With 50,000 niche communities and 250 million unique monthly visitors, Reddit is packed with potential customers talking about brands and products.
In this post, you’ll learn a simple process for using Reddit to conduct market research. As you’ll see, Reddit can help you observe what people really think about your industry and products, reveal what frustrates customers, and help you create marketing campaigns and content that kill those pains.
Bonus: Download a free guide that reveals how to increase social media engagement with better audience research, sharper customer targeting, and Hootsuite’s easy-to-use social media software.
Reddit 101 (skip this section if you already use Reddit)
Like Snapchat, Reddit is confusing to people who don’t use it. Here’s a quick intro to Reddit.
Most people use Reddit to waste time. By subscribing to popular communities (called subreddits), you’ll get an endless firehose of viral content. These communities are divided by themes such as science topics, news, hobbies, and Reddit inventions such as the “Ask Reddit” format, where the community answers questions.
Casual Reddit users will often join a specific subreddit related to their passion or profession. For example, a music lover might subscribe to a subreddit about learning guitar. Here, the content is less frequent and not viral. It’s simply people talking to each other and sharing things. Vendors who try to post here will often be mocked or kicked out.
Dedicated Reddit users will join communities that appear confusing to an outsider. These users are more interested in conversations rather than content. For example, someone might post a funny link but the main attraction will be the funny and witty dialogue between different users. These conversations will often be self-referential to moments in Reddit’s history or obscure memes. This makes it hard to follow and understand why certain things are popular on Reddit until you regularly read these threads.
Subreddits = niche communities often related to specific interests. Some subreddits attract millions of monthly views; others attract a tiny group of dedicated people.
Reddit gold = Users will “gift” each other a premium subscription to Reddit if they think a comment is particularly funny or valuable to the community.
Karma = This is a Reddit point system that rewards users who contribute to the community. If you submit a link that other users appreciate, you’ll gain points.
Downvote/upvote = This is the golden economy that keeps Reddit valuable. In most social media sites, a lot of garbage content floats to the top of the feed. In Reddit, users quickly downvote or upvote content. For example, let’s say Reddit users are having a discussion about Pepsi. If a brand manager comes in and posts a link to a new Pepsi contest, users will likely downvote that post, pushing it to the bottom. If a user says something smart or funny, it will gain upvotes.
This system ensures that interesting content stays at the top and spam sinks to the bottom. Your post score is balanced by downvotes and upvotes. For example, if 10 people downvote my post and 11 people upvote my post, I’d have a score of 1. This ensures that every post has a fair chance of rising or falling based on the community’s votes.
Throwaway account = This is a popular phrase you’ll hear on Reddit. Reddit users are talented internet sleuths. If you post something and it attracts attention, Reddit users will look at your comment history and expose your personal information. That’s why most Reddit users will create a temporary ‘throwaway’ account they’ll use to post a comment and then never use again.
Using Reddit to conduct market research: A step-by-step guide
Step #1: Find where your customers are hiding
Find the right subreddit
To start, find a subreddit filled with your target customers. There’s no magic solution here. It can take a bit of work to find the right communities. Begin by searching for subreddits. You can also use the following search operators to get started: title:keyword (example, title:Honda), subreddit:keyword (example, subreddit:Honda); and URL:keyword (example, URL:Hondafans.com).
This free tool adds advanced searching and filtering options to Reddit. With this tool, you can filter irrelevant subreddits, keywords, and old posts. This done by using custom filters. It’s a helpful tool.
Do some sleuthing
Now, spend an hour or so doing some keyword searches. Make a list of the popular subreddits for your topic and common questions that people ask. For example, let’s say I’m a brand manager at Honda. With a little searching, I’ll bump into these subreddits: r/PreludeOwners, r/Honda_XR_and_XL, and r/Honda. These have valuable conversations about Honda’s brand and products, offering an authentic glimpse into the lives of Honda customers.
Step #2: Ask these questions
During your research, focus on answering the four questions below.
How do people feel about your product category? It’s easy to forget that the public has much different experiences than we do inside the walls of a marketing department. Reddit is amazing for revealing unfiltered opinions about brands, products, industries, and categories.
How do people feel about advertising in your category? On the top of Reddit, you’ll see eight tabs. Use the ‘‘promoted” tab to see advertising campaigns run by your competitors. Did any of your competitors promote their products to this community? Look at the comments to see how consumers responded—and what they feel about advertising campaigns in your category. Do competitors brag too much? Are certain features considered table stakes now?
How sophisticated are consumers of your products? Consumers get good at buying products—what differentiates you today is expected tomorrow. For example, at Hootsuite we’ve been helping companies track and prove the ROI of social media for many years. But each year, the topic morphs as our industry becomes more sophisticated.
Reddit can help you stay ahead of your customer’s demand—whether that be the features that bore them, the promises they’re tired of hearing, or the things they wish brands would get right.
Go to the top of the subreddit you want to analyze and select the tab called “gilded.” This will sort by comments that received Reddit gold. As mentioned, Reddit users will gift each other “gold” (which means they pay for the user’s upgrade to Reddit premium) for comments that are exceptionally valuable, funny, or insightful. These are comments that have resonated with Reddit’s most discerning users. Use these “gilded” comments to better understand the sophistication level of your audience as these comments are the smartest or funniest perspectives in the community.
Who is the HXC customer? Unlike most social networks, Reddit pushes the smartest comments and most discerning consumer opinions to the top. It’s a social network filled with smart and opinionated consumers. This is exactly the consumer you want to aim your marketing strategy at.
Most marketing makes the mistake of talking to the lowest common denominator (“meet Joe, your typical male person, looking for a simple way to file taxes online so that he can get back to what he really loves: watching sports with the guys”). But when you’re searching for a new Honda, you ask your friend, the car lover who knows everything about Hondas. Or when you’re looking for a mutual fund to buy, you ask your investment friend who lives on a yacht. These people have specific opinions and expectations for products—and other consumers idealize them.
This is the concept of the HXC customer developed by Julie Supan. According to Supan, if you aim your products and marketing at the most discerning customer, the masses will follow. Reddit can help you better understand these discerning customers.
The best subreddits for marketers
You’ll find subreddits for most industries and products. A relevant subreddit for this post is www.reddit.com/r/SampleSize/, a community of market researchers.
Another good one that I follow is www.reddit.com/r/AskMarketing/, a subreddit where marketing professionals ask for answers to hard questions like Facebook ad optimization techniques, tracking the ROI of event marketing, and asking advice about new business ventures.
Step #3: Analyze and monitor
By now, you should have a good idea of the subreddits and typical questions customers ask on Reddit. In this last section, I’ll show you how to monitor these communities for new conversations.
Combine subreddits together
With Reddit, you can create a multireddit. This allows you to group individual subreddits on a page, making it easy to scan and read new content.
The easiest way to create a multireddit is by logging into Reddit. Then press “create,” located on the left side of the page under multireddits. You can also combine subreddits into a URL like so: www.reddit.com/r/subreddit+subreddit. For example, I created the following multireddit, combining three of the best marketing subreddits into one: www.reddit.com/r/askmarketing+marketing+SampleSize+entreprenuer. Bookmark that URL and you’ll always have new marketing tips from the Reddit community.
Monitor for keywords with this app
I’ve tried a few different ways to automatically pull posts from Reddit including web scraping scripts. These often break, though. One of the tools I love to use is the Reddit Keyword Monitor Pro app for Hootsuite. You can monitor brand terms or keywords for any topic, pulling all these hyper-targeted conversations right into your Hootsuite dashboard.
I’m not only recommending this app because I work at Hootsuite. I actually use the app. I even use it to monitor conversations about music recording gear (a hobby of mine) as it pulls interesting bits from all around Reddit.
Add the Reddit Keyword Monitor Pro app to your Hootsuite dashboard
Install the Reddit Keyword Monitor Pro app. Next, go to your Hootsuite dashboard (if you don’t have one, you can start with a free account). Click Add a New Stream. In the window, select Apps and then select the Reddit Keyword Monitor Pro app.
Start listening! Go to the Hootsuite stream you just created
Click on the tiny gear icon in the corner of the Reddit Keyword Monitor Pro app. Enter a few keywords you’d like to monitor. For example, I’m interested in what customers think about Hootsuite. So I monitor: “love Hootsuite,” “Hootsuite,” and “buy Hootsuite?” These conversations appear right inside my Hootsuite dashboard, so I don’t have to check Reddit for new posts.
I use these insights for market research but this type of listening is critical for brand managers as well. Reddit can be an early warning system for an impending brand PR crisis and monitoring conversations saves you from having to check for new mentions of your company or products.
Use RSS to bring the conversation to you
You can use RSS feeds to monitor different subreddits as well. RSS doesn’t seem to work on all subreddits. But you can try your luck with Hootsuite’s RSS tool (same process as step 3) or learn more about RSS in this guide to Reddit RSS subscriptions. Written by a Reddit user of course.
That’s how I use Reddit for market research.
If you’re looking for other ways to use social data in your marketing plans, check out our free guide, The Social Media Data Cookbook. You’ll learn 11 simple recipes to help you put social data to work including a simple test you can run to see the exact ROI of social messages.