Many a marketer has heard Reddit’s siren and wondered, “What is that exquisite song from yonder? Is it the mecca of niche target audiences and lead generation?”
The answer? Yes and no. As with most things in life and marketing, it’s a little complicated. It’s a “yes” if you take your promotional marketing hat off and approach Reddit the right way. But it’s a “no” if you think you can march up to the platform and start pushing your agenda without so much as a hello.
A quick side note: If you’re someone who frequently spends time on Reddit, has a Reddit account, and follows niche subreddits (other than the boilerplate ones you see when you visit or first start an account) then you likely already know most of what I’ll cover in this post. Of course, a refresher never hurts.
First up, let’s get the lay of the land.
Reddit calls itself “the front page of the internet.” This is an apt description, as it is ranked #8 among the most-visited websites around the world, with 5.4 billion visits in July 2023 alone. With so many visits, it’s obvious why marketers would drool at the prospect of using it in their strategy.
Reddit users, called Redditors, post original content to specific forums (called subreddits) where other Redditors upvote or downvote the post and interact in the comment section. When a user posts or comments on Reddit, they receive karma—a number based on the total votes they have earned on their posts (post karma) and comments (comment karma).
Redditors self-organize into communities or forums called subreddits. Subreddits range from being very large and active to small and quiet. Subreddits can be formed around anything—location (like r/Milwaukee), interests (r/travel), or a niche topic (r/onebag) to name a few.
Anyone with a Reddit account can create a subreddit. By doing so, they automatically become a moderator of that subreddit. Moderators are responsible for enforcing the subreddit rules and getting the most out of it by guiding the culture. Rules typically include what types of posts are allowed and how users are expected to behave.
As a whole, Reddit has its own widely-used terminology regardless of subreddit. For example:
- Op = Original Poster, the Redditor who created the initial post
- Mod = Moderator
- Throwaway account = An account that is created for a specific purpose (typically to post sensitive or personal information the user doesn’t want associated with their main account) and then abandoned after that purpose has been served
- TL;DR = Too Long; Didn’t Read, this is used at the beginning or end of a long post to summarize its contents
However, subreddits also often develop and maintain their own set of terms and acronyms. If the subreddit grows large enough, sometimes the subreddit language becomes part of the wider Reddit jargon. Some examples of subreddit-specific language:
- TIL = Today I Learned (also used widely across Reddit)
- ELI5 = Explain Like I’m 5 years old (also used widely across Reddit)
Subreddits can be open to anyone to join or set to restricted, in which case you must request to join and post.
Redditors are as diverse as the people you meet IRL (in real life), but they do have a few things in common.
1. They tend to be engaged and open to learning new things.
This is especially true in subreddits that are highly focused where the members truly care about the topic at hand.
90% of users trust Reddit to learn about new products and brands. (YPulse, 2021)
2. They are protective of their communities.
They feel strongly about maintaining the quality of the communities they have built and can be quick to remove obvious outsiders.
85% of Redditors agree people post things that are honest and truthful. (Magic of Reddit, 2021)
3. They hate covert self-promotion and are extremely sensitive to it.
Reddit is a platform driven by community and therefore is one of the last corners of the internet to not be totally overrun by marketing, promotions, and businesses who only want to make a sale (well, kind of. IYKYK). As such, Redditors easily and quickly identify even the smallest hint of self-promotion—even if you think you’re being sneaky. Additionally, many subreddits have rules that restrict or ban advertising and promotion.
Does this mean you can never promote yourself or your business? No. But it means you do need to be transparent, genuinely helpful, and personable (AKA act like the human you are).
4. Many of them don’t use other social media.
This means you can reach individuals in your audience who aren’t on your other platforms.
According to Reddit's research, 23% of its users don't use Facebook, 47% don't use Instagram, and 69% don't use TikTok.
Marketing on Reddit
Now to the good stuff. When thinking of marketing on Reddit, you have two choices: Organic and Paid. Not too different from other social media platforms, right? Mmm, well, kind of.
Some sources recommend starting with paid ads on Reddit before adding an organic approach. I don’t necessarily disagree with this, but there are considerations to weigh before you embark on a paid strategy.
The main one is this: if you are not familiar with Reddit and have only used it to read a couple of comments because it showed up in your search results when you Googled sump pump backup battery replace fuse, then you really should spend time browsing, reading, digesting, and simply being a fly on the wall so that you understand the culture and context.
From there, you’ll have a good foundation in place for creating your first ads. Then you can hop over to Reddit itself and use their great resources to get started.
(Side note: are we still doing hashtag jokes? Or is that only for when you’re a contestant on The Circle? Someone, please help me.)
At this point, you might be thinking, “If I can skip ahead to paid ads, why would I spend time toiling over organic strategy and execution?”
Sometimes we marketers get so caught up in the constant churn of short-term ads and campaigns that we forget long-term brand building is just as important. And I get it—we need to appease our boss and our boss’ boss and maybe even the board of directors with quick hits of sales and conversions. But what we forget is that those sales are coming from in-market buyers. In other words, “lead generation” campaigns target those who are looking to buy right now and not those who will be ready to buy in the future. That’s fine and good, but you do need to market to both in- and out-of-market buyers if you want long-term, sustainable growth.
Still don’t quite believe me (and the smart people at the LinkedIn B2B Institute)? Ok. Here’s another piece of the puzzle. Research from Bain & Company shows that 80-90% of buyers already have a list of vendors in mind before doing any research, and 81% choose a vendor from that Day 1 list.
It is good business to be on that Day 1 list. And how do you get on that Day 1 list? You guessed it: brand building.
Organic marketing on Reddit can be an exceptional tool in your brand-building toolkit. The bad news is that Reddit is not like Facebook and Instagram in that you create a business profile and blast out one-sided content (although, you really shouldn’t be doing that there, either). But if you approach Reddit with a primary intent of altruistic relationship-building, your brand and reputation will be rewarded over the long term. And don’t automatically count yourself out—Reddit is made up of niche communities, large and small, and your people are likely on there.
So what does organic marketing look like on Reddit?
At this point, let’s pretend you reached out to CID to research if Reddit would be a good platform for you to utilize. We come back and say, “Yep, there’s ample opportunity for you here.”
Here are the prerequisites for getting started on Reddit with organic marketing:
1. Create an account
Reddit has no problem with businesses joining the platform, but it’s important for them to be transparent about who they are. When you create an account, pick a username that combines your company name and the first name of the person or the name of the department running the account.
Examples: nike-samantha nike_customerservice
2. Join subreddits
When you create a Reddit account, you will be given a default front page—this means you will automatically be a member of some of the most popular subreddits. In addition to these subreddits, join smaller and/or more niche subreddits. You can also search for additional subreddits that may be applicable.
3. Spend time “lurking” first
Check-in on Reddit daily to familiarize yourself with the overall Reddit culture and how subreddits operate by consuming posts from other Redditors. It’s also important to read the comment sections on posts to understand how users react to and engage with each other. This approach of listening and watching first will help you learn a few things:
- The culture and social norms on Reddit
- Reddit- and forum-specific language and acronyms
- How others freely help each other, especially in niche subreddits
Additionally, read Reddit’s rules and the rules of the subreddits you’ve joined.
4. Get warmed up
When you feel comfortable, start engaging in subreddits in small ways. Start by upvoting other users’ posts and comments, and leaving comments where you can contribute in a valuable and helpful way. This means sharing inside jokes, answering other Redditors’ questions, and joining in on discussions.
- Remember to be human: Yes, you may be representing your company, but everyone knows there’s a real human behind your account. So act like it!
- Be sincere: Remember that you are a member first—this is your community now, too.
Give more than you take: Focus first on what you can offer others.
- Be real: This is not the place to rely on stiff marketing or sales language.
5. Share unique, original content
You’re now ready to start posting! Keep in mind you want at least 75-80% of your engagement on Reddit to be helpful and value-based, leaving 20-25% at most to be promotional.
If you just read “helpful and value-based” and immediately thought of your company blog, white papers, and PDF guide downloads… No. On Reddit, that’s promotional.
So what is “helpful and value-based” on Reddit? Here are a few great examples:
6. Consider running an AMA
AMAs are a type of post that are very popular on Reddit. AMA stands for Ask Me Anything, and it invites Redditors to ask the person/entity running the AMA any question they’d like. AMAs are most commonly done in the r/IAmA subreddit, however, they can be done in other subreddits as well, and are often used as part of a launch or promotion. The key to a good AMA is to spend a significant amount of time answering questions and being as real and human as possible—in other words, don’t only talk about what you’re promoting. If done well, your brand’s reputation will be positively impacted.
7. Consider creating and moderating a subreddit
Starting a subreddit of your own to grow and moderate is a great way to have an active presence on Reddit. One way of doing this is by creating a subreddit specifically for the purpose of customer service (here’s an example of how Comcast-Xfinity does this). Your customers can ask you questions and receive help while troubleshooting problems.
Benefits of this approach include:
- Past posts will show up in search results for people in the future with the same or a similar problem
- You’ll receive ideas for how to improve your products or services
- The chance to develop a direct relationship with your customers and demonstrate how much you care about them
8. Now what?
- Be consistent: With Reddit, it’s best to focus on the long-term. This is not a channel in which you will see a quick ROI. Success is contingent on your ability to contribute to the community and be an authentic and valuable resource for Redditors.
- Listen to feedback and make adjustments: If you make a misstep, it’s likely that Redditors will tell you through downvotes or comments. But all is not lost! Learn from your mistakes and keep going.
What about that thing I heard about users boycotting Reddit?
Yep, that happened. I won’t go into the full explanation of what caused the boycott (if you’re interested, you can fall into the rabbit hole here, written by the fabulous creator of Apollo, a now-defunct third-party app). As a regular user of Reddit, however, I can tell you that the dust has settled in the majority of the subreddits I frequent.
That being said, any time you rely on a third party to deliver value to your customers, there is inherent risk—even if it’s a low amount. At a moment’s notice, the platforms you use can change, be sold, or removed entirely. So remember: as marketers we have many third-party tools available to us, but no single one should be so heavily relied upon that its demise foreshadows our own.
So: Should you be on Reddit?
Probably! Get in touch with us and we can make a custom recommendation for you and your business.