Reddit Marketing on a $0 Budget
Marketing on Reddit is Kind of Tricky (Understatement)
If you’re going purely by the numbers, Reddit is a digital marketer’s wet dream. It’s got 36 million users conveniently distributed into over 6000 communities targeted around just about any topic you could think of. The website has had over 5 billion pageviews, dubs itself “The Front Page of the Internet” and brings forth discussions much more naturally than its predecessors and counterparts. Beast.
What’s holding people back from throwing time and money into Reddit marketing?
- 1. The community and staff strongly oppose self-promotion.
- 2. There’s a distinct lack of experts in using the platform for content marketing.
I think Reddit’s division into individual user-led communities is to blame for the lack of evangelists in the marketing world. Each community, a subreddit, has its own set of rules for quality control, its own moderators and community expectations. Trying to spread your brand across multiple subreddits requires finesse – digital marketers generally advise clients to stay away from the platform altogether since there have been plenty of companies to fail and actually damage their branding. There are a few reddit marketing guides out there – most notably, one by KISSmetrics and another on AdAge, but nothing comes close to what I’ve laid out below.
Reddit’s advertising platform is also fairly young and doesn’t have the same widespread appeal as other social networks, partly because of the userbase’s disdain towards using the site for promotion and marketers getting salty over poor content marketing performance.
I’ll be up front about the advertising side of Reddit: I haven’t touched it whatsoever. Not a dollar. What I have been able to do is get past the unfamiliar territory of subreddit marketing for consistent traffic, email signups and sales. My hope is that others can use my experience as example so we can continue to develop tactics and etiquette for reddit marketing. Feedback on my methods would be great too! 🙂
You can see the difference between the first month in my contract and the last month below. It’s worth noting that this is total traffic, not just from reddit, but the extra traffic we gained were from backlinks gained through reddit and sharing the same articles on other social platforms. 71% of December’s social traffic came from reddit and social accounted for 45% of the total traffic. Google Analytics don’t work so hot with reddit though; much of the traffic is counted as Direct, so I included my total stats for the sake of this article.
Hacking Subreddits for Traction is NOT for Everyone
Without putting in some work, you’re likely to get shadowbanned (banned without any warning or message / your posts become visible to only you) or you could hurt the brand you’re promoting. As I mentioned before, Redditors are (almost) hateful of any form of marketing or sales pitch when presented on the platform. Not only that, but they won’t hesitate to call others out on potential marketing attempts. Even if you aren’t directly pitching, they may just hate on your brand regardless. This confrontational attitude means that you have to add some extra steps in your funnel or thwart these types of conversations within your content itself. I’ll get into that a bit later.
Reddit Marketing is 95% Research
But what good marketing isn’t, really? Reddit research boils down to 3 phases:
1. Finding the right subreddits for your brand.
The main industries your brand fits into likely has an established subreddit, but oftentimes, there are a series of smaller related subreddits that you wouldn’t exactly think up on your own. That was the case when I was building up traffic for the Squirrelz, anyway. They’re an upcycled product marketplace (at the time anyway, they’ve recently pivoted), so I hit up r/Upcycling and then r/Envronment, along with the subreddits featured on their respective sidebars.
Your next move should be just searching related keywords on the entirety of reddit and checking out.
At this point, you’ll have a good sized list of potential communities to hit up. Time to move on.
2. Treading through top performing content of each subreddit.
This can be the most time consuming part of the entire process, but it’s worth it (and you’ll learn a thing or two).
What we’re looking for here is over-arching trends on the kind of content that performs well. Compare the Top posts of the month with All Time. If there are text submissions on these lists, read through the conversations people have – this might be a good starting point for your own blog content. Another thing to note down is if there are multiple articles from the same domain. A website with a proven track record will come in handy when developing your own content.
3. Hunting down similar content from overlooked websites.
Take a few of those links you found that were talked about a few times and throw them into BuzzSumo or whatever content research tool you use. What we’re looking for are similar websites that aren’t posting to Reddit regularly. To be transparent, Geek.com has been one of the most consistent karma-builders for me. Install the Reddit Check extension and you’ll be able to quickly check if an article has been shared at all, where it’s been shared and the total upvotes it got.
Head to the most recent blog posts on a site and if they haven’t been shared to the subreddits you’re targeting, they’re fair game for building up your Reddit profile. Once you have 2 or 3 websites like this with high quality content that matches the subreddits you’re targeting, your research is done. It’s time to start building up a reputation!
Actively Contribute Valuable Content to Each Subreddit
Make it a daily habit to submit 10+ links to Reddit, mostly in places you want to later build traffic off of with your own content, but going outside this realm is advantageous as well. I can’t stress it enough: Redditors are very against self-promotion.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t promote yourself anyway. There’s a few ways you can get them to take a more lenient attitude to you. If you’re a valued member of the community that posts quality content from a variety of sources, not just your own, they’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Replying to comments in a timely manner helps a lot too – especially on your original content.
It sounds cheesy as fuck, but my general approach to Reddit comments is that you should be able to add a happy face to the end of most of your posts. That’s the tone, don’t actually do it. Being lighthearted and open to criticism go a long way in Reddit marketing.
Craft Your Blog Content for Individual Subreddits
Okay, time for the home run. After you’ve done your research, become an active contributor to these subreddits and have a good feel for each userbase, it’s time to share your own work. I use a toned down version of the Skyscraper Technique, improving on content that has performed well 3-6 months ago and turning comment threads into full-fledged blog articles.
For those who are unfamiliar, the Skyscraper Technique is an approach to blogging where you grab content that’s performed well in the past and improve on it by making it more aesthetically appealing, improving the copy, making it more up to date and/or making it more comprehensive. It’s a technique typically used for backlink building, but I take the same mentality and apply it to creating targeted blog content with a very high success rate. They don’t need to be full out 2,000 word articles like Neil Patel suggests, but I typically aim for 800-1200. Anything less and you probably aren’t being thorough enough.
If you’re updating a top article from Reddit, implementing the conversations people had in the past into your article is crucial to its success. Not only does it make your content more unique, but it thwarts the confrontational and often over-analytical nature of the average Redditor. If their criticisms of the article are addressed within the article itself, they won’t have much to say. You don’t have to credit reddit users specifically, just take the concepts discussed and give them your own twist.
When your content is ready, there are 3 things to consider:
1. When is the best time to post on Reddit?
Honestly, I got somewhat lucky in 2015 when it comes to finding the best time to post. I’m based in Shanghai and it just so happens that the start and end of my work days were pretty great times for my content to shine. I suggest taking the time to read through Danny Leybzon’s analysis of Reddit posting times.
2. What % of my posts can be original content to be safe from bans?
Short Answer: 33%, max.
Long Answer: Back when r/ReportTheSpammers was an active subreddit, the general rule was that if an account’s original submissions are 33% or more, it’s grounds for a (shadow)ban. I recall a thread where one of the main admins said it’s 33% but also 33% for each individual subreddit, meaning that if you slip up within a single community, you’re out of luck. If I could find the thread again, I’d cite it, but I gave up after about an hour.
My guideline is to keep around the 25% mark and obviously, the lower the better. I used a simple spreadsheet to track all my link submissions throughout the year to ease my stress and to also have data to look back on to see what performed best.
3. How often can I post on Reddit?
I honestly have no idea; posting restrictions got so convoluted that I don’t quite understand it anymore. You’re supposed to be able to submit a link every 10 minutes at most, to prevent spammers from taking over the site and if you reach certain karma thresholds, this limit is lifted sitewide or within the subreddits you gained karma from. Nowadays, it doesn’t seem consistent to me. Sometimes, I can submit links to the places I’ve gained the most karma off of without waiting between posts and other times, I have to wait 10 minutes. My speculation is that it isn’t a simple process and that it’s a system tied to server strain.
Most marketers stray away from using Reddit as a traffic source and if they do, they’ll only submit a single article to a subreddit once a month. But since I go hard and feel confident in my methods, I post weekly or even more frequently. The general rule is that the more active you are on Reddit as a whole, the more frequent you can get away with putting out your own content.
After 3-4 months, I’ll actually delete my original post and repost it to the exact same subreddit with the exact same headline and none’s the wiser. Sometimes, I’ll get more karma the second time around in fact. Reddit hates reposts but if you’re getting karma for it on your second go, that means there are hundreds of people who didn’t see the original post. If you don’t have a strong Reddit presence already, I advise against doing this though.
Are there other ways to build up a reputation on Reddit?
Despite all this precaution and clear effort to contribute to communities, I’ve been banned from posting on a few subreddits (r/Fashion and r/Japan) and have had my links reported as spam (even though they had 100+ upvotes). After messaging moderators, I was able to get myself a white list status to several communities after flexing on 3 characteristics of my strong Reddit profile:
1. Total Submission & Comment Karma
I took that screenshot Jan. 24, 2016. As you can see, I’ve built up quite a bit of karma over the year I’ve had this account and I have over 1500 karma on 2 subreddits directly related to the website I was building traffic for (r/Environment and r/Frugal). I’m not sure if gaining karma outside your niches is actually necessary to the whole process, but I stand by doing it. It doesn’t just look like you’re a real Redditor, you are a real Redditor. That’s the biggest factor here: Sure, I’m using a very structured approach to marketing on Reddit, but I’m actually becoming a power user of the site. Shoutout to my kapap boyz too.
2. Gilded Posts
Gilding is what happens when someone gifts you Reddit Gold because they liked your post or comment. Reddit Gold honestly doesn’t give you much in terms of features (comment highlighting is nice), but it directly funds Reddit’s server time and when others view you, it’s a sign of a great Redditor. My favorite part of gilding is going down the MegaLounge rabbit hole, but that’s an article for another day.
3. Becoming a Moderator
On top of having strong content, I also reached out to r/Upcycling and asked if I could become a moderator. Previously, it was a one man show and the quality control just wasn’t up to par with larger subs. I explained my marketing background, offered to help with user growth, quality control and was up front about my ties to my upcycling client. I’m willing to bet no one had done this before and I was added as the secondary mod within a day.