How to Use Reddit to Get Traffic – 6 Stories of Success and Failure

Unless you’ve been living under a giant online rock for the past decade, you must’ve at least heard of Reddit. Whether intentionally or accidentally, there’s a great chance you ended up on one of its pages at some point.

Reddit proudly advertises as “the front page of the internet”, but did you know you could turn it into an important chapter of your own marketing strategy?

What is Reddit?

A social network? A microblogging platform? A link aggregator? None of those? Or all?

Reddit is probably best defined as a community-driven aggregator of content. It features a mix of interesting news, viral links, and social commentary. How to use Reddit like a true redditor?

reddit logo

Reddit users submit posts that other users ‘upvote’ or ‘downvote’ based on whether they like them or not. Posts that get upvoted move up in the rankings, becoming visible to a greater number of visitors, which is a good starting point for Reddit’s marketing potential. Another important point is the actual number of (actively engaged) users.

According to Alexa, Reddit is the fourth most visited website in the US (the first three places, unsurprisingly, being reserved for Google, Youtube, and Facebook) with more than 540 million users. In addition, the bounce rate of just 26% shows that Redditors are highly engaged.

alexa reddit user engagement

If this came as a surprise to you, the fact that the visitors’ average time on site (15:45 at the time of writing) is more than 4 minutes greater than Facebook’s must be a complete shock. But that’s only if you’re not familiar with the Reddit subculture.

Most Reddit pages look like time has stopped in the early 2,000s (a nice throwback to the message boards that were popular back then) – they contain somewhat crude graphics and huge strings of text. Reddit contains over 1.2 million individual communities, called subreddits, ranging from just a couple of subscribers to tens of millions of subscribers. Each subreddit has the following URL structure: https://www.reddit.com/r/subreddit/

reddit top subreddits

As you post comments and links to different subreddits, you build up your own status called Karma. Although it won’t boost your comments any higher than any newbie’s, it’s still a good indicator of your reputation and credibility among fellow redditors. And you’re going to need all the credibility you can get, if you’re to avoid instant karma when advertising on Reddit.

How to Use Reddit in Your Marketing Strategy?

From what we’ve covered so far, it’s clear that there’s a significant marketing potential in Reddit. Still, in order to utilize it (or to use Reddit at all), you have to keep the following Reddiquete in mind (which is, basically, a set of dos and don’ts of how to use Reddit).

Reddit users are particularly allergic to any form of blatant advertising. In fact, there’s an entire subreddit dedicated to outing advertisers, dubbed HailCorporate, which acts as Reddit’s self-proclaimed anti-marketing police.

With that in mind, marketing on Reddit is like stepping through a minefield – one wrong step and you’re gone (or put to shame). So, how to use Reddit to generate leads without getting downvoted into oblivion?

Get to Know Your Audience

If you want to learn how to use Reddit to generate leads, you need to stop thinking like a marketer and start thinking like a redditor. Which leads us to the question – what’s an average redditor like?Long story short, it’s a male American, aged 18-29.

Of course, it’s impossible to generalize in such a way, but certain Reddit demographics, in fact, show that 56% of Reddit users are from the US, 69% are male, while 58% are aged 18-29.

reddit user demographics You also need to realize that Reddit is not just a website – it’s a culture of its own. That being said, Reddit users have their own specific ways of thinking and behavior, use characteristic styles of communication, have certain internal expressions and abbreviations, and so on.

The best way to get to know the habits and behaviors of Reddit users is to be actively using it for months. As we know you probably haven’t got the time for that (unless you’re already a passionate Reddit user), you can check out this Reddit beginner’s guide to get acquainted with the basics.

Choose the Right Subreddit

Some marketers insist that Reddit marketing is 95% research (which, in fact, easily applies to any form of marketing). In addition to identifying your target audience, the brunt of Reddit research comes down to finding the right subreddit for your needs.

reddit marketing

Depending on the strategy you decide to use, you can target specific subreddits in your own niche or popular subreddits with a bunch of users that can relate to your content in some way.

Ideally, you’d like to target a subreddit that has enough viewers, but isn’t too crowded so that your post gets lost in the clutter. But, you may also want to avoid subreddits that are too targeted and don’t receive enough submissions. Or, if you’re confident in the viral potential of your idea, you may choose to create your own.

If you choose a broad subreddit like /r/funny or /r/politics, it’ll be more difficult to stand out from the crowd, while the quality of leads might also be questionable. But, if you succeed in squeezing your topic into one of the broader, traffic-rich subreddits, you may hit the jackpot. Here are some of the most popular subreddits that could have lead-generating potential:

  • /r/IamA – This is the place to introduce yourself to the masses. If you have an interesting background or profession, you can share your story and make people want to find out more about you and your business. Here you can find all kinds of people sharing their stories – from NASA flight directors to former submariners.

The “I’m Just Going to Leave This Sales Pitch Here” Approach

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We’ve all seen it dozens of times. People come to Reddit and post direct sales pitches out of nowhere, expecting to ‘steal’ some of Reddit’s traffic. Sounds like a legit marketing strategy? Not at all.

In most cases, our spammy marketer will first get butchered in the comments, then flagged as spam, and eventually downvoted into oblivion, along with his hopes of generating some leads from Reddit traffic. Rule #1 – Forget about obvious and sleazy sales pitches.

So, how to use Reddit to generate traffic without fearing the retribution?

Become an Active Redditor

To succeed in Reddit marketing, you have to bring your A marketing content game and become a valued Reddit contributor. Forget about the shortcuts, this is the only proven way to redirect some of that Reddit traffic to your website.

In order to earn the trust and achieve credibility in the subreddits you’re targeting, you need to start contributing. You can do so by posting and commenting. In addition to the mentioned ‘reddiquete’, we’ll give you some additional rules you should keep in mind when contributing to the Reddit community:

  • Keep it relevant. You should only post content related to the main topic of the subreddit. Assuming that you have done proper research, you will have found an adequate subreddit for promoting your product or service. Also, make sure to build up some Karma first – don’t let your first few posts be self-promotions.
  • Post only quality content. Bring something valuable to the table and actually contribute to the community. Some types of content work better than others, so you may consider some of the following:
    • Share a personal, heartwarming story that speaks of challenges or overcoming unfavorable odds. For example, Zara founder, Amancio Ortega’s rags-to-riches story would’ve been a good Reddit material. Let’s pretend Zara weren’t already a giant in their field. After reading their story on Reddit, thousands of users would rush to find out more about the brand, many of which would probably become customers at one point.
    • Share an educational story containing certain obscure or unusual facts. The /r/todayilearned subreddit described above might just be a perfect place for this.
  • Host an AMA. AMA stands for ‘Ask Me Anything’. It’s Reddit’s live Q&A format. More importantly, it can generate some serious leads if used correctly. After hosting a successful AMA, one entrepreneur got almost 2,000 unique visitors to his website the same day.
  • Don’t over-promote. Nobody likes spam. If a promotional link brought you a huge traffic influx, do not get it as a signal to instantly post a new one. We know it can be tempting, but don’t get greedy. In fact, some experiences show that you should wait for 2 weeks to a month before posting another promo link to the same subreddit.

Paid Advertising: Reddit Ads

Although the main focus of this article is on how to use Reddit to generate organic traffic, you should know that Reddit offers paid advertising services as well.

reddit ads

Recently, some major brands have been using Reddit Advertising in their marketing campaigns. Google used Reddit to advertise their new Pixel phone, while Toyota earned thousands of comments over their 4 Reddit ads promoting the Rav4 Hybrid model.

Since paid advertisements are not really the main point of this article, you can check out this detailed guide on how to use Reddit ads to generate sales for your business.

The Marketer’s Guide on How to Use Reddit – 6 Stories of Success and Failure

Success Story #1 – Nissan

Big brands are aware of Reddit’s notorious hostility towards advertising, so most of them avoid risking their reputation by attempting Reddit marketing. The Japanese carmaker, Nissan, however, dared to try. But they decided to take an old-fashioned approach to their potential customers – buying their loyalty.

Two Nissan community managers asked redditors for their favorite things on Amazon – and then started buying those for them! Nissan received almost 1,500 comments and ended up gifting the redditors with a long range of items ranging from Reddit Gold (premium membership) to Nexus 10 and 4,500 ladybugs (!?).

Why all the trouble? The occasion was the promotion of their new model, Nissan Versa Note, which became the first car available for purchase on Amazon. They received a really great response and this remains one of the most successful Reddit campaigns ever. They say an image is worth a thousand words, so…

nissan reddit campaign

Success Story #2 – Ford’s Pi Day Campaign

It seems automotive companies just love advertising on Reddit! But Ford had a slightly different approach to Nissan (although it involved ‘buying’ customers as well). What they did was utilize the hype around Pi Day by creating a subreddit named ‘FordPiDayChallenge’.

They used the subreddit to post 42 different math questions with a 3-minutes-and-14-seconds interval between each. The first redditor to answer each question correctly received a full-year Reddit Gold subscription.

ford pi day reddit campaign

 In addition to the great response from redditors, Ford also received additional media coverage, as CBS News and other media recognized their creativity.

Success Story #3 – Beardbrand

Beardbrand is an online company that sells beard care products. More important for our topic, they are an online company that knows how to use Reddit for marketing purposes.

Upon deciding to use Reddit to advertise their products, they went to the r/beards subreddit (unsurprisingly) to start their marketing campaign. Most importantly, they did their research. How exactly? They skimmed through the mentioned subreddit and found a topic of common interest for a lot of Redditors (in this case, it was ‘beard oil’). So, they just started answering their questions and interacted with their comments, with NO links back to their site!

Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 11.00.46 AMIf you take a look at Beardbrand CEO’s profile, you can see how much value he’s provided to the Reddit community (with the Karma of 57,068).

This is a textbook implementation of two of our rules for great Reddit marketing – get to know your audience and contribute valuable content and it set Beardbrand as the gold standard of Reddit marketing.

The co-founder of Snappa also tested this approach (but on a smaller scale) and got 737 visitors and 133 new account sign-ups on the basis of just one Reddit post.

Success Story #4 – John Malkovich’s AMA

Once again, AMA is Reddit’s live Q&A format. We’ve chosen the case of John Malkovich, famous actor and director, but this is basically how most of the celebrities use Reddit for self-promotion (though some have more success than others).

john malkovich reddit ama

What made this story a success? Malkovich included just one promo link at the beginning, thus avoiding being overly promotional, used his distinct sense of humor in the responses, and shared a cool ‘thank you’ video as a follow-up, which was extremely well-received by the community.

Failure Story #1 – Woody Harrelson’s AMA

Everybody loves success stories. They inspire and motivate. But other people’s failure stories can actually be more useful for your own marketing strategy. Why learn from your own mistakes, when you can learn from somebody else’s?

We’ve already shown you an example of a successful celebrity Reddit promotion (John Malkovich’s AMA) – now here’s one that didn’t go as well as expected. In 2012, another actor, Woody Harrelson started an AMA to promote his new movie Rampart.

That was his biggest mistake – it was obvious that he was there ONLY to promote the movie. The problems arose when some redditors started asking questions about movie-unrelated things (like Harrelson’s personal life) and he (or his PR) answered those with “Let’s focus on the film”. This clearly triggered the community so they started posting replies such as:

woody harrelson reddit ama

In addition to insulting both Harrelson and the movie, some users even suggested boycotting the film.

woody harrelson reddit failure

Obviously, this campaign was a complete and utter failure. If you decide to take up Reddit marketing, this is NOT how to use Reddit for self-promotion. Instead of thinking only about your main goal, you have to offer something of real value to the users.

Failure Story #2 – Mindfire Media

Mindfire Media, a web design and digital marketing company, tried advertising on the r/SEO subreddit. Makes perfect sense, right? Not really. The r/SEO subreddit is mainly for people who have some questions about SEO. The mentioned company tried blatantly promoting themselves without offering any value to the readers:

mindfire media reddit failure

The result? The only thing worse than getting completely destroyed in the comments by hostile Redditors is getting totally ignored. No comments. No responses. No upvotes. The fact that no one even bothered to comment resonates stronger than any scornful comment or downvote.

One thing you’ve probably learned from this article is that redditors are extremely passionate about everything. This goes for criticism and praise alike. Hopefully, the second thing you learned is how to use Reddit to leverage the passion of its users in order to generate traffic and improve your overall marketing strategy.

There’s a fair chance you weren’t aware of Reddit’s traffic-generation potential up until now. When it comes to other hidden gems of lead generation (and this is the third thing we’re going to teach you in this article), online quizzes are the next big thing. Why not create your own quiz right now?

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