Compared to other popular content-sharing sites like YouTube, Pinterest, and Twitter, Reddit is in a category all its own. While much of its media comes from users linking to third-party sites, it’s also fueled by the content that users themselves create.
And yet, Reddit is notoriously difficult for marketers to fully utilize, and its users are often highly critical of overly sales-y content. But creating content that Reddit users love is far from impossible, and we’re here to show you how.
- What Is Reddit?
- Can Reddit Be Used for Marketing?
- How to Market on Reddit
What Is Reddit?
First founded in 2005, Reddit can perhaps best be described as a giant collection of forums, each one of which is centered around its own topic. Broadly speaking, users can submit two types of content to a forum:
- links, which can link to either an image or a video hosted on another site; and
- text posts, which are hosted on Reddit itself.
But the types of sub-forums—known on Reddit as subreddits, with each formatted as /r/topic—vary wildly. The most popular include:
- /r/announcements, where Reddit Inc. posts official announcements;
- /r/funny, where users post humorous content;
- /r/AskReddit, where users pose questions to each other;
- /r/gaming, where users post about video, board and card games;
- /r/aww, where users share photos and videos of cute subjects; and
- /r/music, where users discuss all things music-related and share their own creations.
But those are far from the only subreddits—there are more than three million in existence as of August 2021, so there’s a subreddit for virtually every topic under the sun.
For example, there are large and active communities on subreddits like:
- /r/smallbusiness, where users ask and answer questions about starting and running a small business;
- /r/SEO, where users share SEO news;
- /r/content-marketing, where users discuss content marketing and give advice; and
- /r/blogging, where users talk about the ins and outs of blogging.
Some brands and products even have their own subreddits, which representatives from those brands may or may not participate in. Examples include:
- /r/XboxSeriesX, where users discuss Xbox’s latest video game console;
- /r/Apple, where users share news about Apple and its products;
- /r/instantpot, where Instant Pot owners swap recipes and advice;
- /r/razer, where users talk about Razer computers and peripherals; and
- /r/Huel, where users discuss the meal replacement product Huel.
Across Reddit as a whole, one of its most crucial features is its voting system. With it, users can either upvote (i.e. vote for) or downvote (i.e. vote against) posts for any reason they see fit. The more upvotes a post has, the higher it appears on its subreddit’s page. The more downvotes it has, the lower it appears.
Upvotes and downvotes affect individual users, too—the more upvotes a user’s posts get, the more karma (i.e. points) that user has. The more downvotes their posts get, the less karma they have.
Can Reddit Be Used for Marketing?
Given how active and passionate Reddit’s many, many users are, it’s only natural to wonder if you might be able to use the site for your own marketing purposes. In short, the answer to your question is a definite “yes”—after all, many brands have successfully done so already.
For instance, Toyota released a series of four Reddit ads that posed questions to users and got thousands of comments in response. This was especially true for the two ads in which they mentioned giving away Reddit Gold, one of Reddit’s virtual awards:
Similarly, the men’s grooming product company Beardbrand has found success and recognition on Reddit by creating helpful guides for other entrepreneurs and participating in beard-related subreddits without blatantly promoting their own products.
On the other hand, Reddit has seen more than its fair share of marketing failures; so many that multiple lists of them exist. Case in point: Woody Harrelson’s disastrous Ask Me Anything (AMA) open interview from 2011. The very premise of Reddit’s Ask Me Anything subreddit (/r/AMA) is that users can ask interesting people a wide array of questions.
And yet Woody seemed to be under the impression that users shouldn’t be allowed to ask him overly personal or off-topic questions, and should only make queries about his then-upcoming movie Rampart. In response to a question about his personal relationships, he responded by telling users to “stick to the film.” Users were quick to show their displeasure, downvoting his comments and criticizing the actor for “pushing” the movie:
So what’s the difference between how Beardbrand approached Reddit marketing and how Woody Harrelson did? The former had an understanding of how Reddit works and what its users want, while the latter did not.
How to Market on Reddit
You know you want your Reddit marketing campaign to see results more like Beardbrand’s than Woody Harrelson’s, but how can you ensure it does? Implement these essential tactics to increase your chances of success.
Know When to Purchase Ads
Right off the bat, it’s important to learn the difference between organic Reddit marketing and paid Reddit advertising.
With organic Reddit marketing, you’ll be posting comments and posts as an individual user. But with paid Reddit advertising, you’ll be paying for advertisements as a company.
How do you know which one you should use? Reddit’s own spam guidelines put it best:
In other words, if you’ll be using your or your brand’s Reddit account solely for promotional purposes, then you’d likely be better off purchasing ads. But if you’ll also use your Reddit account to participate in discussions and communities without promoting your brand, then organic marketing might be the best fit for you.
Be More Authentic
If there’s anything Reddit users hate, it’s disingenuity, particularly from companies and brands. There’s even a subreddit with more than 200,000 members, /r/HailCorporate, in which users deride seemingly organic Reddit posts and comments that are actually thinly disguised advertisements for products and companies:
So when you’re creating your posts and comments:
- only participate in discussions if you have something to add;
- be transparent about working for the brand you’re mentioning; and
- refrain from using overly salesy language or jargon.
When in doubt, remember that the worst thing you can do is try to trick users into thinking they’re looking at a user-generated post rather than a promotional one. Instead, you need to be authentic, stay honest, and respect users’ time by only contributing meaningful content.
Because Reddit users are so averse to inauthentic content, it’s important that you choose the right and most relevant subreddits to create your posts on.
Usually, that means avoiding the most mainstream subreddits (such as /r/funny or /r/pics) and instead choosing those that are more niche.
For instance, let’s say that you want to promote a small makeup company’s site on Reddit. Instead of posting a makeup-related meme on /r/funny, you’d likely achieve better results by posting original content on a more relevant subreddit like /r/makeupaddiction or /r/indiemakeupandmore.
Learn to Listen
As much as you want to use Reddit to tell others about your brand, it can be equally beneficial to sit back and listen to users’ questions and concerns about organizations like yours.
To do so, you don’t even need to ask questions yourself. Instead, simply find relevant subreddits and start reading.
For example, if you were implementing a Reddit marketing campaign for a company selling cookware, then you’d be wise to check out the /r/cooking subreddit. By doing so, you might come across a post like this one, in which hundreds of users divulge what their dream kitchen would look like if money were no object:
From gadgets and appliances to decor and architecture, such a thread would provide you with a laundry list of the features your potential customers are looking for and the pain points they want solved.
If your brand is already established enough that users are talking about it on Reddit, then you have a prime opportunity to offer customer support.
One of the best examples of this is the electronics company Razer’s own subreddit, where its staff regularly answers users’ questions and helps them resolve technical issues.
As you can see in the example above, users often respond positively to the individual attention they receive from Reddit-savvy brands. Plus, you’ll get a chance to show other users just how stellar your brand’s customer service is.
Read the Rules
If you’re not already familiar with Reddit, you may not know that each subreddit is governed by its own unique set of rules which are enforced by its own group of moderators.
For example, one subreddit may not allow users to post images, while another may not allow them to post videos. Subreddits that see a lot of traffic are even known to prohibit users from asking certain questions because they’ve already been asked many times before.
Because of this, it’s important to get familiar with the rules of every subreddit you post and comment on. These can typically be found in the sidebar of a subreddit’s main page, as seen on /r/technology:
Note that in the above example, customer support is not allowed. If you didn’t know that and simply jumped in and started offering customer support to users, you would be promptly banned from the subreddit. In short, it really does pay to read the rules.
Reddit marketing is no different from other forms of marketing in that you need to use detailed data to see how your content is performing and where it can be improved upon.
If you’re promoting your content via paid Reddit ads, this task is a breeze thanks to Reddit’s built-in ad management tools. These allow you to quickly view metrics such as:
- effective cost per thousand impressions (eCPM);
- cost per click (CPC);
- click-through rate (CTR); and
But if you’re promoting your content organically by making posts and comments just like everyone else, then things get a little trickier. Reddit doesn’t provide a way to view data on non-paid posts, so marketers must turn to third-party tools instead.
When you’re getting started posting in a new subreddit, one of the most useful is Later for Reddit. Their unique subreddit analysis tool identifies the best day and time to post on any given subreddit based on historical user behavior:
You can also use it to schedule posts at optimal times and see the best-performing post title words.
And if you’re willing to go for a paid option, you might be interested in a suite of more in-depth tools like those from Social Report. They can provide you with detailed performance metrics, make post scheduling even easier, and identify the subreddits that provide the most engagement.
Reddit Smarter, Not Harder
Creating content for Reddit is different from creating content for any other platform—the site itself is difficult to categorize, each of its subreddits is different and its users are notoriously hostile toward advertisers.
But with a little research and some knowledge of what its users want, you can transform Reddit from an intimidating enigma into a marketing gold mine.
RedditAdvertising.com / July 2016
Observer / February 2021
Screenshots by author / August 2021