Can Reddit be Gold for brands?

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Can Reddit be Gold for brands?

Social media are now fully part of a brand’s communication strategy: they are present on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even on Pinterest, with the launch of Pinterest Ads for all French businesses in November. But there is still one social channel where marketers are reluctant to step: Reddit. This might sound surprising as Reddit has just surpassed Facebook to become the 3rd most visited site in the US, with over 330 million monthly users, and an average of 15 minutes and 10 seconds per user spent on the platform. Reddit was long considered a social channel for gamers and geeks, when video game players only make for 4.5% of its userbase, and with the platform covering the most varied subjects, including, politics, entertainment, beauty, sports, cooking, personal finance, just to name a few. Online shopping is more popular among Reddit users who are 42% to see themselves as heavy online buyers (Redditblog). So why are marketers so reluctant to try their luck on Reddit? Because the platform wouldn’t be so popular if it wasn’t so averse to marketing speech, and if the notoriously heated conversations that Reddit hosts weren’t so prone to backlashing against brands. Still, with a good knowledge of the platform and clever interventions, it would be a shame for businesses not to take advantage of the great potential Reddit has to offer for marketers.

Reddit for Dummies

Reddit is the ultimate place for online social conversation. It functions like a forum divided into hundreds of thousands of communities called subreddits, that cover all the topics of interests you can think of. Each subreddit has its own moderators and its own rules. Anyone can create a subreddit and anyone can create a conversation thread or a post in any given subreddit. Users decide which posts will be the most visible on the platform, by “upvoting” or “downvoting” them; conversations that received the most upvotes appear on top of the page.

Join the conversation

Because of the way Reddit works and because of its aversion for marketing talk and self-promotion, if a brand posts a content that Redditors deem uninteresting or too directly promotional, they will either ignore, downvote or ridicule it.  It is true on Reddit more than on any other social channel: content is king. If you don’t want it to backlash or to go down the drain, it needs to be authentic, honest, interesting, funny or informational. This is something the marketers at Adam & Eve must have had in mind when they launched an operation on Reddit to give their brand more visibility, without directly advertising their products. The sex toy company had a genius idea to engage with the Reddit community: they organized an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session with Dr Kat, the company’s sexologist. It was such a success that a new session was organized with the therapist a couple of months later. This helped to increase traffic to Adam & Eve’s website, even though the brand’s name was barely present in the Reddit thread, besides the event title and a link to the website in Dr Kat’s initial post.

Find your niche

Brands should join the Reddit conversation… but which one? With so many subreddits, it is easy for a message to be buried under the many discussion threads of the platform. To make the best of Reddit’s communities, you must find a good balance between a community that has too many members and where your brand’s voice won’t be heard, and a community too specialized to provide a big enough audience for your message.

Be transparent… and generous

The key to a good ad on Reddit is authenticity. The surest way to have Redditors backlash at your brand is to promote it without contributing authentically to the community, or to show that you didn’t really get how the site works. With these stakes in mind, marketers at Nissan asked their community managers, who were themselves Reddit users, to create a thread “If you could have anything from Amazon…” Some replies were obviously sarcastic, but when the community realized that Nissan was actually granting the users’ wishes by shipping them their dream Amazon object, the thread went viral: the post almost received 1500 comments, mostly positive. Nissan reappeared on Reddit a couple of weeks later when they shipped a car to a Redditor by delivering it in a huge Amazon card box.

The delivery was supposed to be revealed in a video ad a few weeks later, but some pictures that were stolen by a Redditor ended up online… to Nissan’s delight, because they were upvoted and made it to the Reddit’s homepage. The moral of the story is that marketers shouldn’t be afraid to use Reddit if they truly understand its community and its spirit… and if they’re ready to give away nice gifts.

Duracell more recently showed that a simple ad that resonates with Reddit’s humor and culture can receive a warm welcome from the community. Their ad banner echoed the Star Wars TV ad broadcast at the same time and targeted “gamers and moms” during the holiday period. The banner benefitted from the very granular audience targeting made possible by Reddit’s subreddits structure.

Give away Reddit Coins

Reddit coins are the virtual currency used on the Reddit Platform. Reddit users can buy Reddit coins and give them to other Redditors to reward the best posts. Being a Premium subscriber on Reddit buys you an add-free experience as well as a monthly share of Reddit Coins. Brands can use this reward system to encourage conversation or to organize competitions. For instance, American sandwich franchise Potbelly gave away Reddit Coins to the best comments posted in reply to their post: “A cheesesteak is only legit if topped with Cheez Whiz. If you disagree you’re everything wrong with America. Reddit Gold to the best responses.”

This ad was not solely successful because of the promised Reddit Gold reward (Reddit Gold includes a week of Reddit Premium, the equivalent of 500 Reddit Coins), but also because of the voluntarily provocative wording of the post, true to the Reddit spirit.

Have fun with the Reddit code

Why not make use of certain functionalities that make Reddit unique to engage the conversation with Redditors? AMA (Ask Me Anything) are Q&A, sometimes live, sessions; the most popular ones can be found under the very popular Reddit /r/IAmA. The interviewees are people of public interest, such as journalists, scientists, celebs or CEOs of household brands who have recently been in the spotlight. If as company, you have an interesting or intriguing story, or if you are selling a innovative solution or product connected to current events, organizing an AMA can be a good opportunity to create a good quality conversation about your brand on Reddit.

People often don’t know that there are several subreddits specially dedicated to deals and promotions, such as /r/deals, r/coupons, /r/frugalmalefashion for men’s fashion, as well as /r/MUAontheCheap/ for cosmetics. A word of advice though: make sure to carefully read the subreddit’s rules before posting your promos in those communities: they often require brands to previously get in touch with the moderators, or to post in a separate thread.

Make Reddit part of your social listening

Because Reddit posts don’t appear in an algorithm-fed newsfeed like on Facebook and Instagram, and because they are not limited in length like on Twitter, Reddit more than any other social media enables people with similar minds, values or interests to develop longer and better-quality conversations on subjects that matter to them. It is a social channel of experts and highly committed consumers who love asking and answering questions.

You shouldn’t hesitate when it comes to integrate Reddit to your social listening strategy. Even if you won’t find the same volume of data than on other social media, conversations will likely be more in-depth, especially if you are listening on a very niche product or on very specialized topics.

Moreover, trends often start on Reddit before reaching Twitter and later Facebook. If your brand is about to experience a PR crisis or success, chances are the conversation will begin on Reddit. This was the case for the batterygate scandal that affected Apple a year ago. It was triggered by a Reddit post titled PSA: iPhone slow? Try replacing your battery! The same post could have gone unseen in the newsfeed of other social media, but when publishing it to a subreddit dedicated to the iPhone, its author was sure to get it seen by other iPhones fans and experts. The news gathered enough attention to sip into other social media, then into traditional media, before forcing Apple to make an official statement.

Thanks to social listening, keeping the pulse of conversations that happen on Reddit can enable you to spot a PR crisis or success before it makes it to other social channels and to traditional media. If there are specific subjects, products of competitors that matter to your brand, keeping track of them on Reddit is a good way to stay ahead of the curve.