Infamously considered as a graveyard for marketers and advertisers, Reddit is an online platform that a vast majority of professionals haven’t been able to successfully crack. It has a user base of 1.65 billion, and is the 6th most popular website in the US - this makes the website an extremely appealing way to get exposure and traffic.
However, Reddit users have not been responding well to traditional ads (or ‘promoted posts’), in comparison to ads on other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
Here, learn about why Reddit advertising has historically been so unsuccessful, and how entrepreneurs and SMEs in particular can still use the platform to their advantage.
The concept of Reddit
Originally founded in 2005, Reddit is branded as ‘the front page of the internet’. In a way, it is similar to Twitter - but instead of following accounts, you follow communities (known as ‘subreddits’). These subreddits are dedicated to interests, which can be as broad as marketing or as incredibly specific as restaurant dishes served in unorthodox and outrageous ways. By following a subreddit, you’re subscribing to a stream of user-generated content from that community. You can contribute by commenting, adding posts or even creating your own subreddit. Subreddits are self-policing and self-regulating (with some help from moderators), so you play an active part in determining what posts are relevant or not by upvoting (similar to liking a post on Facebook) and downvoting.
Benefits of Reddit advertising
Highly targeted audience - like podcast advertising, you have the chance to target people who are highly engaged. Naturally, this means if you optimise every single aspect of your campaign, you’re more likely to make conversions.
Flexible budget. You only need $5 minimum to launch an ad campaign, making it somewhat SME-friendly.
Low competition - unlike podcast advertising, businesses do not have to compete over advertising space.
Reasons why Reddit ads usually fail
Here is the reasons professionals believe are the causes.
Poor subreddit targeting. Like Facebook advertising, one of the main ways ads are not successful is the fact that you haven’t found people who would be interested in what you offer.
The ad copy is too long. What you write, ideally, shouldn’t be more than a sentence or 2 short sentences. Anything more, you risk giving yourself a difficult time as a significant percentage of post titles on Reddit are only either a few words or a sentence long. As proof of the platform’s intense dislike of long and confusing titles, check out the subreddit r/titlegore.
Your ad (copy and/or visuals) is too aggressive. It’s a known fact that Redditors do not like being blatantly advertised to, for many potential reasons. Firstly, a big portion of Reddit users are millennials who are extremely digitally literate. This means that they are used to finding businesses and products online - not the other way around.
On the other hand, it could also fail because the ad is trying too hard to be ‘in’ with the crowd, at the risk of coming across as inauthentic and confusing. In order to succeed with Reddit advertising, ads need to be transparent and honest without being aggressive.
The visuals are dull. Try to look at the colours and the quality of the native content on Reddit, and match that.
But, the single most important and troubling reason is the possibility that Reddit is simply not a suitable platform for hard sell (or sometimes even soft sell) advertising.
As of 2019, it is intrinsically difficult for businesses to achieve success when they use Reddit simply as an advertising tool, rather than a community engagement and brand awareness tool.
Other than ads, what should smaller businesses do with Reddit?
There is more to Reddit advertising than traditional ads. You can promote your products and services simply by being a valuable contributor to the platform, which is where smaller ecommerce businesses would have an advantage over big companies and major corporations.
It is much easier to establish yourself as a part of the community - especially if you are an entrepreneur. The way to do this successfully is by asking thoughtful and relevant questions, sharing plenty of useful or entertaining content (Redditors especially like long and text-heavy posts, so no external links!), then promote your business in a very particular way.
The perfect case example is Jimmy Hickey, founder of Shopify store Findlay Hats. One day, he met a guy who happened to wear one of his hats. They started talking, then took a photo which Jimmy proudly shared to a subreddit. This led to $28,000 in sales.
Why was the post so successful? Because the primary intention of that post wasn’t to sell, it was to tell an honest story of an entrepreneur seeing an indication of his hard work and success. This is the type of content that Reddit values the most.
What are the things smaller businesses can’t do with Reddit?
Creating business-run subreddits seems to be a marketing tactic that only works with bigger businesses. Usually, ecommerce businesses won’t find much success in creating their own subreddit, unless you have a very established group of loyal customers willing to read about your products and have in-depth discussions about it with others. r/TacoBell is a corporate subreddit that is made to appear like a 100% community-run space, brimming with photos of food, questions about products, and taco memes. But it works because the brand is well-known enough and is constantly coming up with new products, which is what keeps the subreddit running.
Also, a lot of corporations use Reddit to promote their business and get exposure by hosting ‘AMA’ sessions (similar to Q&As) on various subreddits, the most popular being the r/IAmA subreddit. Unless you’re an entrepreneur who’s achieved astronomical success and have a story that strangers would want to read about, doing AMAs when you’re a small business might not earn you a lot of engagement (with a few exceptions).
Because of Reddit’s peculiar online culture, even though it may be difficult to find a way to successfully your products and services it can be worth a try. But before you launch an ad campaign, consider if you would benefit more from simply using Reddit as a platform to tap into your customer’s mind, gather in-depth qualitative data, engage with the community and establish yourself as a valuable brand.