Posted by anthonycoraggio
If you’ve so far neglected the advertising and marketing opportunities on Reddit, you’re not alone. Historically, the relationship between Redditors and those who market to them has been contentious—Reddit is a cohesive community in a way that social platforms like Facebook or Twitter are not, and Redditors will fight to protect its integrity from spammers and lazy attempts at commercial gain. Done well, however, advertising on Reddit represents a tremendous opportunity. The site is one of the fundamental drivers of internet culture, and boasts roughly 115 million monthly unique visitors, low ad costs, and high potential for engagement and virality. Even better, Reddit is finally getting serious about monetizing the business and attaining profitability, rolling out new features for advertisers and even offering free campaigns for international advertisers to get started. Reddit can be a tough nut to crack, but handled correctly it can become your secret weapon—and I’m here to show you how.
There are three main things you need to know to successfully brave the brash, quick-witted, and anonymous crowds of Reddit as a paid advertiser.
- The raw materials: What kind of inventory is there to work with?
- The culture: What makes Reddit tick?
- How to execute: Bringing it all together without ticking Reddit off.
Alright, pencils ready? Let’s get rolling!
First things first: Advertising options on Reddit
Before I delve into working with and advertising to the Reddit community, let’s get familiar with the tools at your disposal. Reddit offers a number of options you can mix and match as appropriate in the lifecycle of a campaign or larger marketing strategy – here’s a quick rundown of what they are and where they fit into the Reddit ecosystem.
Self-serve advertising: sponsored links
Reddit’s self-serve advertising is the best place to start for the novice Reddit advertiser. Cheap, easy, and surprisingly flexible, they are the “promoted post” of the Reddit world.
A sponsored link, as seen live on Reddit
As you would in typical Reddit use, you have the option of submitting either an external link or an internal link to a text post, which users may then upvote/downvote or comment on. Your money buys you the top-of-page spot for your link in the feed of either Reddit’s front page or a topic-specific subreddit of your choice.
Reddit is currently offering a flat $0.75 CPM for self-serve advertising—you’ll get the same price regardless of the choices you make in targeting or content. There is a minimum buy of $5 for any individual sponsored link (which you’ll also have to pay for individually). This isn’t a big hurdle budget-wise, but can be problematic when there isn’t $5 worth of impressions left to buy in your chosen timeframe. Smaller, niche subreddits are particularly vulnerable to this issue, and it’s not yet possible to make multiple-subreddit buys through the interface. Plan early and don’t wait until the last minute to make your buys, or you might get shut out entirely!
Inventory is limited; act fast!
You’ll be given space for a title and either an external URL or a text post. There are no hard limits here in character length like you’ll find on AdWords, Bing, or Twitter, but don’t get caught up writing a novel. Your title should be punchy and engaging to draw interest, and if you use a text post be clear and concise in communicating your message and actions for the reader. You’ll also note that you have an option to allow or disallow user comments. I strongly recommend you allow them to get the most bang for your buck—I’ll circle back to that here in a minute.
Reddit’s traffic data isn’t the prettiest, but you’ll get a solid picture of spend, impressions, and clicks down to the hour. In general, you can expect clickthrough rates similar to most display advertising (0.10-0.20%), but exceptionally well done campaigns can reach far higher. Remember, you’ll need to manually tag your links before you submit your ad so you can track your campaign performance properly in analytics!
One more caveat—you can’t launch your ads near-instantaneously as you might on a platform like Facebook or Twitter. It can take up to 2 days for your ads to be reviewed and set live, and the interface will typically not allow you to choose same or even next day start dates.
Display advertising on Reddit runs on the AdZerk engine, and is much closer to what you might find on a standard network, with a couple of twists. Users can upvote and downvote banner ads (the latter will block the ad for that user in the future), and while banner ads don’t quite fit into the normal discussion thread flow, each is linked to a unique comment thread on a subreddit designated for discussion of banner ads on the site.
Reddit sidebar banner, with downvoting options selected
To buy these ads you’ll need to get in touch with Reddit’s ads team directly—you can choose from homepage or subreddit roadblocks, individual banners, or the design and creation of cobranded ad units with the Reddit team.
Sponsored Q&A’s are similar to Reddit’s popular “Ask Me Anything” threads, but are set up directly with Reddit and targeted for promotion across select subreddits. These can run over the course of a few hours or a few days, with specified times set for your Q&A experts to interact with the Reddit community. You can check out an example here, a Q&A with the physicists behind the Higgs Boson discover for Particle Fever.
Right then! Now that we know what we have to work with, let’s learn how to be good citizens of Reddit.
Reddiquette for advertisers
I am writing this article both as a Redditor and a professional in advertising – I believe good advertising should bring value to the audience as well as the advertiser, and nowhere is that principle better enforced than on Reddit. Reddiquette is Reddit’s informal code of conduct—a codification of the values that have grown organically within the community. Taken as a whole, it creates an environment that demands five key things of marketers who want to participate in this community. Defy these at your own peril!
1. Bring something of value to the table
This is possibly the most important and fundamental law of advertising on Reddit. If you’re not contributing, you’re wasting your time. The essence of being successful in Reddit advertising is the same principle common to social media and content marketing in general: Contribute value to the community. As an advertiser you’ve already been marked “sponsored”—a potential invader to be scrutinized—and have to meet a high bar to prove you’re not a faceless corporate con man come to poison the well or game the system. This doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t sell a product; you just have to deliver it the right way, to the people who are going to smile when they see what it can do. For example:
The above image is an ad run on
/r/showerthoughts, “a subreddit for you to share all those thoughts, ideas, or philosophical questions that race through your head when in the shower.” Note the 323 upvotes, and the subsequent comments:
2. Be transparent
Don’t try to game the system or trick users into clicking to your over-optimized conversion page. Redditors live the internet, are thus experts at spotting cheap online marketing tactic, and you will get mauled if you contaminate their precious community with scams or clickbait. Instead, be honest, straightforward, and prepared to communicate. Who are you? Why are you here? If you are questioned in the comments, respond as a real person. This alone won’t guarantee you success, but it will earn you sorely needed respect.
3. Have a sense of humor
Redditors are for the most part here for entertainment, socializing, discovering new things, and generally just to waste time. If you get in the way of that or take yourself too seriously, they will take corrective action and you’ll likely wind up skewered in the comments. Take Woody Harrelson’s calamitous attempt to hawk the movie Rampart in an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA, in Reddit lingo) thread as a cautionary tale.
4. Speak the language
Know your subreddit’s culture—any specific rules, language used, common posts, themes, or memes. If you haven’t spent at least a half hour on that subreddit reading comments and following links, you’re not ready to run an ad there.
5. Roll with the punches
Get comfortable with anonymity and brutal honesty. If you screw up, Redditors will let you know about it. Sure, you could disable comments, but this is merely avoidance, and tosses out the baby with the bathwater. Think of this as the most honest focus group in the world—if Redditors think it, they’ll probably post it. Respond (again, with good humor), validate any concerns, and use the feedback to juice up your next run.
These rules can be a little tough to process if you’re not a Redditor yourself, so before we move on I’m about to give you the best assignment of your working life. Just use reddit. Find fun topics. Comment, post, and find part of the community that speaks to you. Native advertising works a lot better if you’re a native yourself!
Bringing it all together
Pick your audience and stay with them
Of course, to run an engaging promotion on Reddit, you need to start by talking to the right people and hold up your end of the conversation. You might be surprised at the breadth and depth of audience you can find on Reddit—yes, you will find a lot of geeky males aged 18-29, but the user base and the interests represented on the site go far beyond that stereotype. You can find subreddits dedicated to everything from ethnomusicology to baking. Take the time to do your research and find the parts of the community that will really care about what you have to say.
Once you find the right spot for your promotion, don’t simply fire and forget or use the same subreddits every time. Check back every time you launch a new campaign and stay up to date on the doings of your target subreddits—moderation controversies can lead to the breakout, similar subreddits with different standards of conduct that may be better or worse for your purposes as a marketer.
For example, a banner ad for the film
Under The Skin featuring an underwear clad Scarlett Johansson was recently placed on the /r/gentlemanboners subreddit, which I expect the advertiser (not unreasonably) assumed would appreciate the ad. No dice—the subreddit is strictly PG-13 and doesn’t permit images without full clothing. The community and moderators responded harshly, and the ad was actually taken down.
Use Reddit as Reddit, not just another line of ad inventory
You can run basic, conversion focused ads pushed to a PPC style landing page, like the Audible and Aquanotes examples above. But don’t think of Reddit as just a set of ad inventory. Rather, consider it as a social ecosystem, enhanced with the power of paid promotions tools. You can still ultimately point users to a conversion, but don’t waste the opportunity to do more. Ask questions, share opinions, and start a conversation. You can also offer incentives unique to Redditors to make your message that much more special—this recent ad by Vodo created in partnership with Reddit is an excellent example:
There’s also a lot of value to be had in launching your content marketing into the Reddit universe to be shared, talked about, and built upon. It can be challenging to get off the ground at times, but that’s where the paid advertising comes in—point a few thousand users at your piece, hit critical mass, and the ball rolls from there.
You can also find success by intertwining organic and paid activity, for example, using a sponsored Q&A or paid promotions to redirect people to visit an AMA so others can tweet it, share it on social media, and multiply your impact. Degree antiperspirant’s clever use of an AMA with Bear Grylls is a classic example, sending Twitter traffic to the thread and creating storm of reciprocal visits and coverage across various channels.
In a more recent example, Ethan Hawke’s AMA gathered 9.6 million unique viewers in 24 hours and generated press coverage that brought in 15 million more. Not a bad bit of marketing!
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