Five ways to master marketing on Reddit

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After years of being dismissed as the underdog of social, Reddit now rivals major platforms like Facebook. How can marketers incorporate it into their strategies and launch successful campaigns?

In the weeks leading up to the highly-anticipated recent release of Star Wars: Episode VII, consumers were in a frenzy. Coupled with Christmas, the film led to an epidemic of Internet searches as fans sought out coveted Star Wars-related toys.

From its headquarters in London, web analytics company SimilarWeb monitored the action across 200 million devices. Among its findings: LEGO was the top digital merchandiser of Star Wars toys, despite the fact that Disney owns the film franchise. What’s more, much of the company’s traffic came from Reddit.

That’s right: next to Facebook, Reddit was the second biggest driver of Star Wars shopping traffic not only to the LEGO site, but to eBay and Disney, too. According to SimilarWeb, the trend isn’t exclusive: Amazon gets a full third of its global social traffic from Reddit, a site that received a staggering 850 million visits last month.

 

Most marketers are well past the “What is Reddit?” stage, but let’s do a quick recap. Founded by college roommates in 2005, the “front-page of the Internet” has more than 203 million users and 7 billion monthly page views. It has grown to become the 36th most popular site in the world based on SimilarWeb’s ranking. “It’s not a dark horse anymore,” says Ari Rosenstein, SimilarWeb’s Senior Director of Corporate Marketing. “Reddit has gone mainstream.”

Yet brands continue to struggle with how to effectively work Reddit into their social marketing strategies. “The truth is, most brands and marketers are doing Reddit in a…horrible way,” Rohit Thawani, director of digital strategy at TBWA/Chiat/Day told Advertising Age last year. And that’s a problem, because Reddit isn’t just channeling traffic to retailers and brands. It’s generating sales and gaming engagement, too.

Reddit and its users are notorious for rejecting blatant advertising, so then how can marketers infiltrate it? By respecting Reddit for the unique social ecosystem that it is, and adopting these five strategies.

1. Get involved with the community

Reddit is a social network in its truest form, designed to foster and support connections and conversations. There are few other sites where authenticity is as vital as it is on Reddit, so don’t try to advertise anything unless you genuinely share the enthusiasm of the community and have something relevant to say. Don’t just create an account; become an active user. It’s the single best way to figure out what your audience is actually interested in.

2. Deliver value

That generic ad you use to promote your shoe sale on Facebook? It has no place here. Couple storytelling tactics with category expertise to engage consumers and demonstrate your brand’s worth. Talk about your business in a way that others can relate to. Think content marketing, not social media ad – or users are sure to vote you down.

3. Leverage subreddits

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No matter how niche your product, there’s already a subreddit in existence discussing it or a subject that’s closely related. Skulk about and learn to speak the language before making a move. Be human. Find a way to make a real contribution, and let subject context be your guide.

4.Think twice about posting that link

Reddit advertising options include both text and link ads, and many marketers go straight for the link. Rather than push a product link on users, which may be perceived as spam, consider waiting until someone requests it. Better still, opt for visual content like images and videos, or an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) thread.

5. Know that you’re taking a risk

Let’s be blunt: many a brand has tried and failed to market itself on Reddit. Last month, REI’s CEO took to the site with an AMA, only be criticized by his own employees. Nissan encountered some trouble back in January when users alleged that the automaker was planting questions using dummy accounts.

Before you try your hand at promoting your brand on this powerhouse of a social site, consider the possible outcomes and weigh them against the potential returns. Depending on your objectives and your familiarity with the site, you might find it’s best to hone your strategy rather than draw the short end of the stick. If you’re lucky, you’ll still have that holiday shopping traffic!

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