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Reddit marketing: How to get it right (and wrong)

Learn how to advertise on Reddit—and if you should do it at all.

By Danielle Antosz · January 20, 2022
A hero image for Reddit app tips, with the Reddit logo on a red background

Reddit can be a gold mine for brands, but it can also be absolutely brutal if you dive in without learning the ropes. 

As a content strategist and digital marketer, I've spent the last 10 years figuring out what works—and what doesn't—in online marketing. I've also learned that Reddit isn't your average social network. Redditors are ruthless about marketing. Facebook and Instagram will deny your ad if it doesn't meet their requirements. But Redditors? They'll create an entire subreddit just to drag your company in the comments. 

But marketing or advertising on Reddit can still be well worth it.

Why you should market on Reddit

Reddit has a massive audience (we're talking hundreds of millions of visits a month). But size isn't everything, so here are the other reasons you should be open to advertising on Reddit:

  • Redditors also tend to be engaged, open to learning, and tech-savvy. 

  • Subreddits are super focused—and their members care a lot about the topics—which makes making targeting easier for brands. (That makes up a bit for the lack of targeting options for Reddit ads.)

  • A lot of Redditors don't use other social media apps—which means you can reach an audience you won't find anywhere else. According to Reddit's research, 23% of its users don't use Facebook, 47% don't use Instagram, and 69% don't use TikTok. 

  • It's possible you'll see a significantly lower cost-per-click (CPC) on Reddit.

So that's why it's worth marketing on Reddit—but does it mean you should definitely do it? Let's look at your options. Like with most social media platforms, there are two ways to market on Reddit: organic and paid. 

Organic marketing on Reddit

The organic side of things looks a lot different on Reddit than it does on other social networks: you can't just create a business account and post content that shows up in users' feeds organically. Instead, you find topic-specific communities (AKA subreddits) and engage with them. No matter what industry or niche you're in, there's a good chance there's a subreddit (or two…hundred) on a related topic. 

Here are a few ways you market organically on Reddit:

  1. Share useful, engaging content. If you create good content, people will share it and engage with it on Reddit. In her article on using social media for your business with no budget, the founder of fashion line Bastet Noir talks about how she did this successfully. Even if you go this route, though, be prepared for some possible negative reactions.

  2. Host an AMA. Hosting an AMA (ask me anything) allows you to talk about your brand without being sneaky about it: people know what they're signing up for.

  3. Create a subreddit for your brand. Here's an example: Book of the Month Club's subreddit. It gives your users a place to do some marketing for you (assuming they like your product or service). You can also use a branded subreddit to perform market research and find beta testers.

  4. Create a support subreddit for your brand. This is where your customers could ask you questions. If you go this route, be sure to monitor it closely so no important issues slip through the cracks. 

These can all be effective strategies, but it's always possible you may get called out for trying to market—so tread lightly.

Advertising on Reddit

There are two main types of paid ads on Reddit

1. Takeover ads. There are several takeover ad packages, allowing you to take over specific subreddits, the entire site, categories, and so on. Most packages include a promoted post, top banner, and an ad in Reddit's "trending" category. 

A takeover ad in the Trending Today section of Reddit, with a tag that says "Promoted"

2. Promoted posts. These are more like standard promoted posts on social media: they show up alongside regular posts with a "Promoted" tag. Businesses can choose to leave the comments on or turn them off. Leaving the comments on allows for discussion, which can be good and is the whole point of Reddit, but make sure to monitor them carefully. 

A screenshot of a promoted post on Reddit. It looks like a standard post but has a Promoted tag

Reddit offers fewer targeting options than other paid social platforms, like Facebook. On Reddit, you can target based on location, interests, subreddit, device (mobile vs. desktop), and the time of day, but you can't target by demographics like income or connections. (You can target custom audiences, though.)

But Reddit allows you to choose the goal of your ad. When creating a Reddit ad, the platform will prompt you to select an objective. 

  • Brand awareness 

  • Conversions 

  • Traffic

  • Video views

  • App installs

Each objective offers different ad types and specific payment and bidding structures. For example, if you choose the traffic objective, you'll pay for each click and can choose from link, video, or gallery ads. 

Reddit's ad algorithm uses these objectives to optimize your ads to reach the right audience at the right time based on past Reddit behavior. 

How to market on Reddit without being skewered

Redditors are open to learning about new products and services—that's part of the reason they're on the platform. Here's how to take advantage of that without it backfiring.

1. Get to know Reddit before creating a campaign  

You will be called out if you get your organic marketing wrong—and it will be abundantly clear you're marketing if you don't know Reddit well before doing it.

The creators of a hair towel appear to have been attempting to market their product "organically" by posting as a user in a r/curlyhair, where people share products and techniques for curly hair. They got called out for it really quickly.  

A screenshot of the comments on the post, offering skeptical commentary on whether or not it's marketing

Get to know your community. Hang out in subreddits they frequent. And take the time to read the subreddit rules (some don't allow marketing at all). 

You'll also want to learn the acronyms your audience uses. Here are some basic ones used in most subreddits: 

  • OP: "Original poster" (the person who created the original post)

  • ELI5: "Explain it like I'm five" (use plain language)

  • TL;DR: "Too long didn't read" (a short summary of a long post)

  • TIL: "Today I learned" (a new fact or interesting info)

  • AMA: "Ask me anything" (a Q&A session, often with a founder, industry leader, or someone with a background a community will find interesting)

There are also more specific acronyms for different subreddits; most subreddits have a sidebar containing that info. 

2. Engage on the subreddits your audience frequents 

No matter what industry you're in, there's a subreddit dedicated to a topic in your field. Run a particle physics startup? There's a subreddit for that. Looking for folks who are into reading, computers, AI, Airbnb, futurology, or financial independence? You got it.

Start by searching for key terms in your industry. For example, if I wanted to create a Reddit strategy for Zapier, I might start by searching "marketing automation." You can then see posts and communities related to that term as well as people who post about the topic regularly. 

A screenshot of a Reddit search for "marketing automation," with tabs for Posts, Communities, and People

Consider searching for your brand name, too. You never know: people might already be talking about you. You can even use Zapier to set up an automation that alerts you whenever someone mentions you on Reddit.

Get Slack notifications for new Reddit mentions

Get Slack notifications for new Reddit mentions
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Zapier is a no-code automation tool that lets you connect your apps into automated workflows, so that every person and every business can move forward at growth speed. Learn more about how it works.

3. Be a little different 

Reddit isn't your average social media app. Most users are anonymous and engage in groups based on interest, not location or friends. That provides businesses with more freedom to think outside the box. That can mean a few things.

You could be self-deprecating and meta, like this Samsung ad: 

A screenshot of an ad from Samsung on Reddit that says "This isn't a regular ad. It's a cool ad." The ad itself says "Unfold a new way to upvote."

Or you could use popular emoji, memes, or GIFs, like nutrition brand Huel does here: 

A screenshot of an ad from Huel that includes a GIF of a dog giving side-eye

Use casual language, and don't be afraid to be a little less professional. Share your failures, funny interactions, or anything that might make people chuckle. 

4. Listen to feedback

Redditors may not like your attempts at marketing on Reddit—if they don't, you'll know. 

Example: Picsart, a photo and video editing tool, tried to do an AMA. It started innocently enough with the founders offering to answer any questions. 

A screenshot of Picsart's original AMA post

Then users started complaining about ads on the platform. 

A screenshot of people in the AMA complaining about all the ads on the Picsart platform

The Picsart team essentially used marketing copy to respond to comments about the price. Which, predictably, also didn't go well.

A screenshot of Picsart's replies, e.g., "For the price of 2 cups of coffee, you get access to..." and people responding saying they'd prefer the two cups of coffee

I guess you could argue this AMA wasn't a failure in the end: because it entered Reddit lore as one of the worst AMAs of all time, many people are now familiar with the Picsart brand. 

In general, paid ads don't get as much backlash, as long as they don't use memes incorrectly or make outrageous claims. Regardless: there's a chance your first marketing attempt on Reddit won't go smoothly. Instead of getting defensive or crawling into an internet hole of shame, listen to that feedback and improve the next one.

Start small

When it comes to marketing on Reddit, start small. If you're totally new to the platform, create an account and start following subreddits in your industry, so you can learn where your audience hangs out. I'd also strongly recommend starting with paid ads—you're less likely to rile up marketing-adverse Redditors that way. And please don't dive into using memes and GIFs until you understand what they mean and how users will react. 

Most of all, don't take yourself (or your brand) too seriously on Reddit.

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