Reddit: the party marketers need to crash

Posted on: 2014-06-04 in How To   |   Tagged: content marketing reddit social media

We take a look at how (and how not) to win friends and influence people on Reddit.


Reddit - or "the front page of the internet", as it likes to be called - is the party every content marketer wants to be seen at. It's a social network-cum-content-aggregator where users submit, rate and discuss all manner of media. Hit it off here and you can earn lots of brand exposure and traffic.

The only trouble is, it's an exclusive party attended by discerning, community-minded users that, for the most part, hate it when people try to sell to them.

At SXSW this year, Rohit Thawani, director of digital strategy at TBWA\Chiat\Day\LA, summed up the problem: "The truth is, most brands and marketers are doing Reddit in a fucked-up, horrible way."

Given the failures of many content marketing agencies who have ventured into this tricky territory, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Reddit isn't the right place for your company to boost its brand or generate sales, especially if you sell B2B technology. But don't be scared off! The opportunity is huge and, so long as you go about it in the right way, you can win new friends and customers at the Reddit party while other brands are being shown the door.

The opportunity

If you're not familiar with Reddit then there's a good chance you're not an 18-to-29-year-old American male - they come first in the site's user demographic stakes, accounting for 15 per cent. While overall user numbers are dwarfed by those of bigger networks like Facebook, there's something to be said for the type of person Reddit attracts: young, urban and suburban, tech-savvy consumers who are often early adopters of new technology. In short, there's a reason why it's a favourite lurking-ground of strategists and planners in the creative industries looking to piggyback on the latest trends - many of them are incubated on its pages. If your stuff gets the thumbs-up on Reddit, there's a good chance widespread sharing and syndication of the content will build your brand and simultaneously have a positive effect on your search engine rankings.



Social commerce

And the network plays a part in its users' spending decisions: according to one report, just under a third (31 per cent) of electronics and appliances sales that resulted from social traffic came via Reddit. When Reddit sends traffic to an ecommerce site, the average order value is $52.96: only a couple of dollars off Facebook and just above average for the major social networks.




Knowing me, knowing you: AMA

But it's not just about directing sales traffic from A to B. For brands that want to cultivate relationships with consumers, hosting IAmAs (I Am a...) or AMAs (Ask Me Anything) is a popular route. These have been done, with mixed levels of success, by everyone from Barack Obama and Google to David Attenborough and a guy who claims to be a psychic. While celebrities and big corporations get the most engagement from the format, it can be valuable when it serves a more niche audience. By putting a knowledgeable spokesperson forward for an I Am A... thread, you can connect directly with interested users. Just don't make an Ask Me Anything offer lightly, and be sure you're ready to answer the tricky questions as well as the gifts. Don't just do it to launch a product; think of it as big conversation in which you and all the participants should benefit by sharing experiences and opinions. And whatever you do, don't do a (not) Woody Harrelson.

Ready-made market research

If you simply want to eavesdrop on your target audience and learn what they're into, Reddit has done a lot of the hard work already. Content is tagged and segmented into subreddits by topic (/r/technology, for example), and users can browse posts listed in categories such as "new", "rising" and "top". Submissions (and the comments users post about them) are ranked by popularity, with the score calculated by subtracting the number of downvotes from the number of upvotes. Users who play by the rules and bring real value to the community (by sharing and discussing a wide range of useful content and not just their own) are rewarded with "karma". This boosts their reputation and, therefore, their influence.

Targeting by topic

If you want to drill down further, you can search for submissions and discussions about the niche you're interested in. For example, if I were selling an employee management solution, I'd search for "HR software", find this thread and learn about my potential customers' experiences.

Subreddits that feature news stories relating to various verticals (such as /r/technewstoday) are a great place to consume relevant content and share your own news. This segmentation is also crying out to be exploited for advertising, and Reddit lets you do just that.


You can buy ads on Reddit that split broadly into two categories: those that are shown all over the site, and those that appear only in the subreddits you choose - great for targeting users that are talking about the kind of thing you sell.

Who's winning on Reddit?

The most popular posts of all time are, as you can imagine, a mixture of funny images, inspiring videos and light trolling. Breaking onto this leader board isn't going to be on the average B2B brand's marketing plan. But it does reinforce a few basic lessons about how to make good multimedia content that entertains as it informs. LeVar Burton's AMA is a good recent example: while it was promoting the Reading Rainbow comeback Kickstarter, the AMA wasn't a hard sell. For the most part it was just LeVar chatting with some nostalgic, grateful fans.

There's always the chance you'll become a victim of your own success and experience the so-called Reddit effect: when a popular post sends more traffic to a site than it can handle, crashing it. But having your servers taken out by what is essentially a friendly DDoS attack is probably a worthwhile risk.

Who's losing?

To go back to the party metaphor, the losers are those don't play by the rules or bring any value to the site's community. If you turn up to your neighbour's party, drink other people's booze and immediately start talking about your landscaping business while thrusting business cards into everyone's hands, people will hate you. You wouldn't do it in real life, so don't do it on Reddit. There are places for networking and making direct business connections (/r/startup, /r/entrepreneur), but on the whole this kind of behaviour is a no-no. There's a rulebook and an extensive but reasonable code of conduct (or Rediquette) that's followed by Reddit's tight-knit users - you should do the same.

Quick tips

  • Don't dabble! For best results, play the long game.
  • If you commit to an AMA or any other form of engagement, then really commit. Otherwise you'll lose the respect of your audience fast.
  • Earn karma by sharing not just your own links but other useful and interesting stuff.
  • Don't spam.
  • Don't buy upvotes.
  • Don't try to be cool and post a meme. Just don't.
  • Do advertise! Reddit offers a great opportunity to target your ads at interested users - take it!

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About this blog

The B2B PR Blog is a resource for both PR professionals and people working in B2B industries on how to devise and implement successful B2B PR campaigns. The blog was founded by B2B PR specialist Heather Baker, who runs video production and corporate animation agency TopLine Film and digital PR and SEO agency  TopLine Comms. The B2B PR Blog takes contributions from sensible industry folk with something interesting to say.


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