Possibly the largest group of self-contained communities on the Internet, it can be seen as a microcosm of the Internet in itself. It has its own lingo, its own inside jokes, its own history. Its special class of geeky, socially inept, smug, arrogant, yet revered users are called “neckbeards”, while everyone else are just called “Redditors”.
It’s possibly the Internet’s greatest spawning ground of memes — only the dirtier, more underground imageboard “4chan” has as much influence in the subculture-sphere. It is, in fact, one of the most popular and heavily trafficked (not to mention plain old fun) websites in the world. And it’s one of the most powerful content marketing platforms you’ve (quite possibly) never heard of.
Reddit.com, dubbed “The Front Page of the Internet”, with a global rank of nine on Alexa (as of May 2017), is now officially one of the top ten websites in the entire world. In the US, it’s ranked four, putting it behind only Google, YouTube, and Facebook — and yet, mysteriously, so many in the general public seem to have no idea about it, and even fewer have considered how to generate traffic by leveraging the power of its user base — the subscribers to its individual communities known as “subreddits”.
The Essence of Reddit
Reddit is essentially a collection of communities known as “subreddits”, each with their own URL underneath reddit.com, such as https://reddit.com/r/economics, each of which contains a collection of user-generated content posted by the subscribers of these communities. It is basically a news aggregator: users can submit either links to another website or to their own original (or sometimes plagiarized) content. Original content is either a paragraph of text or an image. Each outbound link or original content posting also contains its own discussion thread.
The Power of Reddit
The true power of Reddit is in the passion and seriousness of its communities, as well as the combined intellect of each community’s top members, sometimes endearingly referred to as “the hive mind”.
Take the aforementioned /r/Economics subreddit: some of the most knowledgeable people who are either economics hobbyists or professionals participate here. Among its members are top economics professors, authors, and maybe even a celebrity or two. And of course thousands of anonymous, unknown, economics nerds who love talking econ contribute as well. If something major happened in the field of economics, it would inevitably appear in /r/Economics.
If it’s not on Reddit, it’s not top news. And — for a direct example based on the point of this article — if you had just released a new economics publication, and you didn’t post about it on /r/Economics, guess who you’re ignoring?
Step 1: Discovering Great Subreddits
In order to market great content to the best subreddits, you’ll need to know how to find them first, but before I discuss the great subreddits, allow me to mention the not-so-great, ultra popular ones: those which are usually juvenile or generic, and which are the reason why many serious people overlook Reddit. They simply were given the wrong impression about its value and assume that the entire website is of the same ilk.
Take /r/pics: it has over 16 million subscribers, and all of its posts are just random images. The highest ranking images are either very funny, politically charged, or a combination of both. There is no order to the images, and there is no targeted community of passionate people here to market to or get informed by.
To add to this noise, the “default subreddits” (the subreddits that are always shown at the top of the home page), which include “/r/AskReddit”, “/r/WorldNews”, “/r/funny”, and many more, are mostly all just like “/r/pics” — They are the voids of Reddit, cesspools for glazed-over users killing time and boredom by looking at random popularized content. These pits of insipid vapidity are what obscure Reddit’s true power: the treasure trove of specific topical subreddits full of serious and passionate contributors, such as /r/Economics mentioned earlier.
Other great subreddits include, but are most definitely not limited to, /r/Photography (357,000 + passionate photographers), /r/Economics (320,000 + economists), and /r/Japan (85,000 + passionate Japanese fans, expats, and citizens), and there are subreddits for almost every popular country or city as well.
Sometimes there is a whole class of subreddits which form entire subcultures. One of the greatest of these is the “sfwporn” network, and no, this is not regular porn, this is “SFW” (safe for work) porn! It’s basically collections of the most awesome imagery related to any geeky or nerdy field that would make any such nerds passionate about those fields wet themselves.
For instance, look at /r/EngineeringPorn (94,000 + engineers). The engineering marvels contained within definitely cause regular spasms of joy. But be sure that the single greatest SFWPorn subreddit is /r/EarthPorn, a community of 13 million + people who are all into wonderful, full screen, high-def images of the most amazing nature shots on earth! Take a look, and be prepared to lose a lot of time downloading your newest gorgeous desktop wallpapers.
And here’s the official SFWPorn subreddit list: /r/sfwpornnetwork/wiki/network — Enjoy 😉
How to Find New Subreddits
OK, I’m a long-time Redditor, but even I don’t know all the subreddits worthy of consideration. Only the thickest, mangiest of neckbeards would even come close to having memorized all of them while still keeping tabs on all the newest ones to see which of those grow and evolve into new communities. So let’s talk about how to find great new subreddits, a prime step in making Reddit a part of your content marketing arsenal.
The Random Subreddit
There is a very tiny link on the top bar labeled “random”, and it’s exactly what it implies. It links to a special subreddit at /r/random, which simply redirects to a totally random subreddit. I just clicked on it and got taken to /r/Vermont, a network of 7,000+ Vermonters.
Sometimes the random link takes you to one of those aforementioned time-wasting voids. I just got teleported over to /r/CatastrophicFailure. Must… resist… the urge… to spend 3 hours… looking at animated gifs… of the most epic catastrophic failures of all time… AAARRGHH!!! Indeed, it will be up to you to become proficient at detecting which subreddits are time sinks and which are full of quality content and have value to your marketing strategy — those that are frequented by passionate and intelligent community members who appreciate relevant, useful, and interesting content applicable to their interests.
Every subreddit has its all-important sidebar which at the very least displays a count of how many users are subscribed to it. This is the quickest way to find out if a subreddit is popular enough to invest your valuable marketing time into contributing content. And usually the sidebar will also contain rules of etiquette (which you should always follow), and a list of related subreddits — another way to find great communities and topics.
A typical looking sidebar. Note: Sometimes the sidebar can change its appearance drastically due to custom CSS styles applied to a particular subreddit
Searching for Subreddits
Googling for “best subreddits” or anything similar to that will likely turn up hours worth of links. Here’s a “best weird subreddits” article from Popular Mechanics, and a pretty good list of “best subreddits” from Digital Trends. There’s also dynamic subreddit aggregators such as redditlist.com, where you might find a hidden gem with your sharp eye. Beware of articles that simply rehash the default subreddits. If you go this route, always try to find lists and articles of little known but popular subreddits.
Step 2: Discovering The Best Content in each Subreddit
Now that you know how to find great subreddits to market your content to, you need to know how to find the best content within these subreddits. As a savvy content marketer you want to find the best content in order to gain a feel of what the community you’re targeting appreciates. You should always submit content to Reddit that you feel could become a top post. You should never submit irrelevant, contrived, badly written, or spammy content.
Sorting by Top Posts of all Time
The single most important function on Reddit is “sort by top posts” and then to specify “of all time”. This reveals the most popular, relevant, successful, and winning posts that were ever submitted to the subreddit you’re looking at.
For instance, the current number two top-ranked post in /r/Economics has the headline “Cost of U.S. Healthcare now 800% higher per person than it was in 1960, even when adjusted for inflation”. Now you know the subscribers here are interested in topics such as inflation and historical price comparisons, for example.
When you find commonalities between the type of content you want to post and the type of content that is popular in the subreddit you want to market to, you are on the right track to success.
Sorting by top posts, Step 1: Click on “top”. Note: The exact look and placement of this button may vary among different subreddits if they have custom CSS styles applied.
Sorting by top posts, Step 2: Choose “all time”. Note: The exact look and placement of the dropdown may vary among different subreddits if they have custom CSS styles applied.
KEY THING TO DO: Revisit and Sort by Top
Now that you’ve learned to sort by the top posts of all time, you’ll want to go back to every subreddit I’ve mentioned in this article and view them accordingly.
Here’s a handy list of links that direct to the best I mentioned earlier, sorted by the top of all time:
Note that some subreddits, like EarthPorn, are bombarded so often with high-quality content that the top of all time posts might be just as good as the most current posts at any given time. But as a general rule of thumb, sorting by the top of all time is the definite way to view the best content.
Every post on Reddit has an accompanying discussion thread, and the comments are already automatically sorted by “best”, which uncannily moves the most intelligent, thoughtful, and accurate comments to the top of the pile, pretty much infallibly.
Here’s a link to the comments in a top EarthPorn post. View the “Behind the Scenes” section below to get more insight on how this magic works.
Viewing the comments: click the comments link associated with any post to view them. Note that they’ll automatically be sorted by “best [of all time]”. If you recently submitted a comment to a popular thread, you may need to sort by “new” to see it.
Step 3: Planning Your Content Marketing Strategy
For example, let’s say you’re running content marketing for camera company (or something photography related).
If you’re marketing a new camera or new photography product only to the 357,000 people on /r/Photography, then you’re missing out on potentially 13 million more people on EarthPorn, which is essentially another photography community.
A great marketer of photography, therefore, would then have a list of every photography related subreddit and would know how to post a relevant image or story on each of those subreddits, in the right way so that the members of each community would both appreciate the post and see an appropriate, relevant, non-spammy link back to the source of the post. For instance, a news story about a new camera would be posted on the photography subreddit, and an actual beautiful, high-resolution nature shot taken with that camera would be posted to EarthPorn.
Here’s a direct example: A major corporation like Canon might not care about getting on Reddit, but a publication such as Digital Photography Review might definitely write a review on the latest Canon camera the minute it’s available, then post a link to their review on /r/Photography to generate traffic to their publication.
If the DP Review marketing guys were smart, they’d also take an amazing nature photo with the new camera, and post that photo to /r/EarthPorn, with a mention and link back to their review along with the photo. They might head over to /r/WaterPorn as well, which only has 67,000+ subscribers, but still worth submitting a beautiful water shot to with a link back to the same review.
Here’s the result of a Google search for “photography subreddits”. A marketing ninja master would determine what type of quality post would be suitable for all of the subreddits listed within (with at least a few thousand subscribers), and submit the content to each with a link back to the review, or, if a link to the review or a related photograph isn’t appropriate for the subreddit, then a new piece of content that is appropriate for it, and, of course, a link to that content which should be contained within the publication and still generates traffic for the website.
Remember, it’s key that you focus your Reddit efforts on posting the most amazing content you can find in your niche. And it shouldn’t all be from your site! Build up your karma and become a valuable contributor to your subreddits.
Creating Your Reddit User Account(s)
Finally, to post content on Reddit, you need a free user account (You don’t even need an email address to create an account!). There are no business or “pro” accounts, but if you’re concerned about representing your official business or brand, you can make an account with a name like “official_my_business_name”.
Once you’ve created your user account you must allow your account to mature into a “verified” account. There is no official verification process, but rather general statistics that both the Reddit algorithms use to determine which accounts are real or fake and that other Redditors use to decide which users are acceptable or which are spammers.
One of these measurements is that for every few posts you submit (not of your own content), you can then post your own content. If you violate this rule, when other redditors check your posting history and see that you are only self promoting your own content, you’ll then be much more likely to get downvoted to oblivion by these more serious redditors / neckbeards (aka power users). This is similar to how Wikipedia has a small base of power users that constantly check for fake content, typos or mistakes, corrects them, and bans offending accounts / IPs from using Wikipedia.
Verifying Your Account
You’ll need to sign up to Reddit and then make sure your new account has the following:
- Several submissions (quality links or good original content) — and not to your own website!
- A few hundred “karma” points (which are your account’s cumulative upvotes)
- Several good (upvoted) comments on other people’s posts
- 3+ weeks of age
One controversial topic is this: What if you truly take the time to create TEN new Reddit accounts, each on a different IP address and using Tor to disguise the origin of your Internet connection so that Reddit couldn’t detect that you created all ten accounts from the same computer? You then allow all 10 accounts to age a few weeks and submit comments and posts as described above. Now you’ll have ten separate user accounts that you can use to jumpstart all of your posts with upvotes (from your nine other accounts). If Reddit detects you are the owner of these accounts then ALL of them will get banned. But if not, and you really took the time to let these accounts mature and become “verified”, could that be seen as an honest-to-god resource that you built and cultivated with serious work that would then validate the benefit of always having 10 upvotes to jumpstart all of your posts (that need jumpstarting) with? Feel free to comment on this; I’d love to hear your opinions!
I won’t go too much into the use of multiple accounts here, as that’s often considered “evil” and cheating, but take note that the founders of Reddit themselves created their own fake accounts at the very beginning to create the impression of popularity. View the story here. You can even see companies that sell upvotes hawking their services on a Quora post about this, here. I won’t link directly to the upvote-selling company in this article, but perhaps they created hundreds of fake user accounts as theorized above.
When to Post
Knowing when to post is almost as important as knowing what to post on all sorts of websites (even Craigslist), and Reddit it no exception. Here’s a handy tool that helps you determine when is the best time to post to your subreddit.
Some subreddits allow you to add “flair” to your posts or to your username which is always good to do if available. Here’s a quick instruction. Flair is not important to Reddit marketing tactics but it is useful to highlight your posts (and your user account) as a real account and gain a little bit more respect or consideration from other redditors.
There are two types of flair — linkflair and userflair, and both types are only available on a per-subreddit basis, in those subreddits which their moderators (creators) have made them available. Jay Neely describes them well in his Quora answer here. Be sure to check the sidebar of every subreddit you’re a part of to see if userflair is available there. Linkflair, on the other hand, is available after you post something (look for the flair link in the list of options below your posted content).
The Reddit Hug of Death
Let’s assume you just created one real user account. Once you begin investing your valuable time submitting content to Reddit, you’ll soon feel the same frustration that so many others do who walk this arduous yet ultimately rewarding path, especially in the beginning of your career. It happens when either your posts receive attention yet fail to ever climb up the ranks to hit the front page, even for one lousy day, or when a seemingly well written and crafted piece of content gets downvoted by many members of the community.
Well, it happens. But persistence always wins over time! In fact, there’s a term for what happens when a post on Reddit generates so much traffic to your website that it goes down: “The Reddit Hug of Death”. To avoid that problem, you’ll want to make sure your web hosting provider is equipped to deal with large surges of traffic. Have your site and / or your images hosted on a scalable system like AWS, and use a CDN (Content Delivery Network) to serve your images and other static content. This
Of course, it’s also useful to understand how Reddit works behind the scenes…
Enter the Reddit Sorting Algorithms
The engine that powers Reddit became open source in 2008, and its inner workings can be examined freely. The weighting mechanism that determines the ranking of a post includes a logarithmic function which ensures that the first “upvote” a post receives (Reddit’s form of a “like”) is as valuable as the next 10 upvotes, and the first 10 upvotes are as valuable as the next 100 upvotes. This helps to ensure several things, including making it difficult to manipulate posts by upvoting them with fake accounts.
The comment sorting algorithm is so powerful and accurate that it’s a wonder and a shame that it’s not used other websites. For instance, comments (reviews) for products on Amazon are sorted using a naive and basic sorting function. The entirety of comments on the web should be sortable using Reddit’s algorithm.
Reddit’s sorting magically puts the best comments on top. Most of the rest of the entire Internet uses very basic, dumb, “good enough” sorting.
For more information on Reddit’s algorithms, take a look at Amir Salihefendic’s breakdown here.
Additional Information, Tools, and Resources
There’s a lot more about Reddit to learn that’s not directly applicable to this article, such as:
- The best iOS Reddit browser: Alien Blue! 😉
- Other Reddit mainstays such as AMAs and iAMAs (“Ask Me Anything” and “I Am A…”)
- And much more! Check it all out on Wikipedia 🙂
- Also, the history of Reddit vs. Digg is almost required reading for anyone who wants to be fully educated about Reddit: Read about it here.
Reddit is the fourth largest website in the US and the ninth in the world. It’s the largest platform of aggregated content and viral marketing on the Internet. It is definitely worth the time to learn all about the site and spend the time necessary to create a real, “verified” user account and start submitting relevant, non-spammy content to the appropriate subreddits.
It should become a part of your marketing strategy and something you do every day, depending on how much content you have. It’s a completely natural and fun way to generate traffic that can often beat SEO, PPC, and other social media marketing techniques. Investing time into Reddit will ultimately pay off. Good luck!
About the Author: Carlos Augusto formerly a pioneer developer for some of the original companies that sculpted the web including Boingo, MySpace, Napster, and DIRECTV, I now apply myself to helping people maximize the impact of their marketing online. I seek to extract passion and creativity from everything I write, everything I produce. More at carlosaugusto.net