Reddit, long considered practically irrelevant in social media marketing, might just be the most hyped social media platform among marketers these days.

What happened? How did Reddit suddenly become the hot new thing, despite being very far from new?

To answer that question and, of course, to make the most out of marketing on Reddit, we have to understand the basics.

What is Reddit, and how does it work?

Reddit describes itself as "the front page of the Internet," and it's pretty hard to argue with that definition. Reddit is the fourth most visited website in the US and the sixth in the world, according to Alexa. It had 330 million users as of April 2018.

Moreover, Alexa data suggests that people spend more time on Reddit per day than they spend on any other top social platform. That means Reddit has more active users than Twitter, and those users are more engaged. The demographics of Reddit are also unique. Nearly 58% of its user base is from the US, and the majority of those people are male, under 35, and college-educated, and their income is higher than average.

The site consists of over 45,000 subreddit communities where redditors post and discuss practically everything there is or has been in the universe. There are subreddits about politics, music, science, technology, and more, including shower thoughts, which was used by Glamour magazine as a part of an impressive marketing campaign.

All content on Reddit is user-generated: Registered users post, comment, and upvote and downvote existing posts. Upvoted posts go higher up on the board; downvoted posts go down.

Creating a profile on Reddit is easy and straightforward. Once your account is created, you can start posting and commenting, and that's how you build up karma.

Karma is an indicator of how active you are on Reddit. It's also a good way to spot shameless marketers, fake profiles, and other unwelcome guests of the site.

How did Reddit marketing become possible?

To be fair, Reddit marketing has never been completely impossible. Sure, redditors dislike self-promotion and revolt mercilessly when they spot it (and they always spot it). But ways to indirectly market through Reddit have always existed; they've just never been too apparent.

For example, companies tend to monitor what's said about their brands and products on Reddit, using tools for social media monitoring, such as Awario, Mention, and Brand24. Social media managers and other marketing specialists offer customer support, comment on upcoming products, and answer questions. Even just following and reading what people are saying about your brand online can help inform future marketing campaigns and product development.

In addition, some brands have managed to market on Reddit using exceptional, outstanding concepts. Everyone likes creativity, and, let's face it, most people like buying things. Based on those ideas, a few brands have proven that marketing on Reddit can work.

For example, as a part of a social media campaign, Lenovo challenged the Reddit community to create an 8-bit version of a game for a chance to win a prize. The campaign prompted more than 107,000 clicks and 25 game submissions. If you hang out on Reddit, you know that its most active users are the definition of people who love creating 8-bit games. The campaign fit the target audiences of both Reddit and Lenovo.

Another nice example of marketing on Reddit is Spotify. The music-streaming service asked users questions about the different emotions that songs spark in them. It didn't look or feel like any kind of promotion. After more than 2,300 comments, 450 brand interactions, and 10,000 submissions, the community created a playlist based on the campaign. Redditors truly appreciated the effort.

You get the point: Until very recently, you had to be creative, authentic, and very different from anyone else to succeed on Reddit. However, that is changing. Reddit is becoming both more user-friendly and more marketer-friendly.

First, it's been redesigned. No more '90s style: the new design is clean and pretty. Second, it's added new features in the past months: Users can now submit content to their own profile pages and follow other profiles. And the 10% self-promotion guideline was relaxed last year. The promotion policy is now based on the notion that it's hard to say which content is promotional and which isn't: As long as the post or comment carries valuable information, it stays.

How can you market on Reddit?

1. Use Reddit ads

Now that we know the platform is more relaxed about marketing, it might be tempting to forget everything you've heard and copy-paste your Twitter posts to Reddit. Of course, that's not a good idea. You might not get banned, but you'll quickly be downvoted by angry users.

Bold promotion is acceptable only if you pay for Reddit advertising. Unlike advertising on Facebook or Twitter, which is accepted as a natural part of those platforms, advertising on Reddit isn't usually part of the social media marketing conversation. But with everything we know about Reddit, it really should be.

2. Monitor Reddit for mentions of your brand

Use a social media monitoring tool, to find what's said about your brand. Be a part of the conversation, or simply observe and make conclusions. But don't miss out on a dialogue about your brand among possibly the most engaged and passionate community on the Internet!

3. Share your content

After you've built up your karma, established yourself in a community, and shared lots of useful, popular, and interesting posts, you can then share your brand's content. The content should be in line with what you've posted before. It will look suspicious if you've shared only pictures of cats for the past month and then suddenly you have an article about blockchain technology. Your content obviously shouldn't be promotional, and it should be an engaging, educational, or entertaining read. Basically, your brand's content shouldn't differ all that much from something a redditor would post.

4. Share your experience

If you've got some unique or exciting experience that is somewhat relevant to your brand, it might be a good idea to tell redditors your story. For example, you might be a founder of a startup or an entrepreneur, or you might work in an industry with some struggles that people don't realize. If you feel your story is worth sharing, go ahead.

There are subreddits specific to your industry, of course, but there's also one you might have heard about: /r/AMA/ (Ask Me Anything). Anyone—from Australian truck drivers to the US president—does AMA on Reddit. It raises awareness about whatever the person wants to talk about, establishes connections, and generally gives you access to a huge number of interested people.

5. Participate in subreddits relevant to your brand

By participating in subreddits relevant to your industry and your expertise (e.g., /r/DigitalMarketing, /r/Entrepreneur, /r/AskMarketing, /r/socmemarketing, /r/socialmedia), you hit many targets at once. You'll get the opportunity to mention your brand or your brand's content wherever it's relevant; you'll easily find content to curate and ideas for your new content; and you'll know industry trends early because Reddit is often where trends start and viral content becomes viral.

How can you avoid making mistakes on Reddit?

There are many rules you should follow to avoid getting banned from Reddit. In some cases, a banned account might lead to banning an entire domain from appearing on the platform, which is definitely bad news.

Here are some rules you should know to avoid trouble. The list may seem long, but the idea behind many of the guidelines is "no shameless self-promotion."

  • Post to the most appropriate subreddit possible.
  • Don't submit the same comment many times to different subreddits.
  • Don't submit links only to your website.
  • Don't ask for upvotes.
  • Steer clear of illegal content.
  • Don't share anyone's private information.
  • Don't use URL shorteners.
  • When sharing a story, find the original source of the story.
  • Look for duplicates of your story before posting it.

However, even technically following the rules might not save you from angry users. Reddit is much more about being a part of a community than it is a platform for self-promotion.

* * *

Even taking the recent updates and the new marketer-friendly trends into account, Reddit isn't an easy platform to market on. However, Reddit has potential like no other platform: The traffic coming from Reddit can crash your site after a single successful marketing attempt. That even has a name: "Reddit effect" or "Reddit Hug of Death." And it's definitely worth the effort.

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image of Aleh Barysevich

Aleh Barysevich is the founder and chief marketing officer of the companies behind SEO PowerSuite, professional software for full-cycle SEO campaigns, and Awario, a social media monitoring app. He is a seasoned SEO and social media expert and speaker at major industry conferences, including SMX London, BrightonSEO, and SMX East.

LinkedIn: Aleh Barysevich