Reddit has cheap traffic. It has tons of very targeted ad inventory.
Based on stats alone, it should be a marketer’s dream…but marketers (still) aren’t really showing up like you’d expect. There are a lot of reasons for this – from it’s raucous and controversial reputation to its ugly interface to its odd subculture. It’s also not a safe, censored, walled garden like Facebook, and doesn’t have the mass culture buzz of Twitter. You may think advertising on Reddit is an uphill battle and not worth it – just like all too many of the advertisers out there.
Editor’s Note – This post was originally published in 2013 and was completely revised in 2018 (though most of what was true in 2013 about Reddit still is). Enjoy!
The fact that so many advertisers ignore Reddit represents a huge opportunity. Reddit is a wide-open platform for advertisers willing to spend time doing Reddit advertising correctly.
That’s because (compared to Google Ads or Facebook Ads) no one knows how to advertise on Reddit.
And often the advertisers who think they know how to advertise on Reddit… don’t actually know how to do it well (and often end up hurting their brands in the process). Back in 2013,The Atlantic & HubSpot wrote about this issue….and it’s even more true today in a world of Fake News, bot networks, tracking pixels, ad blocking, an new advertising options.
With everyone else failing on or ignoring the opportunity – those who can do it well stand to benefit even more. Reddit needs advertisers – and is working to make their ad platform even better. They did a huge redesign in 2018 with new tools, and they are continually improving. And the audience keeps growing month after month.
Now again, there are still no shortcuts to Reddit. The businesses that succeed are the ones who will do research, read the full manual, run test campaigns and scale up appropriately.
I did my first Reddit ad campaign back in 2013. I’ve never become or claim to be an “expert” but I do repeatedly go back to the platform for my properties and clients for targeted campaigns.
Here’s a walk-through of best practices on how to set up your campaign, my experience with a short, targeted campaign (skip to my experience), and some ideas that I’d love to see other advertisers test and report on (skip to Reddit ideas) plus some next steps for how you can try Reddit out now.
How To Advertise on Reddit
Here are the best practices and steps that I walked through before running my Reddit advertisement (or “promotion” in Reddit jargon).
1. Understand the opportunity and downsides
Reddit is a site where people submit links (to a specific subreddit that pertains to a certain topic, such as “Gaming”) and users vote it up or down.
A submission receives more visibility if it receives more upvotes than downvotes, and can receive even more if it rapidly gets more upvotes in comparison to downvotes.
Every Reddit user also has a “Front Page” – which is the top posts at any given moment from all their subscribed subreddits. The Front Page of Reddit is known as the “Front Page of The Internet” because the pieces of content that get shared and circulate around the Internet are often first found and shared from the Front Page.
Your opportunity to advertise on Reddit is to pay to have the top post/link spot on any given subreddit (or the Front Page).
The big opportunity of Reddit is that there are subreddits organized around every conceivable topic and interest. Every. Conceivable. Topic.
Not only is the targeting amazing – but Redditors are known as the tastemakers of the Internet and some of the most influential opinions online.
Want to advertise to golfers? Forget trying to guess with Google Ads. Go advertise on the /r/golf subreddit where people are actively talking about golf, like this:
That’s the opportunity – lots of targeted, potentially influential pageviews.
But there are potential issues that can be a major downside or opportunity depending on your outlook.
Redditors have a well-known and active disdain for marketers and advertisers. They are very, very opinionated, and they are very culturally aware and often highly conscious about products and companies.
If your product is awful or if you are a direct-response, sales-driven type – then Reddit is not going to be a good fit for you.
The Oatmeal has a great comic here that lays the ground rules of how to advertise on Reddit. So if you want a cheap, valuable way to get exposure and get in front of a very interested audience – let’s move on to the basics of how to advertise on Reddit.
2. Understand the basics
Here’s what you’re buying.
It’s unobtrusive, but it’s also the top post on the subreddit you’re advertising on – which dovetails into what you’re really buying – a Reddit post that will instantly be at the top (ie, you should write the ad like a Reddit post, which we’ll get to in a second).
Reddit has a full list of FAQs over here. But the basic rules are – just be cool. No weird redirects, no misleading headlines, no rush (it takes 48 hours for ad approval), no targeting multiple subreddits at the same time.
You run a “campaign” which is 1 promotion on 1 subreddit (or the Front Page) for a set amount of time.
Plus, unlike Facebook where you are advertising to people who are might “like” your topic…but might not be interested at the moment, advertising on a subreddit allows you to get in front of people who are not only interested in a topic but who are also actively thinking about that topic when they see your ad.
It’s a happy midpoint between Google Ads that have maximum intent to buy…but are very expensive and Facebook ads that are cheap but may or may not have intent at the moment. In my mind, Reddit sits squarely with Pinterest and LinkedIn in that you can assume that even though your audience might not be looking for you they are interested in your stuff in general at that moment.
In other words, I might be generally interested in hiking and interested in a camping equipment special. But, I’m not open to buying equipment all the time – usually only in the weeks preceding a hike. With Facebook interest targeting, you may or may not hit that window.
However, with an ad on /r/WildernessBackpacking, you’ll get in front of me when I’m actively researching a trip.
The Dashboard does provide CPC stats and a CSV export for analysis. Minimum budget for a campaign is $5 up to $9,999.
3. Set up an advertising account
Don’t run a campaign with your personal Reddit handle. You should use a new username because it allows you to keep business and personal personas separate. People can click on your username to see what you’ve been viewing and upvoting while logged in, plus you’ll be using that username to interact with comments on your ad.
So go get a new username (get one here) to run your campaigns with. Don’t make it weird – preferably make it transparent since anecdotally Redditors have become allergic to affiliates running branded ads. So, in my opinion, it helps to have an extra aura of transparency and legitimacy.
4. Find your audience
Unless you are a blockbuster movie or an agency for Nike trying to “maximize spend” – don’t advertise on the Front Page. It may be cheap – but it won’t be targeted at all. Redditors go to the Front Page looking for something, anything crazy, funny, or interesting to click on, so you will quickly go through the budget without a ton to show for it.
Redditors go to subreddits though to find things on specific topics. It’s on subreddits that you’ll get a chance to get exposure to a very specific, involved (and often influential) audience.
The problem is that you have to find them – and hit 3 criteria to create a good campaign.
- You have to find the topically correct subreddit
- The subreddit has to have enough pageviews to meet the minimum spend
- The subreddit has to be small enough to be relevant
Finding the topically correct subreddit
Subreddits can be created by anyone about anything. They have no naming conventions, and create a huge universe of communities. It can be daunting to browse and sort.
What I would not do is use only bundles or 3rd party tools. They can help do general sorting, but you’ll still need to use some human judgement. When in doubt with Reddit advertising – always go for more custom or more researched option.
In addition, Reddit is in many ways a microcosm of the Internet…and has all the not so cool stuff that exists on the Internet in general which automated processes have a hard time sifting. If you try to automate the process…you might end up somewhere you don’t want to be.
Reddit has a quirky culture and a lot of inside jokes that matter to advertisers. For example, /r/BigSEO is *very* different than /r/seo. The /r/trees subreddit is dedicated to marijuana while /r/marijuanaenthusiasts is dedicated to trees and forestry.
Don’t ask me why – just do your research and don’t make assumptions.
Instead – complement the tools with general Reddit searches and follow the links. Nearly all subreddits link to other subreddits, and recommend other communities. With search, you’ll quickly find the big ones – like /r/technology – but will be able to click and dig up a few communities that look interesting.
Like any marketing campaign, the extra bit of leg work and planning is what will really set your campaign up for success.
The subreddit has to have enough pageviews in order to run promotions.
You can also use some of Reddit’s “interest bundles” that will pull several with enough inventory for you.
A campaign has a minimum spend of $5 – and costs $0.75 per thousand pageviews. You can purchase up to 3 months out.
What this means is that you have to find a subreddit that will have 6,600 pageviews over the course of 3 months to run a campaign on it.
You never really know until you go to set up your campaign if a small subreddit can pass minimum muster – but you can take note of the stat found on the right sidebar of all subreddits – “### of users here now”
To get 6,600 pageviews in 3 months – a subreddit will need 73 visits per day. If there’s only 5 users lurking on the subreddit – it’s not going to make minimum. I’d make sure a subreddit has at least a couple dozen users online at any given moment to make your shortlist – or more than 5,000 subscribers (ie, subscribers don’t necessarily visit every day).
Make a list of subreddits that you’d want to run a campaign on
Make a note about what types of posts show up on each subreddit. Note the phrasing of posts that perform well. Note the expertise, skill level, and overall knowledge of the posts. For example, the /r/technology subreddit links to several tech support subreddits. Each caters to either a specific type of platform – or a certain skill level.
If you’re running a contest to win a new desktop gaming motherboard, then you will not want to advertise on a subreddit with beginners getting help on basic computer issues.
Would your advertisement fit? Just because a subreddit covers your topic doesn’t mean that the audience is your target audience. Note the questions and responses to get an idea of fit. Sometimes a subreddit will be purely questions and answers – and no submissions of outside content. You can look at the upvote count to the left of each post to get a sense of what types of posts do well.
Once you have all that figured out – you can go and create your campaign.
5. Set up Your Campaign
Reddit has dramatically improved their self-serve ad platform since 2013. It’s straightforward and user-friendly. Here’s how I set up a small test campaign for this post.
Start by visiting Reddit Advertising. Click on Create an Ad.
You’ll be sent directly to the create new promotion screen. Follow all the instructions.