How 10 Brands Use Reddit for Marketing
Did you know that the most downvoted comment on Reddit was from a brand?
And surprisingly, that comment came from the major video game company EA.
Why is this so shocking? If you’ve ever surfed Reddit, a platform that encourages users to start discussion threads, you’ll find that a large chunk of its user base is very interested in gaming.
When EA replied to a comment in a thread discussing a game they created, users quickly pressed the down arrow symbol to downvote it. This moved the comment lower and lower in the thread until it was buried under other posts from users.
Here’s why that happened. Ahead of EA’s Starwars: Battlefront II launch, fans who got to test out the pre-release version of the game were annoyed that they needed to complete a certain number of playing hours or buy extra features in order to play their favorite characters.
Many of them took to the game’s subreddit to discuss how bogus they thought this was. EA caught wind of this and posted a long reply to one comment.
The company explained why they made these decisions and stood by them without offering a specific fix or solution, other than saying they’d look into price adjustments.
While this type of response might be acceptable on platforms like Facebook or Twitter, Redditors have no time for comments that offer them no value. Although the company stood up for its product and quickly responded to feedback, the comment may have made it seem like EA didn’t care to make improvements based on what fans were saying.
Based on the responses of Redditors, it seemed they weren’t falling for EA’s community management approach:
But, this struggle isn’t uncommon for brands on Reddit. In fact, it’s nearly expected. Even Digiday has referred to the social media site as one of the “trickiest platforms to crack.”
Redditors might be less likely to connect with branded content than users on other major platforms — like Facebook or Instagram. So, why is it that companies have a much easier time promoting themselves on other social networks?
This might be because, by nature, Reddit’s platform encourages users to create subreddits and communities around specific topics. The idea is to bring a variety of different people together to chat about something they have in common. These users, often called Redditors, are interested in reading tips, life-hacks, product criticisms, and other information from humans, rather than seeing branded content.
If a post isn’t valuable or interesting to them, they will downvote it. If a topic is interesting to them, they’ll upvote comments related to it and join in on the discussion to learn more.
To put it plainly, this social media network puts discussion first, rather than just focusing on content. While other networks offer comment threads, their feeds highlight content first and discussions second. Meanwhile, Reddit’s feeds highlight active threads, discussions, or subreddits, and most of the platform’s best content exists within those threads or subreddits.
Why Reddit is So Tricky for Marketers
As mentioned, the social network focuses on community building and online discussion rather than highlighting individual profiles or specific content. Posts and comment threads, called subreddits, move up and down on feeds based on upvotes and downvotes from users.
As you might expect, upvotes are like Facebook likes which signal Reddit algorithms to move content up. Downvotes do the opposite by moving less engaging content down.
Posts that engage hundreds of others will get moved up and seen by more users. Meanwhile, content that bores or annoys many users get moved down where it might not even be seen. This causes users to see a feed that might be more engaging to them. But, this can also mean that non-promoted branded material that feels like a generic advertisement could get downvoted or marked as spam.
Another thing that makes Reddit challenging is that you can’t easily search for legitimate company profiles or official business pages. In fact, according to posts from this thread, you cannot verify a profile on the platform, and “anyone can be anyone” on Reddit.
Yes. That’s kind of scary.
There is a search filter for “Users and Communities,” but you’ll primarily see results for the most active subreddits — which could be created by anyone.
This is very different from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn where you can easily search for people and verified business pages.
If a customer is looking for information on a product and searches a brand, they might see unofficial community pages that host more specific subreddits about the company. However, almost all of this content is usually created by fans or customers.
Here’s an example of what happens when you search McDonald’s on Reddit:
Although you see a number of communities related to McDonald’s, none of them say they’re official or run by the restaurant chain. When you click into them, their moderators seem to be Redditors that aren’t affiliated with the brand.
Although they aren’t brand affiliated, these communities can still be helpful to users and even companies. A prospect searching Reddit to learn more about a specific product might find great customer-posted chatter about the item they’re considering.
Gamers, for example, flock to the platform to discuss new launches, pro-tips, and issues they might be having while playing a popular video game. Similarly, users might create a subreddit or community about a restaurant, like Burger King, to talk about the weird or interesting things they’ve seen at the chain.
Since threads show positive and negative feedback, users might even recognize that positive feedback is more legitimate since the product would be destroyed by user comments if it were bad quality.
Common Reddit Marketing Strategies
If you really want to get your content front and center quickly, you might want to consider promoting your posts.
Promoting your posts will allow you to keep them prioritized higher up in subreddits as well as target them to specific groups of users. Like promoted posts on Facebook and other platforms, there will be an icon on the post that says its promoted. So, although the posts will be higher up, users will still know that it didn’t get to the top of the thread they’re reading on its own.
Here’s an example of what one of these posts looks like:
For brands who don’t want to pay for native ads, there seemto be two major promotional strategies at the moment. The first, and most prominent, is hosting an “Ask Me Anything” thread. The second strategy involves starting or participating in a subreddit discussion about your brand, product, or industry.
When “Ask Me Anything” (or AMA) threads are live, an influencer, executive, or staff member from the company creates a post announcing who they are and encouraging Redditors to ask them questions.
This type of promotion is best when you have an influencer or interesting person affiliated with your brand who can answer questions quickly and in an engaging way. However, it can be difficult to pull attention to these types of promotions if you don’t have an interesting host in mind.
The other major marketing strategy involves creating or participating in relevant subreddits. Creating a discussion gives prospective or current customers a place to talk about what they like about your product, or give you feedback. If they use your thread or a user-created thread to point out issues or compliment your product, you can respond to them accordingly to show that you’re interested in what they’re saying.
One downside to starting or participating in a thread is that you might need to keep a watchful eye on comments. If you receive a lot of negative feedback, you’ll want a community manager or team member to address it quickly and in a way that doesn’t feel like a fake PR-styled comment.
You cannot delete other people’s posts, even if they’re on a subreddit you created.
Because Reddit is such a niche platform and might require extra experimentation and brainstorming, we don’t encourage small businesses to put all of their time and effort into it just yet.
But, if you do want to test out a few posts — or even start a subreddit — here are a few examples of brands that creatively marketed themselves on the platform.
Examples of Brands on Reddit
Toyota recently promoted a video-based post in the Formula 1 subreddit. Because this subreddit discusses everything related to Formula 1 race cars, Toyota’s video of two drivers racing Supras fit well within the stream of posts.
Even though Toyota’s content is promoted, the brand still focuses on telling Redditors an action-packed story about racing, rather than forcing a more traditional ad on them.
Additionally, by promoting a post specifically in a Formula 1 subreddit, they are leveraging an audience that has already shown a strong interest in cars and the video’s topic.
If you do promote content on Reddit, take a note from Toyota by picking out a few subreddits that really fit your brand. Then, make content that entertains or gives value to those audiences, rather than just promoting a post with a generic ad.
While Toyota made content for a specific subreddit that aligned with its brand, Ally Bank got creative by making and promoting content specifically for the Playstation subreddit.
A banking ad seems like a stretch for an audience that loves video games. So, to connect the two topics, Ally created an ad with an interesting analogy: “You wouldn’t settle for a 1-star controller, so why settle for a 1-star bank?”
This is pretty clever. While gamers might not respond well to a standard banking app advertisement, they might identify with buying a bad controller or heavily researching game-related purchases. This type of ad might make them question why they haven’t put the same amount of interest in a bank.
Later, when they go to make a banking decision, they might remember the bank a bit more than others because it related itself to a good gaming controller.
This is an interesting example of how you can experiment and think outside the box to create content that still fits in a subreddit which doesn’t immediately align with your brand.
Lemonade, an insurance app, created a promoted post that was targeted on a fast-food subreddit. This video highlights how insurance payments which cost as much as fast food items could help you cover property losses later on.
If you’re in a finance or insurance industry, it can be great to create and share content that shows people how valuable and affordable investments can be. This ad does that specifically by showing fast-food fans how much they can benefit from investing the amount of money they’d spend on a purchase into an insurance or savings plan.
Nissan was one of the early companies to experiment with the AMA format in 2015. During the promotion, their CEO created a thread in the subreddit “IAmA.” In his first post of the thread, he introduced himself, talked about a Nissan launch, and invited people to ask him questions.
While some people asked him about the product, others asked deeper questions like “What’s your rival brand?”
While the questions might not always be product-specific, this type of content can be interesting to car fans who want to learn more about the business or its new products.
Additionally, the fact that Nissan’s busy CEO gives time to answer questions might make customers trust him and the brand more.
Rather than thinking of him as a business executive, Redditors might begin to identify him more as a down-to-Earth business owner who wants to create a great product for his customers.
While Nissan leveraged its leadership for an AMA, The Economist, a London-based news publication, regularly has staff writers host these threads.
Recently, they had an obituary writer answer questions about her life and her job.
Although you might not immediately think a Q&A with an obituary writer could be an effective way to market your news publication, Redditors engaged in the thread and asked a number of interesting questions.
Because The Economist does this regularly, Redditors can get an inside look at what motivates the publication’s writers. After reading a few of these, users might relate to and trust The Economist’s writers. Because of this trust, they might look to this paper when they’re in search of a credible source.
The publication highlights a wide range of writers, users could also learn a little bit more about why each section can be fascinating.
For example, someone who’s never read the obituary section of a paper might want to take a look at it after learning about some of the unique life stories covered by the writer.
Using Reddit’s streaming feature, Audi posted AMAs with a visual twist. In a series of live streams, celebrities sped around in Audi’s newest car on a test track. As they hit high speeds, the celebrities answered questions from Redditors.
While most AMAs are text-based, Audi leveraged one of the platform’s new features to do something interesting and unique. Although people might not be drawn car brands, or to a thread that uses only text, they might be interested in watching an action-packed celebrity AMA.
If you aren’t on Reddit but want to show your product in action, you could do something similar by having a leader of your company or an influencer in your industry do a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram live video where they take comment-based questions while using that item.
To promote the launch of its BFR rocket, SpaceX had CEO Elon Musk host an AMA. Not only is Musk a chief officer who’s extremely knowledgeable about his product, but he’s also a major tech-industry thought leader.
Rather than posting this thread on a SpaceX subreddit, it was actually hosted on a broad subreddit called r/space.
This can be a great way to gain awareness from all space fans, rather than just Redditors who already follow SpaceX subreddits.
Because he’s regularly in the news for his work with space technology and autonomous vehicles, Musk might be incredibly interesting to people who follow r/space — even if they haven’t heard of him yet.
While you might not have someone of Musk-level fame on your company’s team, this is a good example of how SpaceX identified a subreddit where its biggest possible pool of Reddit fans could be. Then, they contributed to the community in an interesting and engaging way.
If you’re a business that wants to experiment with Reddit, you should consider posting interesting content that ties to your product or brand in a subreddit that’s broad, yet relevant to your brand.
For example, if you’re in the fashion industry, you could have your company’s clothing designer host an AMA in a fashion-related subreddit. Or, if you don’t have a team member who can host an AMA, you could ask a question in a post, such as, “What’s your favorite fall fashion?” and then respond to replies.
Bill Gates is no stranger to Reddit. According to the post screenshotted below, he’s already hosted a number of AMAs on various subreddits.
But, in this same post, he decided to focus less on products or technology and more on his nonprofit foundation. To do this, he posted in the broad r/IAmA subreddit with a blurb about what he was up to with his charity. He also included relevant links that users could click to learn more. Then, he asked Redditors to ask him anything.
Gates does a great job of lightly plugging his foundation so all Redditors will see it and learn more about it before diving into the questions and answers.
Even when AMAs are over and archived, they’re still public and the first post is always at the top. This means that including light, but interesting, information about your mission in this post can be helpful for brand awareness, even after your AMA isn’t live.
In 2014, Nordstrom tweeted that they’d launched a new Nordstrom community. Since then, users have posted on the subreddit to discuss new products, share experiences related to being a Nordstrom employee, and to ask customer-service or product-related questions.
If you’d like to create an online community of fans, Reddit could be a great platform to do that. However, because the platform prioritizes engaging user-generated content, you’ll also want to promote the subreddit on other social platforms as Nordstrom did. Otherwise, you might be relying on users to stumble upon your branded subreddit or search for it on their own.
Because the channel doesn’t feel censored and you see both good and bad comments about products, consumers can do solid research on a product or two before deciding which they should buy.
If you see positive feedback on this subreddit, you might trust it even more and purchase the product knowing that Nordstrom customers would likely bad-talk the product here if it were not good.
Sometimes, brands don’t need to create and grow their own subreddits. If there are enough fans, Redditors will start one. However, even if a brand doesn’t create one, it might still leverage it and contribute content to it.
XboxOne is an example of this. At some point, users created a giant subreddit where they could talk about Xbox games, ask technical questions, and offer pro-tips. But, on a fairly regular basis, XboxOne game developers began to host AMAs on the subreddit. This happened so regularly that a Developer AMAs tab was added to the subreddit’s top navigation.
In this example, Xbox rewards loyal fans with exclusive content and finds a low-hanging-fruit opportunity on a niche platform.
While Reddit isn’t for everyone, the brand realized that many of its die-hard fans were there and had already created hundreds of discussions about its products. Rather than spending time on creating a new subreddit, Xbox reps and developers added to communities that already exist.
If you have a brand or product that is getting a lot of web chatter on any platform, it can be great to chime in and boost discussion about it. This can make your fans feel like you’re accessible to them if they have any questions or feedback.
Additionally, if you join the discussion with a piece of interesting content or a brand-related announcement, fans also might feel like they’re being rewarded for being a great customer. All in all, this might make them more loyal to your brand.
If you’re not planning to make Reddit part of your strategy, you could alternatively pay attention and respond to positive posts or comment threads that discuss your brand on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.
Reddit is still a mystery to many marketers. And, if you don’t have an advertising budget, you’ll need to get creative and strategic to engage audiences.
Right now, the brands that will transition most easily onto the platform are companies that would benefit from community management.
For example, gaming is a major topic on Reddit because gamers are always using to ask for tips, tricks, and cheat codes. Because of this, gaming companies might benefit from joining in on video game discussions with posts or threads that provide value or helpful information.
If you do want to start learning more about the platform by testing a few threads, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
- Don’t post content that feels like an ad or press release. The Reddit community is very quick to down-vote advertise-y posts or mark them as spam.
- This audience will respond more to content that gives them value, even if it’s branded. So, whether you’re creating a tip thread about your product, responding to users, or hosting an AMA, make sure you’re giving Redditors valuable information or interesting content that they’ll upvote or share.
- Identify the best communities for your industry and find unique ways to engage with them. For example, if you sell gardening products, you might want to host an AMA on gardening in an agriculture subreddit.
If you’re still struggling with the platform and have a budget to play with, you could also consider sponsoring a post or buying a more traditional native ad-block.
At the moment, Reddit is still a pretty niche platform, and you should only consider paid content there if your mission or content aligns with Reddit audiences or various subreddits.
However, Reddit ads are starting to gain steam from bigger brands. Because the platform is aiming to improve its marketing features, small to mid-sized businesses might also be able to realistically budget this strategy in the near future.
If Reddit doesn’t feel like the right platform for your marketing strategy, check out this guide to see if any of the newest social media platforms pique your interest.
Originally published Sep 25, 2019 7:00:00 AM, updated September 25 2019