If you haven’t heard of Reddit by now, you’ll be shocked to know that a platform with over 330 million active users has somehow fallen under your radar. But don’t make the mistake of lumping it in with Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, because Reddit brings a style of its own to the world of social media.
Reddit totes itself as “the front page of the internet.” They’re right in a way—you can customize the feed on your homepage to populate with the content you want to see, from the extremely broad to the suspiciously specific (again: r/FakeBeesRealTopHats? Really?). Users may choose from thousands upon thousands of threads—called subreddits—where they can interact with other redditors across the globe to sound off various topics like sports news, dad jokes, or pictures of cats standing up (the subreddit is literally called r/CatsStandingUp).
Once you find a subreddit of your liking, there are three courses of action you can take:
- Submit a post
- Leave a comment on another submission
- Upvote/downvote submissions and comments
Simple, right? But if you’re thinking that Reddit is a collection of content and comments similar to those on other major platforms—well, you’d be wrong. Participating in a subreddit is not the same thing as dropping a comment on a YouTube video, tagging your friend in a funny meme on Instagram, or posting a selfie on Facebook. In fact, participating in a subreddit can mean totally different things from subreddit to subreddit!
Let’s go back to my favorite example: r/CatsStandingUp. If you’d like to leave a comment on a picture of a standing cat that’s along the lines of “So cute!” or “LOL”, you can’t. If you’d like to submit a picture of your friend standing up while wearing a cat suit, you can’t! Why not? Because it’s against the rules of the subreddit. Every post on Reddit lives and dies by the rules of the particular subreddit it belongs to. They’re listed on the front page of each subreddit and must be followed by all posters/commenters. Disobeying the rules means your content will be removed by Moderators, i.e. redditors that have the power to manage the content on specific subreddits.
That being said, r/CatsStandingUp has a very strict set of guidelines for its redditors:
Translation: you may only submit pictures of standing cats to the subreddit and only post comments that say “Cat” and nothing else. This is quite different from the more detailed set of rules provided by r/AskReddit, a popular subreddit where you can pose your questions to the entire Reddit community.
Moderators are not the only content-managing entities you need to be aware of. Regular redditors have a kind of content management system of their own. This is where the upvote/downvote feature really comes into play. Content admired by the subreddit community will be rewarded with upvotes, which will help increase the impressions of your submissions and comments. Upsetting the community in some way will result in the exact opposite: being “downvoted to oblivion.” In more literal terms, your content will have such a low ranking that very few redditors are bound to see it.
If this tells you anything about Reddit, it should demonstrate that redditors care about the integrity of the platform in their own way. They know what they want and aren’t afraid to tell you if what you’re providing isn’t it. This certainly comes across in most comment threads as well, where you’ll see that redditors often enjoy clever, in-depth discussions that go beyond typical “haha” or “@mybff this is you!” comments that flood other platforms. Only publishing truly interesting, helpful, funny, or authentic content is the unspoken rule that applies to Reddit as a whole. This also means that transparent advertising techniques you may have been able to sneak onto Facebook will not fly here; redditors are notorious for being advertising-averse.
Consequently, what makes Reddit an engaging platform that users return to day-in and day-out is also what has marketers running scared. Redditors’ sensitivity to inauthenticity, ability to downvote content to oblivion, and ultimately render a campaign meaningless can feel threatening. However, content creators that are able to dedicate time to testing the waters will find marketing on Reddit to be a high risk/high reward situation.
Reddit Marketing Done Right
In recent years, more businesses have taken a stab at promoting themselves on Reddit. The stand-out success stories say a lot about the exceptions the Reddit community will make when responding to ads. Great content, a willingness to engage with redditors, and transparency have been proven to win them over against their innate desire to oppose advertising and self-promotion.
Take this success story from an indie hat company, for example. The CEO of Findlay Hats, Jimmy Findlay Hickey, happens to be a longtime redditor. When he saw one of his hats on a passerby while vacationing in Italy, he couldn’t believe the chances of running into someone wearing one of the few hats his company sold, and halfway around the world at that. Jimmy was compelled to share the story online. “It seems like something that people on Reddit will be interested in,” Jimmy thought at the time, and lo and behold, he was right.
Using his personal Reddit profile, Jimmy shared a brief sentence about the encounter and his photo with the customer. Long story short, the post went viral and sparked $28,000 in sales in a single day. The organic post also triggered a whopping 60,000 website views. Not bad for a group of guys making hats out of their garage in Oregon!
Paid marketing campaigns have also seen success on Reddit, but compared to Findlay’s story, these tales are on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. Where Jimmy’s post was casual, straightforward, and humble, other companies have gone beyond that and straight into territory that can only be described as weird.
Earlier this year, KFC took to Reddit with one of their many outlandish marketing schemes. For Valentine’s Day, they decided to hold a creativity contest. The prize: a pair of fried chicken pajama onesies for you and your date, a $160 gift card to use towards a streaming service subscription of winner's choice, a free KFC date night every month for a year. . .and a faux bearskin rug that looks like Colonel Sanders. It’s something you have to see to believe.
The strange, kind of scary Sanders rug was at the center of the entire campaign. To win the prize, Redditors could choose from three “romantic” challenges: a writing prompt, a photo-editing prompt (a la r/photoshopbattle) or a drawing prompt all involving the Colonel and the creepy rug that shared his likeness.
The oddity of it all caught redditors’ attention and KFC’s submission received a ton of engagement. Redditors admired the company’s efforts to go beyond the hard sell and be interactive instead. But also vital to the campaign’s success was the fried chicken company’s willingness to engage with their naysayers. Their team knew that their big paid campaign would inspire more than a few trolls and they came equipped to handle them with tongue-in-cheek responses. KFC was willing to get on the comment battlegrounds and fight their way towards positive brand recognition among redditors. Which brings us to another Reddit advertising tale you shouldn’t take lightly when planning your Reddit debut. . .
TikTok, a video-sharing app popular with kids and teens, is a company hated by most redditors. However, they may have won over more than a few users over the course of a single paid campaign, though it didn’t turn out quite as planned.
The content of TikTok’s paid advertisement was simple enough. They encouraged redditors to download the app, make a holiday-themed video, and post the link in a comment on the submission for a chance to win Reddit Awards. Their goal was clear: drive downloads using Reddit fame as an incentive.
Their campaign was immediately off to a terrible start as comments flooded in belittling the app and its advertising efforts. It was clear that very few people were inspired to download TikTok from the App Store and participate in their contest. But rather than hang their heads in shame at the influx of negative feedback, TikTok changed their strategy. They took to the comments section.
Like KFC, TikTok decided to embrace the trolls. Their marketing team spent time to post witty responses to their crowd of haters, commenting so skillfully that redditors began to change their tune. A portion of the community began to admire the app’s boldness and shared as much in their comments. One redditor even wrote:
TikTok managed to enter the brains of their most passionate critics and flip a switch, changing how they viewed the app. They may not have gotten what they initially wanted out of the campaign, but TikTok proved their flexibility, following their ad as it transformed from a download-driving campaign to a brand image one.
Getting Ready for Reddit
Now that you’re aware of the benefits, risks, and challenges of marketing on Reddit, let’s set you on the right path. Here are three steps to take to get you started.
1. Build Your Reddit Reputation
We’ve explored how your Inbox Reputation could be affect your email marketing campaigns. Reddit is another area where your reputation weighs heavily on the success of your promotional efforts. That being said, you can’t just create an account and start publishing ads straight out of the gate. Technically you could, but we would STRONGLY advise against that.
Instead, take your time. Choose a username and choose wisely—you won’t be able to change it down the road and it will appear on all of your promoted content. After your account has been created, get your bearings and see what’s out there in the Reddit world. Upvote submissions that align well with your brand and its goals. Study up on what the Reddit community responds well to (and what it doesn’t). Bookmark the subreddits you think your company could become successfully a part of. Leave comments where they seem fitting. Remember to be authentic and helpful, not “sales-y.” Don’t risk tooting your own horn until you’ve built up a reputation as a genuine redditor.
2. Start Small—Post Organically
Once you’ve gained some traction as a real redditor, test the waters and start submitting content organically. At first, share valuable content that isn’t your own. This will help you gain credibility as an information source, not a marketer. Use the time you spent upvoting and commenting to your advantage and share articles, pictures, videos, or questions that you predict will resonate with the community.
If this seems to be going well, gradually slip in content generated by your company—organically, of course. Even the website itself recommends that you post organically first before turning to paid campaigns. Again, tone down the sales verbiage and be genuine. Invest time in being an attentive OP (“Original Poster”) and respond to comments. Dropping a submission and leaving the comments section out to dry is not a great look. You’ll need to see all your submissions through to maintain that reputation you worked diligently to achieve.
3. Advertise Only After You’ve Paid Your Dues
You read. You upvoted. You submitted. If you’ve decided you’re ready to dive into paid advertising, it’s time to put your money where your keyboard is.
To start your first campaign, register your account for Reddit advertising here. You must sign up with a pre-existing user account. When you’re registered and ready to launch your first campaign, you’ll need to determine the campaign length, daily budget, bid, and objective. Note that the bid types vary from objective to objective (i.e. Traffic campaigns are CPC, Brand Awareness & Reach campaigns are CPM).
Next is identifying the subreddits you’d like to target. Your choice is limited to the top 5k most trafficked subreddits at the moment. What you’re buying is a spot at the very top of your subreddit(s) of choice for a certain amount of time. Narrow down your target audience further by excluding subreddits, selecting interest categories, choosing to target/exclude certain locations, and more.
Your promoted submission can be a link post, a text post, or a video post and will include a CTA button from a list of available selections. In terms of content, the same rules apply to promoted posts as they do to organic ones and comments. Sales jargon has no place on Reddit. Your promoted post should resemble an organic one, or else you risk putting off an entire segment of the Reddit community with your overly forward, transparent attempts to self-promote.
When your ad is launched, insights can be tracked via Reddit’s Advertiser Dashboard. Facebook Business Manager Users will be familiar with the dashboard’s set-up and the metrics it provides. But keeping up with your numbers isn’t the only maintenance you’ll have to run on your advertisements. Like TikTok, keep up with what Reddit users are commenting and engage as much as you can. Show that you’re invested in the community as much as showing off your prowess as business.
TL;DR: How to Succeed on Reddit
Advertising on Reddit isn’t necessarily easy, but heed these tips and you’ll start off on the right foot.
- Take your time to build credibility as a user
- Be ready to engage with the community
- Post organically before advertising
- Don’t write like a sales guy
If you’re still overwhelmed by redditors with their confusing abbreviations and snide attitude, we can help. Our team of social media experts (and Reddit veterans!) can help you avoid the pitfalls of a sales-y text post, an angry comments section and more. Contact us to see how we can lead you through a Reddit marketing campaign unscathed.
- Megan O'Keefe
- Social Media & Content Specalist