Reddit marketing: not for the faint of heart

Marketing on Reddit requires an in-depth knowledge of the platform’s culture and user base to be successful.

While the potential for good marketing results is high, the fickle and cynical nature of Reddit’s userbase means you’ll more likely to find mediocrity or even mockery. Here are some of the most important things to know if you want to utilize Reddit in your marketing plan.

What is Reddit?

Reddit calls itself “the frontpage of the internet” for good reason. It’s the #5 most visited site in the United States with 330 million active users visiting 138,000 unique communities called subreddits every month. In fact, Reddit records an average of 14 billion pageviews every month.

All of the content on the thousands of subreddits is posted by users who then determine how visible the content is by “upvoting” or “downvoting” each post. Users can also leave comments and create a conversation amongst themselves. However, unlike other social media platforms, Reddit is somewhat anonymous. Users don’t have a profile that shows their photo and where they went to high school. Instead, a user’s profile is a collection of their posts and comments. Unless Reddit users decide to share personal information, or get doxed by another user, they can say what they like without immediate fear of those opinions being broadcast to their family and friends in real life.

Each subreddit is moderated to ensure illegal or rule-breaking content isn’t posted, but Reddit can still sometimes feel like the Wild West of the internet. As you may imagine on a platform with millions of users who feel anonymous, the worst in human behavior is present as much as the best. For every subreddit like r/aww (mostly cute animals) or r/humansbeingbros (stories and pictures of people helping one another), there are also subreddits, which Reddit has now "quarantined", for those who believe the Holocaust is a hoax or want to watch videos of people dying.

All this to say that Reddit is a place of user-generated content that those users want to feel is genuine and authentic. Most users subscribe for funny GIFs, pictures, cute baby animals and in-depth discussions on their favorite movies, tv shows, books or hobbies. But the ability of users to post almost anything means the platform also has the potential to be very NSFW (not safe for work).

Who uses Reddit?

Reddit has more than 330 million monthly active users. Who are they?

Research by Pew Research Center shows that Reddit users are more likely to be:

  •  Male – 67% of Reddit users are men.
  • Young – 64% of Reddit’s userbase are between 18 and 29-years-old.
  • Be educated – 42% of users have a degree, much higher than the 28% of the total U.S. population.
  • Be white – an overwhelming 70% of Reddit users are white.
  • Lean to the left politically – 43% of Reddit users describe themselves as liberal compared to 38% who identify at moderates and just 19% that call themselves conservative.

So, if your business wants to reach college-educated white men under the age of 30 that voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential election, chances are you’ll find them on Reddit.

Why do they use Reddit?

However, you also need to understand why users are on the platform before diving in to your Reddit marketing strategy. Pew Research Center found that 70% of Reddit users went to the platform to get news. So, in addition to the fun aspects of the site like cute baby animals and the popular r/AskReddit where users ask and answer questions on wide-ranging topics, users also see the platform as a reliable place to get their news.

This sense of Reddit as a reliable source of truth reflects the site’s reputation for being a “bastion of free speech.” Users see themselves as in control of how the platform functions and bristle at attempts to, in their opinion, stifle their free speech or manipulate which kinds of content are shown above others.

This makes marketing on Reddit difficult. Reddit users don’t want to be sold to and have even created a subreddit with more than 140,000 subscribers mocking advertising attempts on the site called r/HailCorporate. Users that name branded products or link to a business’s website are likely to be called shills with their posts linked back to this subreddit for others to comment on.

The bottom line is that users want to feel like the platform is theirs to shape – not a place solely for advertisements.

Marketing on Reddit

All of this isn’t to say that marketing is impossible on the platform. There are two main ways you can try to do so – sharing content on the platform organically and utilizing advertising. Each has their own pros and cons which should be fully understood.

Sharing content organically means you’ll be posting your photo, video, GIF, link or text post like any other user. Users will either upvote or downvote your post based on whether they like it and think it’s useful or not. You can also hope that other users share your content themselves, like this Pepsi ad featuring augmented reality.

If you’re going to go this route, be transparent. You don’t want to be called a shill. If you’re a small business looking to reach the users on a particular subreddit, be honest. Hiding behind fake accounts could end up tarnishing your reputation for good.

Your other option is to advertise on Reddit using the RedditAds platform. This allows you to create promoted posts that will show up on selected subreddits in a standard Pay Per Click model. You can read more about the ad options here.

Either way you decide to use Reddit for marketing, make sure you are thinking carefully about the audience on the platform and how they might react to your messaging.

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