You won’t find a harsher place for self-promotion than the ‘front page of the internet’.
As the 31st most highly trafficked website in the world, reddit has huge opportunities for awareness, leads and sales.
You could take advantage of that, if only you knew what you were doing.
Our content promotion team at Process Street sure didn’t. We all learned the hard way that redditors hate their platform being used for reddit marketing. They want value, great content and entertainment on site (so would rather not click through for it). While this seems like a dead-end, we can use it to our advantage.
In this post I’m going to tell you what worked, what didn’t, and exactly what I told the promotion team to turn things around.
It all started when I took a quick look over what’s popular on subreddits (smaller communities within reddit) related to our content, came up with a few successes and found what they had in common.
How others do reddit marketing
There are rules on reddit, both written and unwritten. And the whole thing is complicated by the fact that reddit marketing is a bit of a gray area. To understand properly how to succeed, I found it to be just as simple as looking at what’s doing well on each subreddit and extracting the themes. Now I’m going to analyse 5 posts (4 good, 1 bad), to show you a sample of other user’s successes.
Example #1: Useful Resource List
- Authoritative tone: the writer identifies as a seasoned graphic designer with 10 years of industry knowledge.
- Storytelling: the writers tells a relatable story about accidentally spending money on something which quickly became obsolete.
- Emotion: adjectives like ‘elegant’ and ‘breath taking’ are evocative. Advanced Marketing Institute’s Headline Analyzer, which gives titles higher ratings according to the emotional impact they’re likely to have, gives a shortened version of the title (“50 Elegant Stock Photo and Breath-Taking Video Websites”), 25%. Headlines written by talented copywriters usually rate around 30%.
- Value: above all, the post is valuable. It offers over 50 free stock photo sites. I know about 3, and none of them are that good. I’d be willing to be most people are in the same boat.
Example #2: Offering Help
- Awesome headline: Advanced Marketing Institute’s Headline Analyzer gives it 50% — a ranking reserved for “only the most gifted copywriters”. Coincidence?
- Seems non-promotional: Tobias says ‘No self promotion here’, but of course that would only be possible if he didn’t leave his name in the post (and at the end of every comment!). Like I said, reddit doesn’t like being promoted to, but if you’re sneaky you can get away with it.
- Conversational: The tone is conversational, and very to-the-point. By creating short, impactful content for the body of the post and asking questions, Tobias has attracted 21 comments so far.
- Value: The writer is offering great value for free. Your questions answered by a copywriter, one-to-one.
Example #3: News Announcement
- Important information: This post is a real talking point for SEOs, so by bringing it to the bigseo subreddit the author has started a conversation.
- Value in the post: The poster doesn’t just dump a link, but actually bothers to summarize the key points inside the post so readers don’t have to leave the site to find out what’s going on.
- Concise title: The title tells you exactly what it’s about.
Example #4: Full Guide
- Detailed: This post is over 3,000 words, an amount rarely seen on reddit. Such a huge post could easily be ignored, but it’s easily readable, like a well structured blog post inside reddit with a…
- Great title: The title (42% score on the Headline Analyzer) is fantastic. It gets straight to business and shows the audience the writer is a no-nonsense kind of guy. It’s a not a bunch of tips, it’s a field guide — those well-weathered dependable handbooks that contain hard facts.
- Full text below: With the same no-nonsense attitude, the writer shows that his reddit submission is in no way clickbait-y. Do you think that it’s at the top in italics so it looks like an edit instead of the purpose of the post? Just a theory…
- Reassuring: By brushing off other content as ‘trite’ and saying, ‘just follow these steps and you’ll be fine’, the writer puts us in safe hands and away from other, more poorly written guides.
Example #5: Blind Self Promotion
For every great post, there are a lot more mediocre ones. The ‘new’ page of every subreddit is full of failures, and looking at what they did wrong can be helpful when formulating strategies of our own.
Oh dear… This user didn’t read the rules or post in the right subreddit. The linked content (a shoddy video) was also not ever so valuable. As you can see, the reddit community don’t hold back. And no, /u/illustrationism — I don’t think it is. 🙁
How did we apply these observations to our reddit marketing strategy?
After checking through reddit I drafted a list of observations.
Here’s the note I sent to the team:
1. Just like anywhere that has a degree of content curation (whether it’s just one person sharing what they like, or a democratic voting system like reddit), quality, conversation-starting content is always the most popular.
2. The most consistently popular posts are either big industry news or people asking for advice — while neither of these things are very helpful to us, since we’re essentially writing a short post and trying to get people to click a link, you’ll notice that the news posts (the closest to what we’re posting) often are written conversationally, non-self promotionally and objectively. Check this out. It’s quite similar to what we’re already doing, but he has offered value in the very first instance by, as he says, pulling out a few key points.
This makes it seem like the primary point of the post is not to only get people to click on the link, but to offer something of worth on reddit, too, encouraging people to engage in the comments because it doesn’t seem like a business has just posted this as part of a larger operation, never planning on checking back.
3. While /r/business claims to be the place for the kind of articles we post, these posts (ours and others) are not well received on this subreddit, while posts about big acquisitions, commodities, etc, are.
4. It helps if you actually use reddit for personal interest and enjoyment. Check some subreddits for content not strictly related to work and find out more about the community.
5. Read the reddiquette!
What kind of results did we get after changing our strategy?
I sent that out about two weeks ago and adopting the ‘lurk more‘ attitude really worked! The last 5 posts we’ve submitted over the past two weeks have been the top 5 performing since the very start, with a total of 236 upvotes and 60 comments.
This is a 742.8% increase in upvotes, and a 1400% increase in comments when compared to the previous all-time top 5 best performing posts, which averaged just 5.6 upvotes and 0.8 comments each.
On comparatively small subreddits like Entrepreneur, Social Media, Productivity, Small Business and DotCom, that upvote count is respectable and indicative of a post with plenty of gained traffic. Most of these smaller subreddits see just one post each 24 hour period get more 20-100 upvotes, depending on the exact sub.
I was surprised at how a far a little research went, and most of it is just common sense. The thing is that reddit isn’t Twitter, or anywhere else where links are the main thing shared. In 140 characters, it’s not possible to offer a huge amount of value, but reddit is different. There’s no character limit because the users want on-site value more than anything else. Give users that, they’ll check the link out anyway, if only to say thanks.
How to track your success
Despite reddit’s public API, there aren’t many good solutions for tracking how well your posts do automatically. We’ve been experimenting with workflow automation non-stop, and I found a solution using Google Sheets linked to reddit with Zapier to create an automatically updating report including the number of comments and upvotes.
It’s also possible to feed all reddit comments from a particular username to a Slack channel, so if you’re looking for ways to make the process more measurable then you should definitely check out Zapier.
If you’re happy with checking it manually but want a fast way to do it, you can use reddit’s search operators to find the top or most recent posts from a group of users, like this:
author:username1 OR author:username2 OR author:username3
You can filter the search by relevancy, popularity or recency. Repeating the process once a week will give you an idea of how you’ve improved over time.
Here’s what you need to remember about reddit marketing:
- Submit valuable content inside reddit, not externally
- Learn the most relevant subreddits for your content
- Watch how others post on those subreddits
- Be an active user with your personal account
- Read the reddiquette
- Submit content that provokes conversation
- Set up a system to track your success, or use search operators to do it manaully