Mar 21, 2024

The Marketer’s Guide to Reddit

The social network Reddit might not look pretty, but it is popular and a place where people go to ask questions, share their views and find information as communities.

Despite its functionality remaining pretty much the same since 2005, its user base has grown considerabily, to the tune of over 850 million monthly active users. It's also the 18th most-visited website in the world according to Similarweb. 

All of this success has lead to some exciting developments. In February 2024, Reddit announced a partnership with Google in a deal worth about $60 million per year, to license its real-time user content to train Google's AI model. It's also going public, pricing its shares at the top of the marketed range and a valuation of $6.4 billion.  

So what are brands using Reddit for? What does marketing on Reddit look like? And should you consider getting started with Reddit marketing?

We'll answer all these questions in this blog, look at organic and paid marketing opportunities, how the voting system works, Reddit SEO and provide some great ad examples to learn from. 

Social Media Calendar 2024

What is Reddit?

Reddit is a social news aggregation website. It was founded in 2005 as the self-styled “front page of the internet and it consists of user-generated content in the form of links, text, photos, and videos.

Over 48% of Reddit’s users reside in the U.S, followed by 7% in the U.K and 6% in Canada according to Statista. 

The Reddit platform and its look and feel can feel chaotic and while it has been refined since its launch, the core principles remain in place. Users post something and then they “upvote” or “downvote” each other’s content. Reddit ranks these posts and curates a feed for each user - or “Redditor”, as they are known.

My home feed looks like this today:

The Marketer’s Guide to Reddit

The driving force behind Reddit’s popularity is the division of content into “subreddits”. Subreddits are discussion threads based on a specific topic and users can create their own, if a relevant thread does not already exist.

There are over two million subreddits and many of them are thriving communities. They have their own communicative style, dominated by memes and emojis. Although it is easy to dismiss them as frivolous, some subreddits have the power to shape pop-culture and beyond.

The r/WallStreetBets subreddit (subreddits always follow the “r/[topic]” structure) made global news in early 2021 when its community decided to take on the hedge funds of Wall Street, by investing collectively in the GameStop stock. The hedge funds were betting against the stock and they were not prepared for a grassroots movement that sent the price rocketing up by 2,000% in a single day.

The Marketer’s Guide to Reddit

Redditors typically use an alias rather than their real name, which may be one reason marketers continue to favor other social networks. It is much more difficult to communicate with specific individuals on Reddit, where there are incentives for Redditors to stick with the same profile and to use it wisely.

If Redditors post popular content and participate in discussions, they accrue “karma” points. This score is displayed on their profile and while it has no material value, it is a marker of Reddit status.

Reddit's growth vs. other platforms

It is important to note here that Reddit is a niche platform, but that shouldn't put brands off. The community focus of the platform and niche-ness enables marketers to target high-intent users. 

While it has 70 million daily active users, that is a small figure when compared with Facebook, which has more than one billion. Yet Facebook is keen to replicate Reddit’s micro-communities, as it knows that they have higher engagement rates. Redditors spend an average of 15 minutes on the platform each day, compared with under 5 minutes per day for the average Facebook user.

In addition, Facebook’s global success can also be a weakness. The huge reach it offers can inhibit individual users’ desire to post; sometimes, we don’t want the whole world to see our content.

The source of Reddit’s strength among users can be seen by brands as a weakness. Reddit is a place for people to be sarcastic, idiosyncratic and, frankly, a bit weird. Reddit could be seen as the anti-Instagram.

This is liberating for Redditors in an online world that has become stagnant, but brands tend to prefer polish over peculiarity.

There is reason to believe brands are giving Reddit a second look, however. Reddit wants to court advertisers to monetize its growing user base, and advertisers are keen to diversify beyond their reliance on Google, Facebook, and Amazon.

Before we assess whether brands should be on Reddit, we will look at the available options.

How Can Marketers Use Reddit?

We can split the options into two camps: organic (unpaid) marketing and sponsored (paid) advertising on Reddit.

1. Organic marketing on Reddit:

As with other marketing channels, the best results on Reddit are generated by building an organic presence and then paying to extend this reach. You will need to put in that early work to earn the trust of fellow users first.

For any would-be Reddit marketers, it is advisable to set up a profile and start contributing to relevant discussions. This means observing and listening, as well as speaking. The subreddit r/TheoryofReddit is the best place to try and understand what makes this social network tick. With 176,000 members (April 2021), it is a place for Redditors to discuss the cultural norms that set their discussion forum apart from the others. 

This discussion thread focuses specifically on the role brands can play on Reddit. Contributors are well aware that advertising makes the online world go round, but they are less understanding of advertising that is either forceful or deceitful. For example, one user cites an increase in “obvious brand placement and the attempts to sneak them in” to conversations. Other users have deleted the app, where ad blockers are less successful, and gone back to the browser version of Reddit. 

When a brand communicates on Reddit, long-term Redditors can be suspicious. 

As the CMO of men’s active wear brand Rhone said in an interview with Glossy:

“We have learned by trial-and-error how different the Reddit community is; it’s completely different than Facebook. There’s a whole culture of authenticity. You can’t just create an account and start posting about your brand.”

Redditors will take a look at the company’s profile to check out whether the brand is serious about joining the community, or if they are there to exploit those attractive “engagement rates” in Subreddits. I

f you have a high karma score and have made a number of valuable contributions, there is a much better chance that people will be receptive to your posts. You can also check out this subreddit entitled “What brand are you loyal to and why” for a crash course in brand management on Reddit.

Once you become a Redditor, you will develop an instinctive understanding of what works on this unique social network.

Organic Tip 1: Find the right subreddits

Reddit will prompt you to take this step when you sign up, but it is worth exploring further to find the most appropriate subreddits.

There really is a subreddit for everything. For example, here is a subreddit that lists all the other subreddits. The group rules (there are only two of them) sum up much of what we need to know about Reddit marketing:

The Marketer’s Guide to Reddit

Overt advertising is rarely welcome and Redditors are expected to offer up value before asking for something in return.

The most “down-voted” post ever on Reddit is from computer games giant Electronic Arts. They responded directly to a customer complaint about a locked character in a Star Wars game, offering a defense of their pricing structure.

The Marketer’s Guide to Reddit

On Facebook, this kind of customer service might work. On Reddit, users expect a more human response that provides some value. If the company has nothing new or convincing to add, it is best to stay out of these conversations - as EA found out the hard way.

It can be daunting to wade through the full subreddit list to find your perfect topics, but the Reddit advertising platform will let you search for subreddits by the number of subscribers:

The Marketer’s Guide to Reddit

Spend some time curating your own list of subreddits to join. Try to engage with some smaller communities as well as the giant groups like r/Marketing, too.

You also need to decide on what your brand’s voice will be. It seems dry to jump into these vibrant communities with a corporate message, and that is how it will be viewed by many Redditors.

Consider that each company has unique expertise and experiences to draw on. If you can pin down the value that you can offer in these groups, you can choose the right voice to communicate the message.

Organic Tip 2: Conduct some classic SEO research

Reddit has a sizable following and an engaged user base, but it is fair to say that it does not appeal to everyone. This means many brands ignore the platform altogether, when a more rounded perspective of the digital ecosystem would highlight other opportunities.

Simply put, Reddit is one of the top-performing sites in organic search. SEMrush estimates that Reddit receives over 240 million SEO visits each month in the US alone. The domain ranks on page one of Google US for over 25 million keywords.

The Marketer’s Guide to Reddit

This means that when users search for a broad keyword related to a topic such as fashion, politics, or technology, there is a good chance a Reddit page will rank on page one of Google for the query. The person searching may not be a signed-up Reddit user, but they could end up on Reddit to find the answer to their question.

Brands can conduct some classic SEO research to find the right subreddits to engage with, in the hope of attracting visitors from Google too. 

Organic Tip 3: Ask questions and listen

This tip would apply equally to everyday conversations, yet it is often overlooked by marketers. On Reddit, posts that ask questions receive twice as many comments as posts that do not ask questions.

That seems obvious at first glance, but posts without questions are typically images or videos rather than plain-text statements. They attract comments; just not as many as question posts do.

The Marketer’s Guide to Reddit

This is great for brands that want to find out more about their audience. Spotify led with questions when it joined Reddit way back in 2014. They asked customers which songs put them in a range of different moods, then used the information to shape advertising campaigns. In essence, Reddit acted as a focus group and in the process, helped build a community around the brand.

It is worth considering your objectives before taking this inquisitive approach, as question posts do attract fewer upvotes than regular posts.

The Marketer’s Guide to Reddit

Upvotes are crucial if you want your content to make the leap from a niche subreddit to the Reddit homepage. Reddit monitors engagement across the platform and selects some trending topics and posts to bring to everyone’s attention on the homepage.

It would be ambitious for a brand with a new account to aim for this right away. Start by asking questions, responding to other people’s questions, and getting a feel for the platform first. 

Paid marketing on Reddit

Reddit generated $810 million in 2023, primarily from its advertising business reported Business of Apps. 

Just as importantly, the Reddit advertising platform is much more intuitive and effective today than it has been in the past. This should encourage more brands to experiment with Reddit advertising, alongside the usual suspects of Google and Facebook.

Marketers can choose their objective in a similar fashion to other social media advertising platforms.

The Marketer’s Guide to Reddit

Reddit offers three payment models:

  • cost per click (CPC),
  • cost per view (CPV), and
  • cost per thousand impressions (CPM).

This opens up new ways for brands to use Reddit, particularly as a video viewing platform.

Reddit ads can show up within users’ news feed or within subreddit conversations. Reddit also offers interest targeting, which will reach users across multiple subreddits for a chosen topic.

There is also an option to upload or create custom audiences, using email addresses from a company’s first-party dataset. The Reddit Pixel adds another layer of data that can be used to retarget customers that have already interacted with your brand on other channels.

Paid marketing options on Reddit

Sponsored posts

Most of the advertising options on Reddit fall under the broad category of sponsored posts.

With sponsored posts, you can reuse old posts that worked well or create new ones just for advertising. These can be used to drive app installs, increase video views, or encourage clicks to a brand’s website.

In the user’s feed, these will look similar to a regular post with the addition of a ‘PROMOTED’ label in the top left. It is usually very clear that a post is sponsored even without the label, as they tend to jar with the rest of the page’s content.

Below is an example of a sponsored post I saw today while perusing the subreddit of the TV show Frasier, r/Frasier:

The Marketer’s Guide to Reddit

The ad that appears here is a UK government health message, so perhaps the juxtaposition is not a negative. It certainly draws attention to the promoted video.

A Reddit sponsored post can be paid for on a CPC, CPM, or CPV basis, depending on the nature of the content (CPV is video-only, for example) and the brand’s campaign objectives.

Brands should consider whether they want to blend in and if not, also consider the reaction they wish to elicit.

The insurance company Lemonade decided to use some self-awareness to their advantage in this sponsored post:

The Marketer’s Guide to Reddit

This gently mocks advertising tropes and makes the brand a little more likely to gain some Reddit attention.

You can also turn comments off, but if you feel the need to do so it might be worth reconsidering the post altogether.


Sponsored AMA (Ask Me Anything)

The Ask Me Anything format is one of Reddit’s breakout hits. The likes of Barack Obama and Bill Gates have signed up for incredibly popular sessions where everyday Redditors can ask their burning questions.

Brands can now set up a sponsored AMA, which will typically reside in the subreddit r/IAmA.

These can be a great success or a cautionary tale, depending on how the brand uses the AMA format.

In the great success category, we can place the Borat AMA that was set up to promote the second Borat movie in late 2020. This AMA was promoted in the r/Movies subreddit and was upvoted over 100,000 times, due to the faithful rendering of the character in the discussion thread.

For a cautionary tale, we need look no further than Woody Harrelson’s infamous AMA to promote his movie, Rampart. Harrelson refused to answer questions that were not specifically about this movie (did anyone tell him what AMA stands for?) and became increasingly irritable as fans continued to ask him about unrelated topics.

The Marketer’s Guide to Reddit

Brands can learn a lot here. Although these AMAs were a sponsored forum, they were not a press conference or a television commercial. Brands can earn a lot of goodwill by answering thoughtfully and playing along with the audience’s humorous questions. But they need to know how Reddit works.

As a product, movies are clearly interesting to a large group of people. But what if your company operates in a less glamorous field? Is there still scope to run a sponsored AMA that people will attend?

It is normally advisable in these circumstances to engage a popular influencer to act as the company’s spokesperson. This will inject some much-needed personality into proceedings and attract a greater audience, but it only works if the influencer has some affiliation with the brand. This could work well if the interviewee for the AMA appears in television commercials for the brand, for example.

Audi hosted a successful AMA when it used Reddit’s live-streaming capabilities to host a question and answer session with Olivia Munn, all while she was speeding around a race track in an Audi sports car.

The Marketer’s Guide to Reddit

Companies can also set up a sponsored subreddit to build a community and deal with customer queries. This has served Microsoft well with its Xbox subreddit and the retailer Nordstrom’s subreddit is popular with its fans.

Should Marketers Use Reddit?

We have established that marketers can use Reddit. But can we conclude that marketers should use Reddit?

In an age of quick conversions on Google and Facebook, Reddit does not always compare favorably. It is a platform that requires some work before brands can expect a return. Even then, the returns are less predictable than on something like Pinterest or Amazon.

Yet for those willing to engage with the Reddit community, it can be a highly beneficial channel that offers better value than its more famous rivals.

Redditors spend longer on the platform than users of other social networks and they visit the site to discuss their passions. That makes it a fantastic place for marketers to learn about the latest trends, as well as spark new discussions with potential customers.

The Reddit advertising platform offers sophisticated targeting and while it may not be as simple to “buy” an audience as it is on other channels, this means new connections could be longer lasting. Redditors are discerning and this means that once they are won over, they can be loyal ambassadors.

The key to successful Reddit marketing is an empathetic understanding of what makes the platform’s users tick. Marketers can get started by signing up, joining subreddits, and asking questions.

Ude social media to engage and convert

Social media is a powerful channel to engage with your target audience through organic and paid content. Our certified Social Media Marketing course you will teach you how to share, tweet and pin your way to success using engaging content that sets your brand above the competition. Plus you’ll learn how to research, plan and strategize along the way!

Clark Boyd
Clark Boyd

Clark Boyd is CEO and founder of marketing simulations company Novela. He is also a digital strategy consultant, author, and trainer. Over the last 12 years, he has devised and implemented international marketing strategies for brands including American Express, Adidas, and General Motors.

Today, Clark works with business schools at the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, and Columbia University to design and deliver their executive-education courses on data analytics and digital marketing. 

Clark is a certified Google trainer and runs Google workshops across Europe and the Middle East. This year, he has delivered keynote speeches at leadership events in Latin America, Europe, and the US. You can find him on X (formerly) Twitter, LinkedIn, and Slideshare. He writes regularly on Medium and you can subscribe to his email newsletter, hi, tech.

Upgrade to Power Membership to continue your access to thousands of articles, toolkits, podcasts, lessons and much much more.
Become a Power Member

CPD points available

This content is eligible for CPD points. Please sign in if you wish to track this in your account.