How Marketers Can Use Reddit

by Jacqueline Zenn

Reddit is a site characterized by an ultra-simple user interface that basically consists of links, thumbnail images, and a user policy that prizes anonymity and free speech. Still, Reddit’s potential is often overlooked by marketers.

For those that are unacquainted, Reddit is a social content sharing and news aggregator site. Despite a user base that may initially seem to lean toward the geeky and liberal, Reddit is actually richly varied with thousands of user-created and moderated subreddits that focus on a diverse range of topics, from silly “AdviceAnimal” memes to highly technical scientific discussions.

While it lacks the mainstream recognition of Facebook and Twitter, Reddit is still quite popular, with more than thirty five million unique visitors per month. Celebrities use it to interact with the community for promotional purposes, The Colbert Report and The Daily Show have mentioned it, and it’s even known for hosting the largest Secret Santa program in the world.

While the community takes a strong stance against spam and blatant promotional attempts, there are still ways that marketers can take advantage of the vibrant and dynamic Reddit community. Here’s how.

Subreddits and Market Research

A subreddit is a user-created subsection or subforum of the main Reddit site. Anyone can create a subreddit focused on the topic of their choice, and Reddit users have certainly taken advantage of this, creating thousands of subreddits covering nearly every topic under the sun. As a marketer, the opportunity to observe a community that either fits your specific demographic segment or, in the case of larger brands, is completely devoted to your products, is extremely valuable.

For example, there are subreddits devoted to Coca Cola, Taco Bell, Ford Mustangs, Nike, and the list goes on. The feedback and opinions from Reddit users who are passionate enough to participate in a dedicated community is a great source of consumer insight that can drive R&D as well as future marketing campaigns. In fact, these subreddits often do their own research and share it publicly, such as the demographic survey performed by the users of r/Fittit, the most popular fitness subreddit based on population.

The culture of respect for anonymity on Reddit also plays a key role in the community. People are more honest when they know their privacy is valued and protected. Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networks, these postings will never be tied back to a user’s real name, unless they choose to identify themselves. While this is useful in many ways, the level of honesty this creates leads to more accurate and relevant postings.


This subreddit gives users the ability to ask direct questions and receive a wide range of answers from the general community. For marketers, it is essentially a focus group on steroids. The trick is asking questions that aren’t necessarily all about the brand. Instead, ask things that are related to it, like a recent thread that asked fast food employees what menu items should never be ordered. Reading this kind of unbiased perspective may require thick skin, but it’s undoubtedly valuable in regard to understanding consumer feedback.

Giveaways and Freebies

While the typical model of giving bloggers freebies in exchange for coverage would never work on Reddit, analyzing and understanding the pet causes of Reddit, and offering up freebies where appropriate, can do a lot to build love on this cynical but caring site.

A Journalist’s Approach

It’s no secret that journalists regularly read Reddit. You can just look at The Huffington Post or any other big web properties to see where they derive their inspiration. Attempting to get the Reddit community to pick up your content directly is not always the best idea, but popular questions often end up getting a broader distribution throughout the web. That may be the best approach.


Jacqueline Zenn is the director of social media strategy at SociaLogic, a social media marketing firm. Previously, she worked at several leading interactive agencies creating and executing digital strategies.


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