Reddit has one of the largest user communities on the Internet. Take a look at these numbers: In a recent month, Reddit had more than 151 million unique users, who viewed more than 6.6 billion pages. That’s an audience that many marketers would love to be able to reach, but any attempt to sell things to the Reddit community has to be done right. Reddit users have a strong anti-spam ethic, and companies that violate the written and unwritten rules of the site can face a fierce backlash.
Reddit users — called “Redditors” — love novelty. They take pride in being the first to know about things. It’s a site where news events are dissected before many people have even heard about them and where popular memes are born, which later spread out over the internet at large.
Redditors are often smart, literate, skeptical, and witty. A typical Redditor is a 20-something American male who works in tech, but users span the globe and include almost any demographic group you could think of.
The structure of Reddit is simple. Users post links (or in some cases, they post their own content directly). Other users can vote the posts up or down.
Votes are totaled to give each submission a score that is then used to sort submissions by popularity, with Reddit’s default sort order showing the “hottest” submissions, where hotness is a combination of popularity and recency. Votes also increase or decrease Redditors’ “karma points,” which have no exchange value, but are a powerful motivator for many users.
After a link is posted, any registered Redditor can comment. The comment threads are the heart of the site. Comments can be provocative, informative, offensive, deadly serious, funny, or lame, as Redditors discuss, argue, kid around, and try to outdo each other. . Like links, comments accumulate up and down votes, which generate comment karma for their authors.
The site is organized into more than 9,000 communities, called “subreddits,” which are designated as “/r/subreddit-name.” Any user can start a new community. Some of the subreddits are huge, while others are tiny, aimed at people with specialized niche interests. The five most popular sub-Reddits, which together account for over 40 percent of the site’s karma points, according to Reddit Insight, are /r/Funny, /r/Pics, /r/Advice Animals, /r/Aww, and /r/Gaming.
Avoid Blatant Self-Promotion
While it may be tempting to jump right in and start pitching to Reddit’s huge and engaged audience, companies and individual self-promoters need to tread carefully. The community frowns on most types of blatant self-promotion, and users enthusiastically enforce the community standards by ridiculing offending posts and voting them down. Submissions that violate rules may also be removed, and the people who posted them can be permanently banned from the site.
The best way to learn about the intricacies of community standards is to spend time lurking on the site. In a nutshell, you should not join Reddit only to post links to your site. You need to become a contributing member of the community first. The Reddit Wikirecommends that no more than 10% of the links you post be to your own site, whether that site is a personal blog or the Internet presence of a major corporation.
The Right Way to Be Noticed on Reddit
Despite the strong anti-spam culture in Reddit, there are ways you can promote yourself there without being seen as a spammer.
Ask Me Anything
A great way to get your story out is to post on the Ask Me Anything subreddit (/r/AMA), which is one of the best-known subreddits. Anyone who has something to say that might interest the Reddit community can open up a discussion there. Past participants have ranged from “an 82-year old lady who has never been online before,” to the President of the United States.
The key to having a successful AMA, is to answer, or at least acknowledge, all questions that users post and to be open and honest. Using marketing jargon or answering only the questions that let you paint yourself in the most positive light will backfire. Just be real.
Join Industry Subreddits
Another way to participate in Reddit without provoking the wrath of the community is to join groups that are focused on your industry. Content marketers, for example, may find a welcoming home in /r/socialmedia.
Always take your time when joining a new group on Reddit. Just as Reddit as a whole has a specific culture and norms, each subreddit has its own culture. Read any guidelines, rules, or FAQs that the subreddit moderators have posted. Spend time lurking before chiming in.
Another possibility, recommended by the Content Marketing Institute, is to avoid posting altogether and just lurk and read. The advantages of this option is that you can learn a lot about your customers and about what people are saying about your industry without putting yourself at risk of unknowingly violating an unwritten community rule.
Buy an Ad
If trying to tiptoe around community norms seems too complicated, a more straightforward way to reach Redditors is to buy an ad. Rates start at $0.75 CPM — though even with ads you need to make sure you are creating something that will appeal to the tastes of the community.
In short, participating in Reddit can be rewarding, but if you have something to sell, you have to be careful. You should read the rules and take them to heart, and then spend enough time hanging around the site to absorb its cultural norms. Done right, the publicity payoff can be enormous.