As a PR pro, should you Reddit?
Move over Facebook – Reddit is here to stay. The online platform that bills itself as “the front page of the internet” now has 330 million unique users – just as many as Twitter – and according to Alexa, the platform is the eighteenth most visited site in the world and the fifth most visited website in the US after Google, YouTube, Facebook and Amazon. In June this year, Reddit even overtook Facebook for a brief period. Reddit is also gaining popularity in Europe, for example in the UK where it’s the tenth most visited website right after Twitter. In Germany, Reddit currently ranks as the 26th most popular website. However, what is even more relevant is the very high engagement rate Reddit has. According to Alexa, such rates as measured in ‘daily time on site’ is similar to that of porn and double the rate of bild.de, a highly popular German tabloid.
So, Reddit continues to increase its global reach and already has phenomenal engagement rates. But, many PR pros shy away from proactively incorporating the platform into their research, outreach and campaign activities. Read on to learn if Reddit could be an effective channel for you.
What exactly is Reddit?
Reddit is a site that allows its users, so-called Redditors, to submit posts via a bulletin board system. At first sight, Reddit might look rather confusing and contextless but there is actually a structural approach behind the ‘mess’. Reddit entries are organised into thousands of smaller groups – subreddits – which focus on specific topics and angles of discussions. There’s a subreddit for science, for music and many other topics. According to Reddit Metrics, there are currently a global total of 1,209,754 active subreddits with even more being added every day.
Active Reddit users receive ‘post karma’ for submitting posts and ‘comment karma’ for submitting comments. They get more karma when their posts are upvoted, as karma reflects how much good the user has done for the Reddit community. Apart from submitting posts, users may upvote posts they find interesting or downvote posts which they don’t enjoy. And then there is Reddit Gold, which is a premium membership program that you can pay for or which can be gifted to you by other users. Reddit Gold gives you access to special features on the site such as the possibility to turn off ads or to change the appearance of your Reddit view through themes.
When using Reddit for the first time, PR pros might come across a variety of terms and abbreviations used by Redditors – such as AMA which is an interview format that stands for “Ask Me Anything”. You can find a complete list of all Reddit terms here.
Who uses Reddit?
40% of Reddit’s global users are in the US, 7% in the U.K., 6% in Canada and 3% in Australia. That said, Reddit is growing in popularity in other EU countries, including Germany, which as of now contributes about 3% of Reddit’s total population.
Reddit’s users tend to be more well-educated as compared to users of other social networks. It’s reported that 78% of Redditors have a college degree or higher education. Redditors also have more discretionary income, which makes them an ideal audience to market a product to. The average desktop user spends 15 minutes and 47 seconds on Reddit every day – compared to 11 minutes spent on Facebook and 6 minutes spent on Twitter. The majority of users access Reddit via mobile devices: 41% of all time spent on Reddit is resulting from the mobile app. Mobile users also spend 30% more time on Reddit than desktop users.
Reddit vs other social networks?
The most striking difference compared to, for example, a Facebook user is that Redditors are veiled in anonymity. Reddit users create personas and the only thing you typically know about a Redditor is the username and the posting history. While people tend to use social networks such as Facebook and Instagram to stay in touch and connect with their friends and family, Redditors use the platform to keep tabs on their niche interests and have conversations with likeminded people within various subreddits. The anonymity aspect encourages everyone to share their opinion. Each and every comment and post is judged on the same level – no matter who you are – so anyone could become a thought leader on Reddit.
Redditors value honesty, transparency and originality and expect users, including organisations, to follow these rules. Redditors tend to be protective of their community – and critical of promotional posts. Like other social networks, Reddit offers an advertising programme. But sponsored posts or promotional banners are clearly indicated and other ‘hidden’ promotional efforts are quickly discovered and downvoted by the Reddit community. As such, PR professionals will have to exercise caution when posting about their clients on Reddit. More on this later…
How are journalists using Reddit?
Journalists have been using Reddit for years – mainly for research as well as a sounding board for ideas – but newsrooms and publishers struggled with the platform. Since Redditors dislike blunt promotional activities, the site cannot be used as just another traffic channel. “This isn’t a traffic play; it’s an engagement play,” said Gene Park, the Washington Post’s social media editor and a long time Redditor. “So the strategy includes inserting ourselves into comments under stories that are posted.”
Journalists have also been using Reddit as a source for gathering news for a while but the platform has not always been properly credited. In 2017, The Huffington Post, for example, was banned from Reddit for sourcing news from the site without giving credit to the source.
How are PR professionals using Reddit?
There are plenty of marketing and PR professionals who already use Reddit for content discovery, influencer identification, research and advertising. Redditors regularly share trending pieces of news and events which can be integrated into campaigns and content. The nature of subreddits also enables PR pros to segment and target relevant audiences.
The easiest, most straightforward way of promoting a brand or product on Reddit is using sponsored posts that will appear on different subreddits. Redditors can also comment on your ad. The recently launched peer-to-peer real-time chat enables brands to potentially reach out and interact with users directly. If you’re a PR pro who’s helping your client to gather feedback on a product or service, you know where to go.
Relevant subreddits for PR pros
While many of the subreddits available on Reddit might not necessarily be relevant for PR pros, there will be a lot of subreddits that they can leverage for their activities.
First up, there’s r/AMA, which stands for “Ask Me Anything”. AMAs are interview sessions where Redditors go to open themselves up to questions from other users. Plenty of CEOs, founders and other notable figures, e.g. Barack Obama, have taken the stage to speak about themselves, their business and answer questions from Reddit users. The German equivalent, r/de_IAmA, is one of the most popular German-language subreddits with over 300,000 subscribers currently.
There’s also r/todayilearned, which is where Redditors post interesting facts they’ve learned. PR professionals may use this subreddit to post intriguing information about their industry or general line of work, although posting something that’s overly promotional is not encouraged.
On r/PublicRelations, PR pros and others interested in the field of PR exchange tips and discuss relevant topics and trends. This can be interesting for PR pros to stay up-to-date, seek help or leverage best practice from other experts.
Reddit even has its own whistleblowing subreddit – r/fakenews – where users point out fake news stories or can do fact checks. This can also be a valuable source of information for PR pros looking to find relevant, true stories to feed to journalists.
Successful examples of PR on Reddit
A while back, Nissan launched a campaign to promote their car ‘Versa Note’, which was the first car that was available to order through Amazon. The team got on Reddit, started asking Redditors what they’d like to order from Amazon and fulfilled those requests as well. For the big reveal, Nissan delivered a boxed Versa Note to one lucky winner. The story made the front page of Reddit, and it got Nissan a great amount of publicity.
Then there’s HTC, which seized their opportunity to reach out to their competitor’s customer. Here’s the backstory: a Redditor’s Samsung phone melted and Samsung promised them a new phone but failed to make good on that promise. When this happened, HTC stepped in and offered a new phone to the Redditor. While this wasn’t an official advertising campaign, it did earn HTC plenty of brownie points from the Reddit community at large. Some, in fact, will argue that this was exceptionally effective because it was an organic, authentic response from the HTC team as opposed to a choreographed campaign.
Challenges of using Reddit for PR and marketing
The Reddit community can respond differently to communication or promotional efforts and PR pros might face these challenges:
#1 – Targeting the right audience
Advertising on Reddit comes with some limitations: Companies located outside the US may only target entire countries as there is no way of honing in on users in specific regions or cities. But targeting the right people on Reddit is not only difficult in terms of advertising. The vast variety of different subreddits can make it difficult for an inexperienced PR person to find relevant subreddits and understand how these communities work and interact.
#2 – Adding actual value and providing relevance
On Reddit, it’s not so much about what PR pros have and want to say but to find content that Redditors will consider as helpful, relevant and interesting. Ideally, anything you post on Reddit or contribute to discussions should add value to the conversation. This could involve offering authentic expertise or pointing out something the community might not have heard of yet. Clever Redditors, typically very protective of their community, will not hesitate to publicly criticise you for simple reposts or obvious acts of promotion.
#3 – Getting downvoted
There’s always the risk of your post or comment rubbing the Reddit community the wrong way and drawing attention to your client’s company for the wrong reasons. For example, a reply from EA to a Reddit user who was complaining about the unlock system of the Stars Wars: Battlefront 2 game is now the most downvoted comment in Reddit history. Following this, Redditors also called on other users to cancel their pre-orders of the game. So, comments or posts on Reddit aren’t always perceived as intended and can easily backfire on your brand.
Guidelines and best practices when using Reddit for PR
To make sure you can leverage Reddit for PR and avoid being exposed to any of the risks associated with it, you should follow these tips:
#1 – Stick to the rules
This will save you a lot of trouble: take your time and make sure you understand the rules and guidelines – the Reddiquette – before you start posting and interacting on Reddit. Each subreddit has its own rules laid out in the sidebar of the subreddit. Reading them will help you understand how each community works, who the main influencers are and what type of content is perceived relevant.
#2 – Observe conversations and learn about your audience
Reddit users are not afraid to talk freely and share their opinion. This is a great opportunity for PR pros to observe conversations and use these insights to learn more about their audience or to collect feedback about their brand and products.
#3 – Be real and not promotional
As a general rule of thumb, you should only post original content to Reddit 10% of the time. The goal is to focus on having conversations with other Redditors, instead of spamming the community with your branded content. Answer questions that Redditors might have and collect karma. Earning more karma on Reddit will help users to trust you and to take your content seriously.
#4 – Avoid downvotes by providing relevance
Also, you should add value whenever you post. Redditors don’t like reposts and useless shares, so always explain a post’s context and give insights about why it’s useful to a subreddit or community. If not, you’ll find yourself getting downvoted quickly! Useful and helpful content and comments will also help you to gain that valuable karma needed to be considered a trustworthy member of the community.
#5 – Gain visibility through AMAs
If done right, AMAs are a great opportunity to promote your brand and increase exposure as people can get to know you and your brand. Keep in mind: the concept of AMAs implies that users really can ask anything – so be prepared to answer fairly random or provocative questions as well. If you ignore them, your AMA can easily turn into a PR disaster as examples like the AMA of Woody Harrelson – referred to as the worst AMA of all time – have shown. Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman PR recommends: “AMAs need to be genuine, engaging, transparent and have sufficient time dedicated to them.”
Measuring the effectiveness of PR efforts on Reddit
If you’re running ads on Reddit, then simply look at your metrics that are provided on your dashboard and use these metrics to determine the effectiveness of your campaign. It’s pretty straightforward.
But, what if you’re simply posting and commenting on subreddits and driving traffic back to your client’s site? Redditors are skeptical when it comes to URL shorteners such as Bitly, so we recommend steering clear of these. Instead, use Google Analytics to keep track of how much traffic your client is getting from Reddit. There are several other tools available that will be helpful to measure the effectiveness of PR efforts on Reddit.
Tools for PR professionals using Reddit
Hootsuite’s Reddit Keyword Monitor allows PR professionals to keep an eye on brand mentions on Reddit. TrackReddit is another tool that many PR pros use to track keywords connected to their brand or product and to identify new, relevant subreddits. Use Ubermetrics to monitor relevant topics and conversation volumes. With tools like SnoopSnoo, you can even analyse individual Redditors in terms of posts, karma and comments which can be helpful to identify influential people on subreddits.
And there are tools like CrowdTangle who established a partnership with Reddit to help journalists and PR pros to find relevant threads from thousands of communities on Reddit and monitor conversations across different subreddits.
Moving forward with Reddit
Reddit used to be dominated by users in the US but it’s now becoming big in the EU as well. As you might imagine, this is extremely promising for PR professionals and marketers who are looking for new avenues to market their clients. At the same time, it’s getting increasingly difficult for PR professionals to promote their clients via other social networks. With Facebook, for example, the organic reach of business pages have practically plummeted to zero. This provides all the more incentive for PR professionals to start exploring other channels and strategies such as Reddit.
Reddit is a great social channel for targeting specific audiences and for observing and understanding what your audience really wants, thinks and needs. By integrating Reddit into their standard toolset, PR pros need to look past the stories they want to tell but instead focus on what their audience wants to hear from them.