Risks of Brands on Reddit

Reddit is a rather untapped space for advertising, with many more opportunities for advertisers than there were in the past. However, Reddit is sort of like the wild west of social media. There are (almost) no rules, users are able to stay anonymous, they tend to reject outsiders (especially ones that are trying to sell them something), and few advertisers dare venture into that space. However, as the sixth-most popular website in the world as of April 2018 according to Alexa, Reddit is also sort of an advertiser’s dream. Users are highly engaged, opinionated and extremely diverse. You can find everything from famous TV chefs divulging their secrets to home chefs on r/cooking to endless pictures of dogs with jobs on r/dogswithjobs (If you’ve never checked this one out, do it. You’ll thank me later). Just about all demographics are represented, and advertisers are able to target them based on self-selected interests (also known as the subreddits they subscribe to). While this may seem like California in 1849 – just make your way there and you’ll strike gold – it’s more like a minefield that must be carefully and thoughtfully traversed, or else risking everything blowing up in your face. Here are four things to keep in mind when developing your strategy for Reddit.

1. Redditors don’t typically take well to ads

Redditors are extremely critical and, due to their anonymity, can and will be very vocal with their opinions. Recently, Reddit added native ads to its mobile app that appear within the posts. This went over so poorly with users that a lengthy thread came up on r/assholedesign, with users EXTREMELY upset about these ads. The majority of the complaints focused on being tricked into clicking, as well as just a general dislike for ads, which is the norm these days across social media platforms. However, when done right, the Reddit user base can be a little bit more accepting, if not appreciative. To receive a more positive reaction, the ad must offer the Redditor something of value and be targeted well. For example, an MCC client targeted young engineering students and served an ad that was very relevant to student interests. Know why your audience is on Reddit and, while they’re on Reddit, why they are subscribed to certain subreddits.

2. Proceed with caution: attempting to “fit in” by using memes, buzzwords, Reddit lingo and millennial slang can come across as trying too hard and/or using the content incorrectly.

There’s even a whole subreddit dedicated to this: r/fellowkids. If you try too hard or use a meme/buzzword/lingo incorrectly, Redditors will immediately be on guard, ready to reject the ad simply because they view you as an outsider without even giving the ad’s content a chance. Advertisers are encouraged to “remember the human” and “talk to users with the same tone and language you’d use to talk to a friend” on Reddit’s Advertising Help Center.  However, while the risk here is high, there is great reward if done well. One example of a successful use of Reddit lingo was Toyota’s campaign a few years back in which they posted humorous promoted posts (native ads) with prompts encouraging users to interact directly with the ad in the comments section. Examples of the prompts were “your best lumberjack joke” and “the three people you’d take to Mars.” The prizes for the best answers were very economical for Toyota – just one month of Reddit Gold (Reddit’s premium membership program.)

3. Don’t try to trick the Redditor.

Redditors are smart. They can decode a fake organic post a mile away, so don’t pretend to be a normal Redditor and then just post positive things about your brand as if your brand isn’t the one behind it all. Most Redditors are so hyper-vigilant against these fake organic posts that sometimes even real organic posts about a product or service get downvoted if they seem too much like an advertisement. While it may seem like a good idea to have an account that’s not associated with your brand to post about your product or service, it’s not. So unless you want to end up on r/hailcorporate, I suggest you be honest with Redditors. In fact, many brands simply use their own accounts to increase brand awareness, likeability and trust. One way to accomplish this is through AMAs (ask me anything), where a Redditor (often a celebrity, brand or just a regular person with a unique background/interesting topic) starts a thread where other Redditors are invited to ask them anything they want to. Many brands use this as a way to gain insight into their target markets, discover new markets, clear up any misconceptions about their product/service and provide additional information about their offering. It’s also a great way for a brand to connect with potential and existing users. If you’d like to see a great example, check out this fantastic brand AMA from Ikea.

4. Plan ahead for the comments section.

The nature of Reddit is not just about posting content, it’s about posting that content and then engaging with other Redditors in interactive discussion regarding that content. And while enabling comments is optional, it is an excellent opportunity to engage with such a passionate, influential and opinionated group of people regarding your product or service. However, the risk lies in that there is no control over what Redditors will say, just like with any other social media. However, because they are able to remain anonymous, Redditors tend to be very vocal about their opinions, especially negative ones.  When implemented correctly and when armed with a solid response strategy, enabling comments can be very empowering to your brand. By responding to comments, you are able to answer questions, provide additional information, help diffuse any negative feedback and possibly even turn negative feedback into a positive encounter. Through this, you are giving your brand a voice and helping it to remain human, as well as increasing brand favorability.

While Reddit may seem intimidating at first to an advertiser, keep in mind that the reward can greatly outweigh the risks. If you’re not sure about where to start, feel free to contact me. As MCC’s resident Reddit expert, I can provide thoughtful insight and guidance to navigate this minefield!

Laurin is a part of the digital campaigns team at MCC and helps implement, analyze and optimize digital media programs for clients. Prior to MCC, Laurin graduated from Baylor with a bachelor of business administration in marketing. Although born in Houston, Laurin moved to Dallas as fast as she could. She enjoys being outside, watching Baylor sports and attending live music shows.

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