If you're a marketer and are looking to understand Reddit, the first thing to know is this: Reddit hates you.
The growing social platform is notorious for monitoring and banning content that marketers share, and anything that can be even remotely deemed as promotional. Since Reddit was built on the premise of sharing high-quality and relevant content within a community of like-minded users, Reddit shuts down any activity that interferes with that goal. Essentially, it's not a place for self-promotion; it's a place for authenticity and community building.
Sounds cute and well meaning, right? Don't be fooled; it's harder than it seems.
Contrary to their overly considerate principals, if Reddit chooses to block your content (which is likely in the beginning - more on that later), they'll never notify you that they're doing it. You'll just keep posting content, day after day, and little will you know that no one will ever see it.
This happened to me. Yeah, it was embarrassing.
That's when I realized I needed to approach Reddit differently. I needed to treat the platform like a new friend, to approach the relationship gently, learn more about them, take an interest in their interests. Then eventually, when the relationship is really strong and trusting, I'd be able to ask for something in return.
Clearly this wasn't going to be some quick marketing solution; I was in this game for the long haul.
If you're a total newbie to Reddit, here are some important things you need to know.
1. Always keep demographics in mind
According to Siege Media founder Ross Hudgens, the majority of Reddit's users are American men (59%) ranging between the ages of 25 and 34. So, if you're someone who's sharing a product that's relevant to that audience, you have a better chance of building those relationships faster and expanding your content's reach.
For example, say you want to promote your new MLB apparel brand and have a ton of valuable, interesting content on baseball. Given Reddit's demographics, it's possible that you'll find multiple baseball-oriented subreddits that'll allow you to share your links.
If you work for a medical supply company and you're selling products for elderly women, however, Reddit might not be as relevant to you.
What it comes down to is this: Reddit isn't a one-stop solution for every marketer. Take a long hard look at your target demographic and Reddit's already existing community before deciding if it's worth investing your time in. It might not be the best fit, and you'd be better off focusing on other platforms.
2. Choose the right subreddits
Link sharing subreddits
When searching for a particular topic - for example, "beauty" - and you click on a makeup-oriented subreddit, it'll be noted within the subreddit if they accept links or not. Some only allow photos and others only allow text. Some allow all three.
(Let's back up for a second - if you don't know what a subreddit is, think of it as a Facebook group which has group admins and contains content shared by interested users. Reddit has thousands of these groups. If you're a marketer and are looking for some good subreddits to get started, check out these suggestions.)
Clearly, as a social animal who's interested in sharing links, you want to focus on joining subreddits that'll eventually allow you to share and open your content for discussion. The key word here is eventually. It's all about relationships, people. That means commenting on other users' posts with helpful, valuable insight, and voting for their posts.
Even if they do accept links, it's unlikely that they'll permit them if you're a new Reddit user with few karma points (karma points are Reddit's currency). When you immediately start posting links without contributing to already existing conversations, it looks like you have an agenda and you aren't genuinely interested in being a part of the community, which makes Reddit's blood boil. Avoid, avoid, avoid.
You also want to choose subreddits with a solid amount of users. This means that if your content eventually gets approved, it could be viewed by thousands of people and multiply your engagement by 10. This is awesome. As a general rule of thumb, groups that are considered substantial can be anywhere from 80,000 to 10 million members. The range is big, but it's not only about size. It's also about engagement.
If a group has 200,000 users but very few people are engaging with its content, it could be a huge waste of your time to focus on it. On the other end, you might find a group with 5,000 users, but if 3,000 of them are online and contributing to conversations daily, that's pretty promising. It's all about finding the balance between high-engagement and size, and investing your time strategically.
3. Read the Rules
Each subreddit has its own set of rules that you absolutely must read - you're setting yourself up for failure if you don't. Would you sign up for a friendly game of mahjong with your grandma and her friends without knowing the rules? Hell no - those old ladies will tear you apart. You have to follow the rules in order to stay on their good side and play fairly. If you don't and you break the rules, subreddits will ban you before you even know what's happening. If you're looking to see how strict these rules really are, look at this list I found within a fitness subreddit (I could only screenshot part of it since it was so long).
4. Reach out to subreddits' moderators
If you have a really awesome piece of content and you're worried it won't get accepted within a particular subreddit, reach out to the subreddit moderator personally (remember, these are human beings, not robots behind a screen).
Explain who you are, what kind of content you create and why it's valuable to the group. You can then request that they make you an approved submitter, which will lessen the chances of your posts being flagged as spam. They might say no, but it doesn't hurt to ask.
Once you're established within a particular subreddit, you can also ask the moderator to make you a moderator as well. If you consistently post quality content and contribute to the group, they might just accept you, which will obviously allow you to share your content more freely as well.
5. Don't disappoint your title clickers
Every single piece of content that you post should have a mouth-wateringly tempting title. It doesn't matter how good the piece of content is; without a click-worthy title, no one will ever see it. Like any other social platform, you're competing with thousands and thousands of other users who are fighting for the same attention as you. You have to learn how to stand out.
Before posting anything, make a list of titles that you find to be compelling, mysterious and/or controversial. For example, "Lena just spend the past hour staring at a bag of popcorn" would not be a very interesting to most people. But, "Lena lost 30 pounds in a month by avoiding these foods" might be more intriguing. You see where I'm going with this? Cool, let's move on.
6. Make sure that your website's content is consistent
Even if you do get something approved on Reddit and it gets huge traffic, there's a good chance that you'll only see your Google Analytics numbers spike for a day, maybe two days if you're lucky. Why? Because if your website doesn't provide consistent, relevant, helpful and valuable content on that particular subject, Reddit users will have no reason to return to your site. For startups especially, you can't depend on clickbait forever; eventually, you need to establish enough relevance that a large number of users return to your site everyday on their own.
For example, if I submitted something to the erotic pizza photography subreddit (yes, this is real) but the rest of my website content was about elephants, it's unlikely that the initial wave of users who clicked on my erotic pizza article will return to my site organically.
So, make sure your website is stacked with relevant content that the subreddit members would be interested in and have a user-friendly interface that entices them to stay for longer periods of time.
7. Triple check the content you're sharing before you press submit
If you post something that's already been posted on Reddit before, other users can report you and accuse you of spamming them. Don't panic - it's easy to check if a link has already been posted on Reddit. You can simply copy and paste the URL into Reddit's search box and see if it comes up.
People can report you for several reasons, but the key is to handle it gracefully. Apologize, be authentic and transparent, and assure them that it was a one-time mistake. Again, Reddit is run by humans, not robots, and a genuine apology will go a long way
Just don't take it personally
A lot of people (including me) have become extremely frustrated and somewhat hurt by Reddit's constant and relentless rejection. Don't let it get you down. They're mostly concerned that users are trying to manipulate their system; it's not a personal attack on you and your content. So keep going, and remember that Reddit success is a marathon, not a sprint. Like any relationship, it's a two-way street that involves giving and receiving, and if you play your cards right, you'll eventually be on Reddit's good side. The key ideas here are patience and persistence.
Good luck and hang in there. I believe in you.