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The Ficklest of Monsters: Is it Possible to Market on Reddit?

When it comes to fickle monsters, no monster is quite as big as Reddit. Leveraging an audience on this massively growing site is not only risky but quite possibly a suicide mission. Reddit is a website that allows audiences to vote up or down user-generated content. Due to the sheer number of users and user-generated communities, there is a niche target for virtually any interest. The community has the final say in just about everything on this wild west of a website.

Redditors love cats

What that means for you is the ability to push out your content like you do on Facebook or Twitter, right? Wrong. First things first in understanding the community (called Redditors) is that they are allergic to bullshit. They smell a spammer from a mile away and will downvote your content into oblivion before it even gets the chance to make the front page. They will even outright label that blog post you worked so hard on as “blogspam” without blinking an eye. Since marketing to Reddit is more what NOT to do I will start with that:

  • DON’T: Blogspam. Resist the urge to only submit your blog posts. Reddit is not your personal loudspeaker. Send a funny meme or picture you took that other’s will find interesting. Reddit has an algorithm that will silence you if you’re submitting nothing but your own content.
  • DON’T: Ignore your audience. Reddit is in general a progressively minded, college aged crowd of people that call themselves forward thinking. They like cats, bacon and dislike Nickelback. The hivemind is powerful on a website that runs off of user-generated voting. Know your audience or you may be burned at the stake.
  • DON’T: Lie about your content. Tech savvy Redditors tend to have an omniscient presence when it comes to truths. The moment you play off that great video that you want to go viral, Redditors will pounce. The moment you use someone else’s content to resubmit without credit, Redditors will pounce. The moment you attempt to use your AMA (Ask Me Anything) as a shameless self promotion, Redditors will pounce.
  • DON’T: Use Reddit as a personal soapbox. There is a time and a place for content. You can’t throw your content out to the wolves on the major subreddits like r/pics and r/funny and expect to come out unscatched. Content is better suited to niche subreddits with people of likeminded interests.

Did I mention Redditors love cats?

Part of the Reddit’s wild west nature means there will be casualties. Anything even resembling a promotion will be downvoted and torn to shreds in the comments. This is why advertisers do their best to coat their messages with less bullshit and more of what’s in it for the reader. If they are going to give you an imaginary internet point (called Karma on Reddit) and give you user interaction then you need to give them something.

Okay so do absolutely nothing. Is there anything I CAN do?
So you heard a little about what you shouldn’t do. What about what you should do to leverage Reddit? Quit using the word leverage for one. The strategy is clear – Have fun with it! Play around with Reddit at your lunchbreak. Join relevant interest groups and even use some of your time doing marketing research to play on Reddit (when appropriate).

  • DO: Know your audience. Join relevant subreddits towards what you’re marketing. For me that was r/jeep, r/carporn, r/beauty, r/socialmedia, r/marketing, r/australia, among more that shared relevant interests for my clients. Once you have a steady stream of interesting material related to what you’re marketing you can engage with audiences here and get the opportunity to share out your own content.
  • DO: Prioritize your content. Not every piece of content you or your client creates should be shared out. Only the best content is worthy of Reddit’s frontpage (if any at all) and only relevant content will make it on a particular subreddit. Pick and choose content that you’re really proud of before you even try to include Reddit in a marketing strategy.
  • DO: Contribute to the community. By contributing I don’t mean sharing out your own content. I mean going out and responding to others. Creating value in other post’s comments section. If you provide valuable advice most people won’t mind if you include your own content somewhere.

Woody Harrelson and Rampart
Woody Harrelson had a rather disastrous “Ask Me Anything” interview on Reddit. Part of the AMA’s is for anyone in the public interest to provide a forum for questions to be answered. Usually the first or highest voted comments get responded to. This is both a good and a bad thing – especially for polarizing figures. What celebrities provide in giving their time to answer questions is usually a quick blurb about something of theirs (new movie, new album, website, blog, etc.). This is fair game and a proper give-and-take relationship. Woody took the entirely wrong approach.

Faced with a difficult question about certain prom after party where Woody allegedly stole a certain lady’s virginity at, Woody evaded the top voted comment. He then committed the Reddit cardinal sin:

Trying to direct a conversation on the wild wests of Reddit’s AMA is like slapping someone’s mother in the face. The AMA was so disastrous that one of the top rated comments ended in:

What should Woody have done? Not let his PR agents handle the AMA. Whether that’s Woody or a Redditor showing him how to do, a Redditor needs to oversee it. Celebrities like Louis CK have generated thousands (millions?) of dollars in free publicity on Reddit by simply being genuine and funny (and probably being Redditors themselves). Simply put: Engaging with users should be fun so make it as such.

Reddit is scary, right?
By now I’ve scared you away from Reddit, haven’t I? Reddit CAN enhance your marketing if done appropriately. Many of my blog content experienced a two and three-fold increase in engagement after sharing it. I was quick to engage with comments in the submissions and extremely wary about the particular content that I shared about it can pay dividends.

Social media is still an experimental form of digital marketing. The need is there to have an online presence but many overinflate social media’s place in digital marketing. Reddit is even moreso as no one truly knows how you can monetize Reddit. The moment a Redditor smells you out for a spammer of your own content you are toast. What this means is that you shouldn’t be just asking how you can take from this community but how can you contribute? Make your content more interesting and relevant, upgrade the execution, and most important contribute to the community as a whole! Oh and…

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2 Comments

  1. Josh - January 11, 2013

    Savvy Redditor you are. Everything you mentioned here is straight up true. It’s extremely difficult to NOT come across as if you’re marketing your own content. Redditors are uber quick to check your profile and see what kind of posts and comments you’re making.

    If you really know what you’re doing, contribute often, and take the time to really learn reddit etiquette … could definitely pay off well. Even then, I’d be wary as hell.

    • Alex Wills - January 15, 2013

      Agreed. You’re better off using content from Reddit for your own marketing ideas elsewhere than actually putting your own content on there.

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