By Clare McDermott published May 2, 2018

Reddit for Marketing? Hell No, Except in This One Case

reddit-for-marketing

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post about Reddit for this very site. Before it published, I was sure it was going to be my Best Post Ever. I cleared my morning to handle the massive influx of comments.

Crickets.

Netting just over 400 shares, it was – by CMI’s standards – a dud.

I’ve since learned that confessing my undying love of Reddit to non-redditors creeps people out. Reddit has a strange and even repellant interface, though its engineers are working on a friendlier site redesign now. And when Reddit makes the news, it’s usually a story about the site’s trolls or less attractive underbelly (such as when redditors harassed innocent bystanders after the Boston Marathon bombing, implying they might be the bomber based on appearance alone).

If you’re not currently using Reddit, I’m going to try to convince you to change your ways. But before I do, here’s a Reddit 101 for those of you not familiar with the site.

What is Reddit?

Reddit is a collection of thousands of subreddits, communities built around a particular topic or idea. Some subreddits (called “subs”) are massive in size and scope (r/technology), while others can be pretty arcane (r/overlanding).

If you have a hobby, there’s a subreddit for that. If you have a problem, there’s a subreddit to help you cope. And there are thousands of subreddits devoted to things you didn’t know you wanted to know about (but do!), such as r/accidentalrenaissance or r/AnimalsBeingJerks. Each subreddit has its own rules, moderators, and vibe based on the people who subscribe to it.

Each subreddit has its own rules, moderators, and vibe based on the people who subscribe. @clare_mcd #Reddit Click To Tweet

If you visit the site when you’re not signed in to a Reddit account, your “front page” will be a collection of popular posts from across the site – and that’s what usually turns new visitors off. As a little experiment, I took a peek at the top few posts on “popular” to see what a non-user would encounter when visiting Reddit for the first time (timestamp: 3:20 pm on 4/24/18). Let’s just say the editors of this blog would not allow me to post what I saw.

To understand why Reddit is awesome, you need to open an account. Without one, your view will default to what is interesting to the average user (my guess: a 20-year-old guy, living at home, eating Hot Pockets). Once you have an account, you can choose subs to join and customize what you see on your front page. That means fewer pictures from r/aww and r/BikiniBottomTwitter, and more posts from the communities you enjoy. Whenever I hear people say, “I don’t get it,” it’s because they haven’t joined subs that interest them.

To understand why @reddit is awesome, you need to open an account. @clare_mcd Read more>> Click To Tweet

Reddit for Marketing? Tempting …

We’ve gathered here, however, not to talk about Reddit in general but to explain Reddit for marketing. I find it fascinating that most content marketers don’t understand just how popular Reddit really is. 

The numbers speak for themselves. A list of the top websites in the world, compiled by Alexa, shows Reddit comes in sixth, just behind Wikipedia. (Alexa’s rank is calculated using a combination of average daily visitors and pageviews over the trailing 3 months.) Even more amazing? Reddit’s average for daily time on site is more than 15 minutes, crushing the sites above it in the rankings, including Facebook and YouTube.

Of the top websites in the world, @reddit comes in 6th behind @Wikipedia via @AlexaInternet. Read more>> Click To Tweet

 

alexa-top-website

In the last 30 days, Reddit had nearly 60 million unique visitors from the U.S. alone, more than 1 billion visits, and over 8 billion pageviews. Holy cr@p; that’s a lot.

reddit-unique-visitors

And Alexa confirms what I knew already from hanging around on Reddit: The audience skews young, male, and more educated than the average Internet user. (Individual subreddits differ significantly, of course.)

reddit-audience-profile

If Reddit’s audience is so massive and engaged, why don’t we hear marketers talking about it?

The #Reddit audience is massive, but it's hard for marketers to make inroads, says @clare_mcd. @AlexaInternet Click To Tweet

But it’s fraught with peril

So far, it’s been exceedingly hard for marketers to make any inroads on Reddit – and that’s good.

Reddit (warning: massive generalization incoming) thinks of itself as different and better than more brazenly commercial sites like Facebook. There’s a knee-jerk suspicion of anything promotional or covertly self-interested in large part because the culture values the community over the commodity. That means marketers who go on Reddit to plug a product or idea are verbally disemboweled. There are legendary cases of famous people doing Reddit for AMAs (“Ask Me Anything” interviews) and bombing terrifically because they just didn’t understand the community’s unwritten rules. (You can read about some of these bombs in my earlier post.)

Marketers who go on @reddit to plug a product or idea are verbally disemboweled. @clare_mcd #socialmedia Click To Tweet

Reddit has tried recently to push marketers into sponsored content, though I’m not convinced that’s working out well either.

A few weeks ago, QuickBooks organized a sponsored AMA with Julie Gordon White, an author and speaker who specializes in women entrepreneurs. There wasn’t anything wrong with the attempt; Julie seems like a likeable and interesting woman, and the microsite created by QuickBooks was decent. But with a measly three upvotes after three days, it’s clear something wasn’t clicking. (The conversation thread on the AMA was also fairly anemic, through no fault of Julie’s.)

quickbooks-ama-example

The right way to use Reddit for marketing

Therein lies the big problem: On a site where all users are anonymized (which tends to embolden snarky behavior) and where there’s a general disdain for marketing, what’s the role for marketers?

What’s our role on a site like #reddit, where there’s general disdain for #marketing, asks @clare_mcd. Click To Tweet

The answer: Research, young grasshopper.

Reddit is a veritable gold mine of information relevant to your area of expertise, your audience, and your business. The number of subreddits on Reddit is so vast, it’s impossible NOT to find a community that matches your audience and its interests. Are your buyers statisticians? Hang out on r/AskStatistics, r/badstats, r/dataisbeautiful, and r/samplesize. Do you need to attract young programmers to your company? Why not join r/learnprogramming, r/programming and r/machinelearning? Interested in launching a new recipe microsite (poor timing .. but OK!)? Check out the most popular content on r/GifRecipes.

No matter what community you join, you can sort posts in a dozen ways to find the information you need. The best way to check and see if a sub is right for you is to sort by “Top – All Time.” You’ll quickly see what the community is all about.

And outside of the subs that match up with your business audience, you’ll find other cool subs to satisfy your learning needs:

The most important rule to observe

If you’re visiting a sub because it’s interesting from a marketing perspective rather than from a personal perspective, it’s best to keep your mouth shut. Listen without speaking (or typing).

If you really can’t help yourself and need to share something (whether a post or a comment), I advise you to:

  • Hang out as a subscriber for a while before you share
  • Read the sub’s guidelines in the righthand sidebar to ensure that you’re not running afoul of the rules
Keep your mouth shut in #reddit subs until you read the guidelines, says @clare_mcd. Click To Tweet

Surprising rewards

If I still haven’t convinced you to road-test Reddit, consider this: When you join a community, there’s often a subtext or inside joke that you only understand after logging some time there. And much of my insider knowledge bleeds out into the real world ­– whether it’s understanding the subtext of my kids’ conversations or getting the joke in Twitter conversations. It’s as if Reddit is a middle-aged mom code-breaking tool to help me understand my older kids.

Just the other day I told my 18-year-old son to be careful driving that night because … you know… 420. His eyes widened into white orbs of surprise. My response?

“Reddit, honey.”

clare-mcdermott-reddit-subs

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Clare McDermott

Clare McDermott is the co-founder and head of strategy at Mantis Research. Follow her @clare_mcd.

Other posts by Clare McDermott

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  • http://www.b2bmarketingarchives.com/ John Smith

    I’ve been looking for info on this topic for a while. I’m happy this one is so great. Keep up the excellent work

  • B2B Technology Lists

    Well written post. It`s so useful…Thank you

    • ClareMcD

      Thanks! :v)

  • Cathy McPhillips

    This is fantastic, Clare! Thanks for sharing your Reddit love with us. I’ve been playing around with it a little over the past year (you and Kyle finally got me to jump on in). I have commented in the marketing and content marketing subreddits, and have shared thoughts and info, and in the instance where I did respond with advice coming from CMI, I was very forthcoming on my role. And…you’ll be so happy to know that I met a woman there interested in content marketing, we exchanged email addresses via private message, and she and a teammate are coming to Content Marketing World this fall!

    • ClareMcD

      That’s awesome, Cathy! It’s sad that the content marketing sub is kind of dead. They had a huge problem years back with people spamming it. Oh the irony. 🙂

      • Susan Moeller

        I tried to find that sub the other day, and it looked really outdated. Good to know it wasn’t just user error.
        Great post. r/dataisbeautiful is fascinating, and r/explainlikeimfive should be required reading for tech industry writers who have to simplify things. 🙂

        • ClareMcD

          Love r/explainlikeimfive. There was one about net neutrality was a life saver. 🙂

  • https://www.redddog-apparel.com Redddog Apparel

    So no to the marketing, correct? I know there are some sub-reddits that will allow you to post 1 product a week or month

    • ClareMcD

      That’s interesting! I wasn’t aware of that. The only time I’ve seen marketing work is when a very small brand posts asking for advice or the like. The point of the post isn’t promotion, but they end up getting some mileage out of it. I’d be really curious to know if you’ve seen it work in specific subs.

      As an aside: I suspect there’s a lot of hidden guerilla marketing going on. For example, the sub r/onebag has an obvious tie to products (it’s a sub about traveling out of a single, small backpack). I do wonder whether some of the people posting their bags are actually shilling a product. Hard to tell. Same for r/knolling.

  • http://howtowriteeverything.com/ Marcia Riefer Johnston

    Clare, I don’t know which I enjoyed more: the content or your voice (“Research, young grasshopper.” “Reddit, honey.”) Fortunately, I don’t have to choose. Thank you for the excellent read.

  • http://tigerlilyva.com Lillian De Jesus

    This is brilliant, Clare! Love your love for Reddit. I have stayed away from it because I really didn’t think there was a good use for it. After this, I’ll definitely have to check it out. Thanks!

  • https://www.linkedin.com/in/nataliyakvitka/ Natasha Kvitka

    Thank you for an interesting read Clare!

    Reddit appeared to become a very valuable source of referral traffic for one of the businesses I worked with.

    The thing is, brand earned a placement on the sidebar of one popular community along with other recommended services. Over time, we saw many direct conversions from Reddit visitors, and it played an important role as an intermediate step to the conversion.

    So, as a part of multichannel online reputation management Reddit can do great. It’s much more difficult than just go and place a product related post somewhere, but definitely worth it.

  • Rebekah GreenHaven

    LOVE this! I shared it on Facebook and noticed a typo in the meta: “Follow this insider’s advice on the only way marketers should every use Reddit – Content Marketing Institute” every should be ever*

    I’m so glad someone in marketing addressed Reddit though, and I think you were spot on with using it for research!

    • Kim Moutsos

      This is fixed. Thanks for letting us know about it, Rebekah!

  • https://voltemar.sk/ Karol

    Have to try Reddit, hope it works.

  • https://www.techjeny.org TechJeny

    Reddit is really awesome!

  • Kunjal Chawhan

    Reddit has the segregation of thousands of niche’s, its kind of like digital enlightenment.

  • Valerie Turgeon

    We continue to get traffic from a link we dropped in the Content Marketing subreddit two years ago. Considering that’s a source of passive, ongoing traffic for us, we are wondering if we should continue particpating on Reddit and sharing links, but sounds like the promotion is what killed the Content Marketing Reddit, so I’m thinking it’s not worth the effort.

    However, what do you think of using Reddit as a way to ask questions and use participants’ answers in a blog roundup and use Reddit in the same way as Help a Reporter Out (HARO)?

  • https://serpstat.com/ Anna Rud

    Wodrerful read! Love Reddit too! Exploring subs related to your niche can give a great insingt into what your readers/users want to know, what topics are the most trending now, what problems people face, etc. I always reading, but never trying to write something promotional there. Reddit is for research, not for promotion. And that is why it’s one of the top websites in the world!

    Thank you for this post!