Marketing on Reddit- An Impossible Task?

There are many internet communities on the web, but none are as expansive and popular as Reddit, boasting an Alexa traffic rank of 21 in the US and 54 globally (as of 6/12/14). Furthermore, Reddit has a remarkably low bounce rate at 24.5% where the average bounce rate for content sites, (according to Google Analytics), lies somewhere between 30% – 50%. But what truly makes Reddit unique is the profile of the user it attracts: people who are surfing the net for nothing specific hoping to read something interesting and entertaining. If utilized properly, Reddit can be an invaluable tool for marketers looking to promote a product on the web.

Reddit.com hosts user submitted content on its many different boards, known as subreddits. Visitors to the site can create an account and choose to either contribute to an existing thread, create a new thread, or up/down-vote threads and posts submitted by other users. It is also possible for a visitor to simply browse the site without creating an account. With some time and effort, a user can create a new “subreddit”, a new community within the Reddit universe that focuses on specific content. The “subreddit” allows users who are looking to engage in a particular topic to access threads whose content they are seeking.

For example, /r/AskScience, is a board that allows a person to ask experts pertaining to various areas of science and math. The subreddit /r/funny gives users the opportunity to share anecdotes and entertaining material, while /r/IAmA features celebrities and other high profile individuals who interact with the Reddit community. Other subreddits host discussions relating to politics and news, self-improvement, technology, entertainment, heavy and light-heated discussions, and offer general advice. Because anyone who is a member of the site can create a subreddit, there exists almost 500,000 unique subreddits, each one geared toward a specific niche. The number rises daily. Users can also use their homepage to subscribe to specific subreddits thereby allowing them to better control the posts that appear on their page. Subscribers to the more popular subreddits number in the millions. Given the significant number of accountholders on Reddit, a marketer using Reddit to promote a product can easily corner a significant amount of people interested in his products or services.

But here is the rub. As the Reddit website has evolved, it has formed a unique culture replete with its own slang, inside jokes, and internet celebrities. Users on Reddit display little patience for self-promotion. In addition, the individual subreddits, moderated by their creators, are adverse to spam. As such, assaulting a subreddit with spam will quickly result in a ban as the moderators work to maintain the highest possible quality of the subreddit upon which they have expended so many hours to build and maintain.

Reddit does provide a paid service that allows you to advertise without the possibility of being banned, but even if you were to target the right audience, it is doubtful that it would result in more than limited success. Instead, I would suggest using Reddit in the way it is designed. Instead of forcing an ad for a natural cream for relief from muscle-soreness that will reach the 66,000 subscribers to /r/bodybuilding, I propose the creation of a new “subreddit” that will promote discussions surrounding the relief from muscle soreness. Because you moderate the subreddit, you can cleverly introduce, with impunity, the elixir you are looking to sell and a description of how it works.

Reddit posts that garner up votes are interesting and well-written, filled with rich content and a list of sources. One would not spam his own subreddit with a line stating, “Hey, visit this link to check out this natural alternative to pain pills.” Rather, one could be creative and lead the conversation by saying, “Maybe there is a natural, “side effect” free alternative to the pain medication being prescribed by doctors.” After some discussion, the marketer can gently introduce his link to his audience. In this way the marketer would not come off as obnoxious, screaming for people to visit his page. While it may be  obvious that you are promoting your product,  Reddit does not prohibit the self-promotion of your blog or your product provided others users do not complain that you are inundating them with spam.shutterstock_171401612

  • jackwebop

    If you don’t appear legitimate enough– too spammy, or just not moderating well– that “just create another subreddit” mentality can backfire on you, as someone else co-opts your vision and builds a larger, more vibrant community.

    It’s definitely more of a commitment and long-game play than “here’s $35, show a banner”, which makes it not right for all products. An “infomercial” style product, with an expected shelf life of six weeks, might not benefit from this sort of play– by the time you’ve got the traffic, the product is at end-of-life. Can you sustain a community, and is it worth the commitment for the traffic you’d get?

  • Mo

    Well, suppose you create a subreddit, not with any specific product in mind, but to build a community surrounding a general issue that people deal with. That way, when you wish to promote a product related to the topic of the subreddit, you can easily send it down the tube to the followers of the page- almost like a reusable marketing campaign.

    For example, let’s say you built a subreddit talking about post-workout issues, unrelated to any specific product. Then, instead of putting up a banner when promoting a product related to post-workout soreness (such as creams, supplements, etc.), you can introduce the product to the followers of the already-established community in a thread for discussion. Does this have the potential to backfire? Absolutely. Is it worth the commitment, even with the risk of failure? This is something I believe worth exploring.

    Obviously it would be difficult to get established, and, like you said, it would need to be more of a long-term plan than the short-term “here, promote my product” play. In the long run, however, I think having control of multiple subreddits of varying topics with decent sized followings could definitely create an immediate edge for someone looking to promote a product.

    • http://ryanunderdown.com underdown

      sounds like a lot of work.