reddit to Facebook, CPCs were $0.44 versus $0.76 respectively…
- Reddit to Twitter, CPCs were $0.44 dropped to $0.28 by optimizing, versus $1.20 respectively.
In this post, we’ve detailed how to use Reddit for marketing, including using it for market research, testing out ideas on audiences for honest (and sometimes harsh) feedback, and using their largely-overlooked advertising features.
How can you start to incorporate some of these ideas into your marketing strategy?