Reddit isn’t often mentioned alongside the “big” social networks, though it’s one of the most influential. It boasts 420 million users — 20% higher than the population of the United States — and receives more traffic than Amazon with over 1 billion monthly unique visitors.
Reddit continues to grow by double digits every year, adding 25% more users in 2020 and 14% more in 2021. That growth, combined with 40% of Gen Z searching social platforms for info instead of Google, makes Reddit a unique opportunity for brands.
But Reddit isn’t the best place for every company. It has a unique vibe, which this article will explain.
Find out if Reddit marketing is right for you, and how to get started on the self-proclaimed “frontpage of the Internet.”
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What is Reddit?
Reddit is a social network with a forum-style discussion structure. Users create posts in topic-based communities — called subreddits — and interact in comment threads. Every thread has an OP (original poster) who started it. Users can also vote content by others “up” or “down” the algorithm.
Reddit launched in 2005 and sold to Conde Nast less than a year later for $10 million USD. A great payday for the founders, recent college grads, although as of Q4 2022, Reddit now has an estimated value between $10-15 billion USD.
How does Reddit work?
Reddit is all about fostering community by encouraging users (a.k.a. redditors) to interact with each other.
Before today’s visually-focused platforms like TikTok and Instagram existed, we eldest Millennials only had web forums with text posts to connect with others around common interests. (R.I.P. Yahoo Groups.)
Reddit is a hybrid between a forum and a modern social network: Subreddits are like individual forum sites, but you can participate in everything with one account, like a social network.
The other big thing that sets Reddit apart is the way their algorithm works: Popular posts with lots of upvotes get more exposure in the Reddit homepage and subreddit feeds. And, downvoted content receives less exposure.
Instead of using complicated algorithmic tools to rank content, Reddit’s algorithm runs on votes. Simple and effective.
Redditors use the platform in many ways, but common ones are:
- To ask for help with a specific problem, such as tech tutorials (or big life crises)
- Subscribing to subreddits to stay informed about their favorite topics
- Connecting with others who share their interests
- To learn something new (check out r/IWantToLearn)
- For entertainment via memes, humor subreddits, or to discuss TV or movies
What is a subreddit?
Subreddits serve as mini-communities within the site — like Facebook Groups, but public — and foster user interaction around common interests. Subreddits have their own URL, for example the Star Wars subreddit can be found at www.reddit.com/r/StarWars.
People often leave in the r/ when talking about subreddits. Seeing the leading r/ in front of a word is recognizable as being a Reddit community almost anywhere on the web these days. For example, instead of saying “the memes subreddit,” I’d say “r slash memes.”
Anyone can create a subreddit. Like any online group, most large subreddits have multiple moderators to keep the community on-topic and spam-free. To help with this, subreddits often have specific rules and posting requirements to follow, with consequences for not adhering to them.
Make sure you read the rules before posting or commenting, lest you risk shattering the conch shell of digital democracy.
You can find subreddit rules in the right sidebar or in the dedicated Rules tab.
What is karma on Reddit?
A redditor’s karma is their net upvote score. Clear as mud?
Reddit users can upvote or downvote comments and posts, indicated by the up and down arrows on the left side.
Every upvote counts as a +1 to your karma score, and every downvote subtracts from it. Upvotes – Downvotes = Your karma score.
Having a high karma score doesn’t give you any special powers, but it does serve as a general indication of how helpful you are. It’s a quick “trust temperature” others can use to evaluate you.
You can see someone’s karma score by hovering over their username.
What is a flair on Reddit?
Flair is a feature many subreddits use. There are 2 types of flair:
- User flair
- Post flair
User flair is a text or icon “tag” that appears after your username in a specific subreddit. Sometimes you can choose it yourself and in some subreddits, only moderators may assign flair.
In the r/cats subreddit, you can choose a cat breed as your user flair. This community also has achievement-based user flairs that appear automatically when you reach those milestones.
Post or link flair is like a subject tag or category that subreddits use to differentiate and filter content. These show up as multi-colored labels next to a post’s title.
Not all subreddits have user flairs, though most use post flairs to keep things organized.
What is an upvote on Reddit?
An upvote is equivalent to a “like” on platforms like Instagram or Facebook. It means someone likes your post or comment, or found it useful, insightful, helpful, etc.
You can see how many upvotes a post has and as mentioned earlier, each upvote helps raise your karma score.
6 ways businesses can use Reddit
1. Market research
With so many highly-specific subreddits, Reddit is the perfect place to learn more about your target audience — everything from a quick vibe check to in-depth insights. Is it a little stalkerish? Meh. Good marketing always is, right?
Use Reddit to find out what’s really important to your peeps.
For example, if you’re building an ecommerce shipping app, read threads to see what users like and don’t like about their current provider, features they wish existed, or what would make them switch.
Obviously a few comments won’t revolutionize your product strategy, which is why Reddit shouldn’t be your sole source of market research. But it’s an easy and free way to validate or generate ideas, especially if you notice common feedback patterns. You can stay in stalker mode by just reading, or create a branded account to directly engage with users.
Efficiency hack: Do Reddit research alongside all your other social media management inside Hootsuite with the Reddit app add-on. Set up automated keyword searches and easily monitor new posts.
For a more detailed process, check out our guide to Reddit market research.
2. Social listening
All the benefits of market research without having to do the searching yourself. The joys of technology.
Social listening tools automatically capture mentions of your brand, or other defined target keywords, and measure sentiment over time. Essentially, it’s tracking what people say and think about your company across multiple platforms and delivering that data in a neat report.
Learn more, including other tool recommendations, in our guide to social listening.
3. Affiliate marketing
Can you make a ton of money with affiliate marketing, either as an individual or business? Heck yes.
Is sprayin’ your affiliate links across Reddit and prayin’ people click them the best way to achieve that? Heck nope.
Reddit’s official content policy doesn’t explicitly ban affiliate links, but they do warn against coming across as “spammy.” It does, however, explicitly say you can’t disguise link sources, A.K.A. use shorteners or cloaking tools to purposefully pass off an affiliate link as organic.
More than link management, Reddit cautions against appearing spammy by:
- Only posting self-promotional content.
- Posting the same comment across multiple subreddits.
- Sending a lot of unsolicited private messages.
TL;DR? Use Reddit with the intention of building connections and being a genuinely helpful person, not just to make money.
So how can you be genuine AND make money at the same time?
- Follow the 60/40 rule: Ensure at least 60% of your contributions are promo-free and useful for others.
- Insert a step between Reddit and your affiliate links: Many subreddits don’t allow affiliate links at all. To get around this, make the link in your post go to a page on your website about the product or topic. From there, people can click on your affiliate links.
Reddit ads can reach up to 50 million daily active users, but with huge potential reach comes huge potential wasted spend.
Effective targeting is important for all social ads, but especially on Reddit. Remember how Reddit is basically a bunch of separate communities, A.K.A. subreddits?
This is a key point for advertisers: You can target your ads to specific subreddits. Whoa.
For Reddit ads, don’t be afraid to get specific. For example, members of r/Hiking are probably athletic people who like sports, right? Vector’s ad wouldn’t make much sense in a general campaign, but it fits here.
You can also install Reddit’s Pixel on your website to retarget web visitors, plus choose from standard targeting options like location, interests, and more.
5. Create your own subreddit
If you’re ready to go all in on Reddit marketing, create your own subreddit. This can either be branded with your name or be topic-based.
For example: r/dbrand is a company-focused sub for snarky tech device skin manufacturer, Dbrand.
Their community serves as a place for loyal fans to find out about new collections and get quick customer service, either from the company or from other Redditors.
Yes, when done right, your subreddit can allow your best customers to do customer service for you. Now that’s a social ROI to get behind.
As a topic-first community, you don’t know at first that r/NewTubers is run by a brand.
The subreddit focuses on helping new YouTube creators grow, and is operated by Fetch, which helps small YouTubers monetize their videos before they’re eligible for the official YouTube Partner Program.
The key to a topic-based community like this is to ensure it’s valuable without being self-promotional. Mention your company, but not often.
Moderating a subreddit can take a considerable amount of time so make sure Reddit is a good fit for your audience, and fits into your marketing plan, before jumping in.
6. Host an AMA
AMAs, or “Ask Me Anything” threads, are very popular on Reddit.
There’s an entire AMA subreddit, although I wouldn’t suggest posting there as a brand. Instead, host an AMA within your own subreddit (if you have one), or partner with a popular subreddit in your industry.
Subreddits are always looking for valuable content to engage their members and many are open to hosting AMAs with verified experts (that’s you!). Many will ask for “proof” of who you are, which is usually a photo of you at work standing next to Apollo 11 to verify you’re really a rocket scientist, for example.
AMAs help you learn what your audience truly cares about based on what they ask. And, they can strengthen trust in your brand through building real connections.
Not to mention get a ton of views — Carlos’ AMA above got over 4,500 comments.
How to start a Reddit account?
1. Sign up
Go to Reddit and click Sign Up. Create an account with your Google, Apple, or email account.
2. Choose a username
Reddit will fill in a (ridiculous) username for you. Pick your own and a password.
3. Optional: Personalize your home feed
Hooray, you have a Reddit account!
Answering a few onboarding questions will help personalize your recommendations, or you can skip it. You do have to pick at least 3 interests before skipping.
Is Reddit worth it?
Only you can answer that. Ask yourself:
- Does Reddit fit into our marketing plan?
- Which of our marketing goals does Reddit tie into?
- Do we have the time and resources to add Reddit to our content mix?
If building genuine community is a social media goal of yours, starting your own subreddit is a great way to achieve that. Or if a subreddit isn’t right for you, consider using Reddit as an advertising channel.
Last but not least, you could stay incognito and simply use Reddit as a search engine for market research.