Featuring vast, engaging, niche communities and high standards of moderation, it’s hard to come up with a topic that doesn’t fall within a Reddit community. A Pew research report puts Reddit as the 10th most-used social media platform in the United States, and as of January 2021, there were 50 million daily active Reddit users worldwide. That said, Reddit is unlike any of the other popular social media platforms, and marketing on Reddit must be approached with that in mind. Let’s look at the ways that brands are marketing and advertising on Reddit.
How Does Reddit Work? User-Generated Content!
Reddit users, often called Redditors, post content to Reddit in the form of text-based discussions, links, photos or videos, and other users are then able to comment on the post. Posts and comments related to the post are then upvoted or downvoted by other users.
The way the upvote and downvote system works is straightforward: The topical (upvoted) content rises to the top of the users’ feeds while downvoted content gets pushed down. While there is no rhyme or reason to what gets upvoted or downvoted, typically, interesting, relevant, funny and entertaining content is upvoted, and boring, irrelevant, distasteful or hateful content is downvoted (and often deleted by moderators).
Aside from Reddit’s front page, discussions are divided into smaller individual communities that are referred to as subreddits. Users are able to view the top communities, as well as the fastest-growing subreddits. As of 2021, there were over 100,000 active communities on Reddit.
Reddit also features a “karma” system for users that validates the usefulness or relevance of a user’s posts — it’s a good gauge of how much a user’s contributions mean to the community. The amount of karma someone has is publicly displayed on their “profile” page, which, unlike other social media platforms, simply displays a user’s posts or comments that they have left on others’ posts. When a user’s posts or comments get upvoted, they gain karma points. Conversely, when a user’s posts or comments are downvoted, they lose karma points.
Although Reddit isn’t technically a social media platform, the ability to upvote and downvote posts, post comments and publish content is similar to other popular social platforms. People regularly use Reddit to learn more about a topic from others who know it well, and that includes both peers and brands. According to Reddit, 90% of users trust the platform as a place to learn about new products and brands. Reddit users are generally well-informed consumers, and they are likely to recommend the products and brands they love to others.
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Marketing on Subreddits: Authenticity Rules
The first thing to keep in mind is that Reddit is a large community made up of many smaller communities. As such, members of each community tend to be supportive of those who post relevant content and dismissive or derogatory of those who post irrelevant, off-topic posts, which include spam, blatant marketing or advertising ploys.
Babar Khan Javed, the director of public affairs at Z2C Limited, a Singaporean accelerator for martech startups, told CMSWire that he views Reddit in a similar way to how he sees Twitter — as an essential customer insight and sentiment tracking data pool. “The communities and the comments within can be scraped by tools such as Walee to gather sentiments toward laws, proposals, product categories, business moves and prospective employers. The use cases are endless, and our usage of Reddit is based on engaging target audiences in a conversation, understanding where misconceptions lie, and driving a deeper understanding of the projects we are working on,” said Javed.
Joe Karasin, chief marketing officer at CircleIt, a generational platform provider, told CMSWire that Reddit is a great marketing channel and can work well when done right. “Brands that are successfully marketing on Reddit are finding the right subreddits to join and either posting from a branded account, or getting a team of savvy people to drum up organic conversations that can weave the brand into the discussion.” Karasin gave the example of a company that posted in a death-centric subreddit from a branded account. “The post was essentially ignored by the community. In contrast, we at CircleIt have also been active in that subreddit, but not as branded accounts,” he said.
Karasin suggested that brands genuinely contribute to the discussion, often without mentioning the company name. He said that when his business does mention the company name, they do it tactfully.
“For example, a member posted a question to the group asking if they would want to receive messages from their loved ones that had passed away. I was able to contribute a personal story, as my mother had left me a letter to find after she passed on, but also was able to mention that our platform enables that type of communication.” Karasin said that this type of contribution to the discussion was well received, and that the company was able to attribute 90 new downloads from that post. “In order to be effective, you need to be authentic on Reddit. The moment you sound like you're selling something, you will be called out and lambasted by the Redditors.”
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Advertising on Reddit
Reddit has many advertising options available and enables brands to target users that are in communities that share something in common with the brand. One example would be a brand that sells hiking shoes advertising in a Reddit hiking community. “As far as advertising is concerned, Reddit offers some very cool targeting options, where you can hypertarget ads into specific subreddits and hit a niche audience,” said Karasin. “Truly good marketing on Reddit takes time and energy.” Karasin emphasized that many marketers need to unlearn behaviors. “Because it is a much different audience than Meta platforms, for example, marketers can't use the same tactics and expect the same results.”
For those interested in guaranteed outcomes without sacrificing traction, Javed said that Reddit offers the option of paid advertising using two types of ad units: auction and takeover. “Adobe has worked with Reddit’s KarmaLab to tap design talent straight from the platform, creating standout ads to win the hearts, minds, upvotes, awards and trust of Redditors while driving incredible business results.”
Marketers and advertisers should sign up for the Reddit Ads Formula certification program to understand the best practices for using the platform, Javed suggested. “This program teaches its students to use an authentic, human and conversational tone in all communications, whether posts or ads,” said Javed. “Advertisers should utilize copy and videos to maximize impact, experiment with humor doused in cultural nuances, avoid using hashtags and emojis and offer ads that create value or co-creation.”
Jacqueline Look, senior manager of growth marketing at Momentive, maker of survey software provider SurveyMonkey, told CMSWire that it is common for brands to run a mix of ad types.
"For example, SurveyMonkey was recently one of the first brands to test a new video ad format on Reddit. This takeover video ad lived on Reddit’s front page a few months back, and was followed by a series of native posts promoting its software. She said that the new video ad was combined with a First-View Takeover on the platform (FVTO), which drove over 10 million impressions in a single day. “In the week following the FVTO, SurveyMonkey's other Reddit campaigns experienced a 52% higher CTR than before the FVTO, demonstrating how Reddit platform takeovers drive immediate and lingering impact.”
Reddit Ads Manager is a web-based tool that enables brands to create and manage advertising campaigns. It provides analytics about each campaign and is broken down into Campaigns, Ad Groups and Ads. Reddit recently added a live chat element within Ads Manager that provides brands with a direct connection to a Reddit support team employee for ad-related questions. Additionally, they added over 1,000 new targetable communities to the Ads Manager.
William Pickering, digital marketing executive at The Big Phone Store, told CMSWire that most brands use Reddit advertising in a very traditional manner, inserting their promotional material onto the Reddit timelines of their selected subreddits/locations. “Some brands will take the initiative to find posts already made by users that relate to their product/service and promote them,” said Pickering. “Promoting existing user posts is a better choice than traditional advertising content on Reddit as users are often skeptical of advertisers on the platform, so integrating the brand with existing activity on Reddit is essential to make any kind of positive progress.”
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The Challenges of Reddit Marketing
At its core, Reddit is all about open communication. As such, there will be thoughts and opinions presented that some may find offensive. Marketers need to resist the urge to try to police the discussion, instead relying on moderators to do the job if things get out of hand. “Reddit is not for marketers that can't take a joke or lack a sense of humor, or don't value the importance of community and free speech,” said Javed. “All too often, we hear about marketers sending legal notices to Reddit because a post from a user offended them — and these posts are usually on communities that serve the purpose of venting.” Javed explained that often, Redditors avoid even naming the brands in question while using descriptors that allow community members to know exactly what or who they are referring to.
Reddit users can be tough on those who advertise on the platform, especially if they tactlessly do so within a conversation in a community. “The main challenge when it comes to Reddit advertising is the user base itself. Many Reddit users are skeptical of advertising and use ad blockers to circumvent ads entirely,” said Pickering, who suggested that very specific placement of ads on subreddits that match the interests of a brand’s target audience and distribution in a specific geographic location can deliver results.
Final Thoughts on Reddit Marketing
Reddit provides brands with the opportunity to engage with an assortment of both wide to extremely narrow audience segments. By actively contributing to a Reddit community with authentic, organic discussions, or using one of the many ad formats that Reddit provides, brands can create a positive emotional connection with Redditors, gain new customers and improve customer loyalty.