Reddit is “the front page of the internet” – a customizable aggregator of all the latest news and entertainment about the topics that interest you the most. The social aggregation site is currently the 9th most visited website in the US (18th globally). So why is it rarely talked about among the most influential sites? And with that kind of traffic, why are they not among the big players in the marketing world alongside Google and Facebook?
This Reddit marketing guide will give you a complete rundown of the site, as well as how and where smart marketers can find opportunities for growth.
For those unfamiliar, Reddit is a site where users can post various content to topic-specific channels (or subreddits), pictures, videos, links, and text – once posted, other users can view and comment to continue the conversation.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the content types, and how best to utilize them on the platform!
Due to the variety and nuance of the different communities on Reddit, photos shared on the platform can serve a number of purposes. While memes may be the currency of choice for the platform when it comes to still images, branded subreddits (both official and unofficial) like /r/fujifilm can provide users to share their experiences with a service or product through pictures.
Reddit may possibly be the godfather of short-form video, having offered the opportunity for users to embed videos of varying lengths as posts for some time. As of today, users can upload videos of up to 15 minutes, with many opting to keep things on the shorter side, primarily repurposing content found elsewhere on the internet. While branded content is generally frowned upon unless shared in a dedicated subreddit for the brand, meme videos can be a great opportunity for spreading awareness for a brand and aligning culturally with audiences.
Whether sharing with a community on a branded subreddit, or building karma for the account that is acting as an ambassador for your brand, sharing links to relevant content is a great way for building relationships with communities while establishing your account as a trusted source, and fostering brand awareness through increased engagement and visibility. Sharing blog posts that your brand has created to a brand-specific subreddit can be just as effective a strategy as sharing non-brand-related content to a brand-relevant sub to create conversation and generate opportunities to interact with communities. For brand-owned subreddits, pinning relevant links to specific resources or community spaces (like Discord servers) can be a great way to drive community interactions outside of Reddit.
Gifs have become almost their own language on the internet as services like Gfycat, Giphy, and IMGUR allow users to create, edit, upload, and share, their very own gifs. For Reddit, gifs are an incredible opportunity for engaging directly with audiences from branded or brand-associated accounts on the platform (more on these later).
While brand-specific gifs have historically found their way into the meme zeitgeist of the internet, attempts to push product awareness through branded gifs are more often than not seen as disingenuous and will likely hurt brand perception than help it — those sorts of things have to happen naturally.
That’s not to say that brands can’t incorporate gifs into their content strategy on the site at all. In addition to a well-placed gif response to a comment potentially rewarding a brand account with high levels of engagement and visibility, gif specific subreddit such as /r/retiredgif can encapsulate a post in the annals of Reddit lore if the usage is done in a way that the community deems to be perfect — to the point that the gif itself should be retired from use indefinitely.
The foundation of Reddit’s content, text posts can be anything from long-form content meant to educate or otherwise engage audiences in the same vein as a blog post, to single sentences, or even headlines with a single question and no body text.
One of the most notable formats for text posts is the AMA, or Ask Me Anything, a Q&A structure that allows users to post a thread inviting members of the subreddit to ask them anything — or in some instances AMAA (ask me almost anything).
And while AMAs are one of the few places where Redditors are generally accepting of shameless plugging of products or projects, there are still limits.
Outside of AMAs, however, brands can ask questions to gauge interest in potential future products, solicit feedback from communities, and gain all sorts of other insights and opportunities for engagement and relationship building.
Democratization of Content:
The beauty of Reddit and the reason that the communities built there are so strong is that there’s no algorithm. Posts and comments are sorted through a voting system through upvotes and downvotes. What this means for the platform is that popular content will rise to the top of the page, and unpopular posts will be “downvoted to oblivion,” sinking towards the bottom — often hidden from the community. Upvotes and downvotes are tallied into Karma for individual accounts which are largely referred to on the platform as “meaningless internet points” that indicate how often a user’s posts or comments have been upvoted or downvoted. There are two kinds of Karma, Post Karma for content users themselves submitted, and Comment Karma for karma received on comments that users make in the threads for other users’ content.
Reddit’s format borrows heavily from the structure of early message boards on the internet and is organized into subreddits, which are communities for different topics of discussion. Volunteer moderators (or mods) are in charge of keeping the discussion on topic and ensuring everyone plays nice and follows the subreddit’s rules. The subject matter of subreddits themselves can vary drastically from the extremely broad (/r/videos), to memes (/r/AdviceAnimals), to popular hobbies (/r/nfl), to advice-based (/r/selfimprovement), to the just plain weird (/r/BreadStapledToTrees).
There are currently over 2.8 million subreddits, so odds are there is something for every niche interest. But on the off-chance there isn’t, any user is free to create their own new subreddit and build a community to populate it with content.
Why Market On Reddit?
As mentioned above, Reddit is the 18th most visited site in the world. To put that into context, Reddit has over 430 million monthly active users, and over 1.7 Billion page views per month.
An audience that size clearly goes across demographics, but it tends to skew younger, reaching over 64% of Americans aged 18-29.
Reddit is also famous for being a “black hole,” where users can get drawn into content and spend hours going down various rabbit holes. The average Reddit visit lasts roughly 10-13 minutes, where users visit over seven pages each.
The case for Reddit is simple – it’s a wildly popular platform with a very engaged audience. Users come to Reddit not only looking for entertainment but often for answers to their questions and solutions to their problems. Smart marketers can use this to their advantage, learning about their audience and using these insights to help guide marketing messaging and product development.
So Why Is Reddit Not More Popular For Brands?
As much fun as the site can be, Reddit can be an intimidating platform for brands.
Redditors, as a whole, have traditionally been anti-advertising, though since the platform sold to Conde Nast in 2006, and was later transferred to the Conde parent company, Advance Publications, the platform has been experimenting greatly with monetization efforts and, of course, ads. While there is a subreddit of ~205K subscribers called /r/hailcorporate dedicated to Redditors calling out the obvious attempts of brands trying to push products on the platform, the reality is that the relationship between Redditors and brands has made a great deal of progress in recent years — thanks in large part to increased efforts on the part of brands to exercise transparency in their interactions on the platform.
For some historical context, Reddit had a competitor in the social news aggregation space called Digg, which was actually the more popular at the time. In 2010 however, Digg revised its interface, which removed some popular features and loaded the site with ads. As a result, Digg lost 50% of its traffic nearly overnight (mostly to Reddit), and had to lay off 40% of its staff a few months later. They now exist mainly as a cautionary tale. Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian commented, “this new version of Digg reeks of VC meddling.” Thus, they’ve been timid to make any radical changes to the site that could potentially upset the user base.
As such, the user base has a lot of power on the site, and that level playing field is also scary to brands. If a brand were to post something unpopular on Twitter, their worst-case scenario is that it either gets ignored or gets replied to by people with much smaller followings, so the damage is minimal. Reddit, on the other hand, gives users the power to respond in real-time, as well as upvote/downvote power to dictate what they like and what they don’t like, and the brand just has to accept the results.
Marketing On Reddit
Like most social sites, there are essentially two tactics one can take to gain Reddit’s attention: organic and paid. Reddit, however, isn’t like social networks because brands and/or people aren’t the stars – the communities are. This power shift presents some challenges but not ones that are impossible to overcome.
Growing Accounts Organically
Unlike most social networks, interactions on Reddit are not driven by the individual as much as the individual interactions within the community — sharing content that is either helpful or entertaining in order to accumulate karma. While accounts are generally anonymous, and while usernames are visible on all posts and comments, individual users outside of a handful of “power users” do not generally get individual recognition — though this dynamic is slowly changing. While traditionally users would follow communities, not people, individual users, brands, and other forms of personalities are now beginning to create dedicated subreddits to build brand awareness and authority in their specific spaces.
Subject Matter Experts
In the realm of the unlikely Reddit celebrity, there have emerged a number of accounts that have become synonymous with specific topics, or that get summoned to chime in with their opinion or expertise whenever necessary. Quite possibly the most well-known of these accounts, and the one that’s most illustrative of the trend, is /u/TheEarthquakeGuy, who unsurprisingly is the resident expert on earthquakes and is immediately tagged whenever there is an earthquake to provide reporting on the magnitude and severity of the occurrence.
For brands, this poses a great opportunity to flex authority in a space, and do so in an organic and authentic way.
Many brands have adopted the practice of having brand representatives that can go out into the wilds of Reddit to represent the brand in their particular area of expertise. This allows the brand to show up where conversations are happening organically, help out the community, and ultimately build trust. This practice is used with the express purpose of building community and brand awareness as leveraging conversations as opportunities for conversions is generally frowned upon.
For example, Verizon has a fairly substantial presence on Reddit (more on them later) with one of the mods on their subreddit being /u/_bama. What’s surprising to find is that /u/_bama posts just as much on /r/ATT as they do on /r/Verizon. The reality however is that while they are a verified employee of Verizon, and a mod on /r/Verizon, they are also generally a subject matter expert on all things wireless technology and graciously share their knowledge wherever it is needed.
As we can see from the above comment by /u/_bama, it’s brand agnostic, but presents them as an authoritative figure within the realm of wireless technology. Despite being posted to /r/ATT, anyone interacting with the account would quickly discover that /u/_bama is a Verizon employee and likely build trust in Verizon as a brand as a result by virtue of /u/_bama’s level of expertise in the field which positively reflects on the brand.
The Actual Celebrity
Celebrities are just people, like you and me. So it’s only natural that they would love Reddit and of course harness the platform to help build their brand — or post photos of puppies.
While typically celebrity accounts have relatively short lifespans, being created as part of a PR campaign to conduct an AMA, only to be later abandoned and never heard from again, some celebrities become addicted like the rest of us and either continue to lurk, continue to post under their public account or, of course, post secretly with their “alt account”.
One of the most prominent of all the celebrity accounts, or at least those we know about, is Governor Schwarzenegger’s, which is surprisingly active.
Arnie, or Arnold, or the Governator if you prefer to call him that, is a fairly prominent celebrity that will often pop up in the comments of threads that are spreading positivity, or really any references to pumping or the pumping up of things.
Customer Service Representatives
How many times have you found yourself in an uncomfortable situation where you’re having an issue with a product or service, you’re trying to call the customer service line, are unable to navigate the directory, and are just generally yelling the word “REPRESENTATIVE” into your smartphone hoping that some form of AI will register your request? It doesn’t have to be that way.
As an extension of the brand-specific accounts on Reddit, few shine brighter than the customer service representatives in the esteem that the command. It may seem simple, but having an employee with a Reddit account can drastically impact public perception of a brand through the attention that they can provide to what might otherwise be upset customers.
One of the most prominent examples of such an account would be /u/tvacgamer or, as they’re known throughout Reddit, Tony.
Tony was once a representative of Amazon and would frequently be seen responding to questions about current deals and sales on the subreddit /r/gamedeals — signing each and every post with, “Cheers, Tony”.
To say Tony was beloved by the community would be an understatement, and as mentioned previously, that love was reflected directly back to Amazon.
While Tony’s contribution to Reddit went little beyond just answering questions, or helping people receive support if they had issues with their order, Tony added a human touch to the brand experience that Amazon often lacks, and there was no lack of recognition for these contributions — small as they were.
Find the Right Subreddits
Think about your customer persona. What are their unique interests, and which communities within Reddit over-index for that persona? There are over 130K active subreddits, so there is likely to be something for every brand.
Finding the right subreddits is a bit like SEO keyword research. While it may be tempting to go after the most popular subreddits, the riches are in the niches. Say, for example, your brand makes kitchen tools. Making an impact on /r/food and its 20 million subscribers will be a difficult task. However, impacting a smaller but still active community like /r/bachelorchef and their ~10K subscribers is a lot more feasible.
Once you’ve interacted with people and built some credibility, then you can start testing some of the larger subs, as well as posting your own content. Be sure to keep a balance of comments and posts, though. Too much posting and not engaging enough, and you’ll be seen as spamming your content – wanting the clicks and traffic without wanting to be a part of the community. Once this social contract is broken, it can be very tough to repair your image. In fact, many subreddits even have strict rules against self-promotion, which can lead to temporary or even lifetime bans. Reddit holds grudges.
Or Make Your Own Subreddits
Depending on the maturity of your brand and the level of brand recognition that you have developed, it can be incredibly impactful to create a subreddit dedicated specifically to your brand, platform, or product.
Similar to the .com boom of the 90s, as Reddit gained momentum and popularity brands have been in a race to secure their place on Reddit to prevent losing control over brand narrative and the trajectory of the branded community.
Looking at the technology space as an example, both Razer and Microsoft have branded communities, with Razer being described as being, “Made by Redditors, for Redditors…”
The result in the case of Razer is that the brand has less control over the content narrative as the subreddit itself is run independently — despite some of the mods coming directly from Razer’s internal staff.
For users, the experience is arguably more authentic, with many of the content submissions pointing out flaws in the Razer products, or otherwise being critical of the “cult of Razer” which may not present the brand in the best light and requires disclaimers such as this one, warning of potentially nefarious users posing as Razer employees due to their inability to directly manage which employees have access to mod privileges.
Meanwhile, on the Microsoft subreddit, the Microsoft team can control the messaging and experience of users much more effectively, providing users with confidence that their comments or questions will be directly addressed by someone from the Microsoft social team — without much, if any, worry as to whether or not the person they’re speaking with is an imposter or not.
By having control of the subreddit, the brand is also able to pin whatever content they want to spotlight at any particular point in time, whether it’s a keynote, official support thread, or potentially even a new product launch.
Ultimately, both types of branded subreddits are incredibly important and helpful to building relationships with the communities developing around your brand, though it is inarguable that having the ability to own your own subreddit is far superior to simply being an active participant in a Redditor-run sub.
What is important, is that, like any other social media presence, your sub be active. While there may be disappointment from users seeking out a branded sub that aren’t able to find one, the perceptive damage of having a user find an abandoned sub, post a concern or question and never get a response is likely worse.
Engage with the Community
The biggest takeaway of this entire article is this: your engagement with the community needs to be humble and genuine. Especially within niche communities, people will see through the BS, and because Redditors have the power of the downvote, you will be punished for it.
The most downvoted comment of all time actually belongs to the video game brand, EA. After Star Wars Battlefront was released, a user took to the game-specific subreddit (/r/StarWarsBattlefront) to complain that they either needed to log an excessive amount of playing hours or pay to unlock their favorite character. EA attempted to respond and stand up for its product, but Redditors saw right through the PR response, and the comment was downvoted over 668,000 times.
Instead, see this community engagement as an opportunity to learn about your potential customers. What problems are they consistently having, and how can you help solve them? A famous example of this was Imgur, the image hosting site that’s in the top 100 most visited sites in the world. Back in 2009, it was created by a Redditor as a gift for Reddit, since users were constantly complaining about glitchy tools like Imageshack and Photobucket. The creator was still a college student at the time, and this was just a side project for him. But Imgur ultimately blew up into a bonafide startup that has raised $60 million because he understood a community and solved their problem.
Consider an AMA
A Reddit AMA (short for “Ask Me Anything”) is a thread of questions hosted by a person who declares, “I am _______, ask me anything.” From there, Reddit users respond with the type of questions that you’d never see on your standard PR tour. While politicians like Barack Obama or celebrities such as Gordon Ramsay will often make appearances to help promote their campaign or project, a popular AMA can just as likely come from someone with an interesting story to tell, such as this guy who walked every single block in NYC.
As with all things Reddit, humble and honest answers are required. While some questions will be related to the newest project or topic, many will not be, so participants need to be prepared and not expect this experience to be strict promotion. Woody Harrelson once infamously got annoyed with any questions not related to his new movie released and felt the backlash from the community as a result. While timing AMAs with a release can undoubtedly help, see it as an opportunity to engage with a community rather than a sales pitch.
An example of this done right is Ivan Kutskir, creator of Photopea, a free version of Photoshop. With Reddit being a very tech-friendly community, he answers many questions about coding and development, but also about his business plans and what’s changed in his life as the tool has gotten more popular. He’s made multiple appearances in AMAs and reports that his downloads and income double each time. However, he gets the benefit of the doubt from the Reddit community because he’s an active member throughout the year, not just during his AMAs.
Don’t have a physical product to sell? AMAs can still work for people who thrive on knowledge and expertise. Famous food writer and restauranteur J Kenji Lopez-Alt hosts the occasional AMA just to answer people’s questions about food and cooking. He’s not selling anything – only offering advice and entertainment. By doing this, he becomes more popular and credible within the community, so when he wants to promote something (such as a new book or restaurant opening), he’s not seen as spamming because he’s a consistent contributor to the community. He’s even started his own subreddit (/r/seriouseats) where users discuss and post pictures of the recipes from his site, which has over 272K subscribers!
If you’re just getting started on Reddit, an AMA without any sales pitch can be a great way to introduce yourself to the community and begin building credibility quickly.
Paid Advertising on Reddit
Organic engagement requires a long-term strategy and a consistent time commitment. However, sometimes brands need a short-term boost of brand awareness or want to maintain a presence but lack the bandwidth to participate on a regular basis. Reddit’s ad products, while a bit nascent, can be a possible solution.
Trust in Transparency:
While Reddit may be anti-product placement when it comes to their communities, according to the metrics Reddit itself reports, ads on the platform have provided some fairly favorable metrics for brands like Duracell and Woodchuck Ciders — with their case studies claiming a remarkable 16% increase in engagement for Woodchuck and 250M+ impressions for Duracell from their respective campaigns. This may imply that while Redditors are unreceptive to deceptive advertising on the platform, ads that are presented with transparency are fine.
As with any platform, it’s important to understand your audience, and the platform, and craft your ad experience accordingly.
If you’re familiar with other ad platforms, then you’ll likely feel right at home with the Reddit Ads API as it offers a number of familiar features, while still being tuned to best serve the Reddit platform.
As with any troubleshooting best practices, your first step towards becoming a Reddit ads expert is to be sure that you have an account, and that you’re logged in — so far, so easy. Once logged in, head on over to ads.reddit.com to set up your ad account which will require a bit of additional information such as:
- Company Username (Which will appear on your ads)
- Company Name
- Business Email Address
- First Name
- Last Name
- Business Phone Number (Optional)
You can also opt to indicate whether or not you work with or at an advertising agency just so the folks at Reddit are aware that you may potentially be working with multiple business accounts — no big deal.
Choosing an Objective:
In keeping pace with other ad platforms, Reddit has a similar structure to other existing platforms in the market with its campaign objective offerings.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the types of objectives that are offered, their funnel location, and bid types:
|Campaign Object||Intention||Bid Type||Stage of Funnel|
|Reach||Increase brand or product awareness||CPM||Top-of-funnel|
|Video Views||Increase video views||CPV||Top-of-funnel|
|Traffic||Drive traffic to site||CPC||Middle-of-funnel|
|Conversions||Drive actions for your business||CPC||Bottom-of-funnel|
|App Installs||Drive installs for your app||CPC||Bottom-of-funnel|
Reddit’s primary ad offering is native posts (posts, carousels, or video) that look and feel like standard posts, including upvotes, downvotes, and comment threads (though these features can be disabled if you choose). The only real difference is that ads maintain a presence for the duration of your campaign, unlike posts that fade from the page after 24 hours. That said, Redditors are accustomed to seeing fresh content, so consider varying your ads or rotating them somewhat more frequently — and of course, make them feel like native content.
Because commenting is so natural on Reddit, advertisers have the benefit of getting some real-time feedback on their ads or brand, plus they can quickly answer any questions in the discussion that follows. Video ads have the added benefit of being embedded into the page to be viewed without clicking to a new page, as well as the option of a custom CTA.
These units are available on auction through Reddit Ads Dashboard and can be priced on a CPM, CPC, or CPV (for video ads).
Features of Promoted Posts:
- Image or Text
- CTA (optional)
- Multiple bid types (CMP, CPC, CPV)
- In-feed placements
Features of Promoted Video:
- In-feed auto-play or click-to-play for conversations
- Various aspect ratios
- Multiple bid types (CPM, CPC, CPV)
Features of Promoted Carousels:
- 1-6 images or GIFs
- Multiple bid types (CPM, CPC, CPV)
- In-feed placements
For when brands want to make a short-term splash, takeovers can be an excellent opportunity for widespread or niche brand awareness.
Takeovers offer the opportunity to own some of the top communities of your choosing for 24 hours. For widespread, takeover options include:
- Promoted Post (for top communities in chosen category)
- Top Banner (300×600 or 300×250)
- Sticky Banner (300×250)
Front Page Takeovers:
- Promoted Post (for Reddit front page)
- Top Banner (300×600 or 300×250)
- Sticky Banner (300×250)
- Trending unit on Popular
- Trending unit on Search
- Trending landing page
- Promoted Post (for Reddit front page)
- Top banner (Above the Fold)
- Sticky banner (Below the Fold)
- Trending unit on Popular
- Trending unit on Search
- Trending landing page
Because these ads are little more than standard display plus a native post, a brand will typically only see success in one of two ways. The first is if the brand is already well-liked by the Reddit community. In that case, the ads are more seen as reminders, such as for an upcoming movie or video game release. The second way is for the ads to acknowledge the Reddit community somehow. Reddit is a place with many in-jokes and memes, so leaning into this can help a brand break through the clutter and make the community feel seen. Budweiser made good use of this tactic, adapting their “Real Men of Genius” ads to acknowledge and joke about people within Reddit.
Without the extensive data collection of Facebook or other social media, targeting on Reddit can be a bit tricky, particularly when you consider the fact that most accounts are completely anonymous. However, the niche interests of Reddit do create some exciting and potentially valuable audience segments.
Using community targeting means you’ll pick the specific subreddits that most closely align with your target audience. This strategy looks at a user’s engagements (subscription, visits, comments, and upvotes) with a community, as well as views of community content via an aggregated feed (or listing pages). Once a user enters your targeting pool, ads can be served to them throughout Reddit – not necessarily on the specific subreddits.
Similar to community targeting, this strategy groups users based on the topics they interact with on Reddit. Reddit has broken down interest targeting into 15 different groups. While these tend to be broader than specific community targeting, Reddit does allow certain exclusions to help you hone in more granularly. For example, Gaming is a popular topic across Reddit and is one of the potential interests you can select. However, Reddit gives you the option of specifying PC Gaming vs. Video Games to ensure you’re only targeting your most likely potential customers.
If running regional campaigns for an event, service, or product, Reddit allows targeting based on the following parameters:
- US State
- A list of 210 US cities
While this isn’t the most robust set of targeting parameters, and many marketers are making requests (on Reddit) for the ability to target specific zip codes, the option to hone in on such a wide variety of cities within the US is likely more than sufficient for most marketers needs — unless you’re targeting hyper-locally.
The device wars between iPhone and every other device are not without representation with Reddit’s targeting offerings. And with developers continuing to give preference to testing new apps on one OS or the other before eventually porting it over, it makes sense that targeting by device would be a thing for Reddit so that app or game developers can reach their intended audiences without wasting ad spend by reaching the other half.
Time of Day Targeting:
Targeting by the time of day can be super helpful for certain businesses and is a fantastic offering from Reddit’s ad platform. If you’ve ever noticed that you specifically are getting GrubHub ads served to you when you’re not-so-secretly checking Reddit as you begin mentally planning your perfect lunch order — time of day targeting is why.
These audiences are the most granular within Reddit, allowing you to target specific people based on email addresses or mobile app IDs (MAID, IDFA for iOS, and GAID for Android). Emails can be a bit tricky, as Reddit users aren’t required to provide an email address to create an account. Marketers either need to have an extensive email list or at the very least, know in advance that their match rate might be a bit low. Once you have your list uploaded, you can provide additional layering or exclusions to hone in even further, such as Community, Interest, Keyword Exclusion, Device, or Location.
Making Your Reddit Ads Shine:
Reddit truly is unlike any other social media platform, and so the same should any ads on the platform. While traditional best practices for ad creative and copy still apply with ensuring that the purpose is clear, the copy is concise and with a clear value proposition, the product is the star, you’re taking advantage of CTAs, and you’re always testing, it is still important to craft your messaging specifically to Reddit’s audience — and your intended community within that audience.
Reddit Marketing Takeaway
Overall, Reddit remains an underutilized resource for marketers, mainly because rather than the plug-and-play tactics of sites like Google or Facebook, Reddit requires genuine engagement and long-term vision. However, the payoff can be worth it to smart brands and marketers who are willing to put in the time.
While their ad products still may need some further refinement, Reddit’s collection of highly engaged communities contains countless valuable insights and people looking for solutions. Be the brand that steps up and helps solve problems, and you won’t just have extra traffic to your site; you’ll have an entire community behind you.
If you’re looking for a growth partner with extensive Reddit experience we’d love to talk strategy to help your brand grow and achieve your goals!