How marketing on Reddit works (and how to do it right)
If you’re curious about marketing on Reddit, we totally understand why.
After all, Reddit is the epicenter of all things viral online. With billions of visits per month and 430+ million active users, the platform represents one of the most engaged communities online.
Not to mention that content originating from Reddit tends to score huge numbers on social media.
Here’s the thing, though: marketing on Reddit is often an uphill battle for brands who don’t really “get” what the site is all about.
If you approach Reddit like the rest of your social presence, you’re going to be disappointed.
That’s why we put together this guide on how to use Reddit for business and decide if marketing on the platform makes sense for you.
What is Reddit, anyway?
Fair question! To folks who’ve never really navigated Reddit before, the site might look like a hot mess.
The self-promoted “front page of the Internet,” Reddit is basically one-part webform and one-part news site.
But where does all the “stuff” on Reddit come from?
In short, users publish content to Reddit in the form of links, photos or videos. Posts and comments related to that content are then “upvoted” or “downvoted.”
The concept of upvote system is simple: the cream (buzzworthy content) rises to the top while downvoted content (often irrelevant, inflammatory or spammy) gets buried.
Beyond Reddit’s front page, discussions are separated by individual communities known as “subreddits.”
It’s no exaggeration to say there’s a subreddit for just about everything. Beyond subreddits such as /r/IAmA (ask me anything) or /r/personalfinance, there are tons of large niche communities such as /r/jellybeantoes which is dedicated to cat paws (and has over 139,000 members, by the way).
Reddit isn’t technically a social media site, although some critics may argue otherwise. While your actual user profile is limited, the ability to “like” (via upvotes) posts, drop comments and publish content is similar to the major social platforms out there.
Demographically, Reddit’s audience skews on the younger side and is nearly 70% male. While the platform is still largely associated with gaming and fandom culture, there are active communities for everything from fitness to beauty and beyond.
The challenge of marketing on Reddit
At a glance, Reddit might seem like the perfect place for marketers and brands to engage with customers.
And sure, it can be.
But just like any social network, you can’t just dump a bunch of links on people and expect traction.
This is especially true on Reddit, a platform that thrives on a sense of community. Users don’t take kindly to people trying to sell to them without contributing to the community themselves.
Also, users on Reddit can see through thinly-veiled attempts at promotion and are often hostile toward them. That’s why many subreddits have explicit rules that restrict advertising.
Does this mean that Reddit is against businesses? Absolutely not. They just take a firm stance on self-promotion. Perhaps they put it best themselves:
“It’s perfectly fine to be a Redditor with a website, it’s not okay to be a website with a Reddit account.”
Reddit has no problem with businesses joining the platform. The key is that those businesses need to focus on community relationships and value versus selling. Here’s their “tl;dr” to anyone interested in marketing on Reddit:
“Don’t just spam out your links, and don’t blindly upvote your own content or ask anyone else to! Why? Because Reddit is a community, not a platform for self-promotion.”
Keep in mind that Reddit boasts its own ad platform and sponsored posts for brands. With advertising partners such as Audi, Poshmark and Adobe, it’s silly to say Reddit is antibusiness.
Oh, and conversations about brands and products are all the rage on Reddit. People love using the platform to discuss businesses because all content is authentic and unfiltered (hint: no brands butting in).
The takeaway here is that there is a place for businesses on Reddit: you just have to familiarize yourself with the platform prior to posting.
What the best way to approach marketing on Reddit, then?
Even if you never plan on business building a presence on Reddit, you should at the very least understand how brands use the platform and inculcate it into your overall social marketing strategy.
And if nothing else, Reddit is a brilliant place to conduct market research and maintain a pulse on trends in your industry and beyond.
Below are some ideas for how to use Reddit for business and marketing based on your brand.
Uncover customer feedback and suggestions
As noted earlier, Reddit is a potential treasure trove of conversations relevant to businesses.
From your audience’s favorite products to what people are saying about your competitors, you don’t have to look hard for customers asking for advice and recommendations.
However, the key here isn’t for you to intervene or take action.
Instead, just listen.
By keeping tabs on conversations about your products or competitors, you can get a better sense of where you’re winning, where you might be falling short and how you can improve.
For example, check out this /r/personalfinance discussion about IRA accounts. This conversation highlights real-world problems and concerns from banking customers, stressing specific pain points and why one bank might be preferable to another.
These are the exact sort of conversations your business should be privy to and Reddit is rife with them. Take some time to explore industry-specific subreddits to better understand trends and what your customers are thinking.
Another way to zero in on these conversations on Reddit (and beyond) is through social listening tools like Sprout Social. Aggregating messages and posts from across the web, you translate messages and posts into actionable data for your business.
Discover unique user-generated content
In addition to questions from customers, Reddit is home to tons of user-generated content such as product photos and testimonials.
Customer photos are perfect for platforms like Instagram. Meanwhile, the fact that you have Redditors talking up your brand is a brilliant form of social proof to give your business some serious credibility.
For example, check out these recent posts on /r/FancyFollicles talking up Arctic Fox’s hair dye.
With just a quick search, you can uncover brand advocates and success stories from satisfied customers.
Provide support and recommendations to your audience
Arguably one of the best ways to approach marketing on Reddit is to prioritize support over selling.
There are many brands that have dedicated subreddit communities for asking questions and troubleshooting problems. This creates a direct line between your brand and customers, all the while being a public forum for people to seek out solutions and product recommendations in the future.
Heck, some companies such as Corsair use Reddit as an extension of their existing customer support efforts. Doing so creates visibility for your brand and likewise proves how committed you are to helping customers.
Use AMA events to get in front of your community
If you’re part of a bigger brand, you can flex your influence to talk directly to members of your community.
AMA (ask me anything) sessions are a cornerstone of Reddit and are a popular way to engage with fans organically, taking on questions and letting your brand’s personality shine through. Companies usually conduct AMAs in conjunction with a promotion or launch.
The key to a successful AMA is actually going back-and-forth with people rather than talking about what you’re promoting. In fact, shameless self-promotion has been the result of some of the worst (and most infamous) AMAs in Reddit lore.
Engage with customers from a personal account
This is a subtle tip but definitely one worth mentioning.
Ideally, you don’t want to potentially approach Redditors with a totally inactive account. Accumulating posts and comments on the site might take time, but doing so is worth it to prove to your community that you aren’t a spammer.
Some companies get around this by approaching customers from a personal, non-corporate account.
For example, Beardbrand’s Eric Banholtz is a seasoned Redditor and regularly comments on brand and beard-related topics from his personal account.
Similar to how brands conduct employee advocacy efforts, this is a great way to approach people on Reddit minus the sort corporate “stamp” on your presence.
Be human when talking with Redditors
This might seem like a no-brainer, but brands should talk to their customers candidly and jargon-free.
A distinct and approachable brand voice is pretty much always a good idea but is particularly important on a platform like Reddit where authenticity counts.
Here’s a great example from Deciem’s AMA on /r/skincareaddiction.
Their brand response is personalized, detailed and has some emotion behind it. This is exactly how brands should interact with customers on Reddit to win them over (and the upvotes on this post prove they were successful)
Ready to start marketing on Reddit?
Listen: marketing on Reddit is definitely tricky.
Even so, the platform is totally worth exploring for brands who want to understand industry trends and what their customers are thinking.
And as you brainstorm your Reddit business plan, make sure to check out our social media toolkit for additional ways to level up your brand’s social marketing.
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