Reddit, often overlooked in marketing strategies, boasts over 500 million monthly visitors, and has amassed over 13 billion posts and comments since its creation in 2015.
Ranking as the 3rd most visited website in the U.S., Reddit’s influence is undeniable.
The platform might seem daunting at first glance, with its somewhat outdated design and a comment system that could be streamlined.
But the real value of Reddit lies in its 100,000+ active communities and the commitment of its users–arguably the most passionate on the internet.
The fact that marketers are struggling on Reddit has nothing to do with the lack of opportunities, as 82% of Gen-Z people trust Reddit when learning more about products.
No, this struggle is simply due to one thing:
Reddit is unique and doesn’t play by the same rules as any other platform.
For those new to Reddit, I’ll go through some basics first.
If you’re already a Redditor, just skip through this section because you won’t learn anything new.
Let’s start with the most obvious.
Subreddits, or “subs,” are the equivalent of a community on Reddit.
It’s a system that basically compartments posts under the same topic.
There is a sub for pretty much every topic you can think of (there is even one for photos of bread stapled to trees...).
Each sub, found at reddit.com/r/[subreddit name], has its rules, accessible under the “about” section.
Rules must be followed to avoid post rejection or bans (which can be temporary or indefinite).
Some subs are private; others are open to joining freely.
Moderators, who are Reddit users themselves, set the rules for their subs and moderate the content.
If you’re born in the ‘80s-‘90s, this will sound very similar to the old-school online forums… and it is.
Reddit is basically like a multitude of these forums under one roof, with users able to jump from one forum to another with the click of a button.
What’s important to understand is that each subreddit has its own culture and sometimes rivalries with other subs.
The rule is always to post content relevant to the sub you are in.
If not, this could impact your karma (not your real-life karma, mind you).
The concept of Karma
On Reddit, Karma is essentially your reputation.
You see, Reddit is similar to other social media platforms in that it also provides a feed on each user's homepage.
But this feed doesn't work the way most platforms do.
On Reddit, posts and comments can be upvoted or downvoted.
If you find a post or a comment helpful, you upvote it, which in return gives karma to the owner.
On the contrary, if you dislike something, you can downvote it and penalize the post.
The more a post is upvoted, the higher it ranks in the feed (both in the subreddit and the user's feed).
The relationship between karma and upvotes is not strictly one-to-one (and Reddit keeps it a secret), but what you need to know is that posting and commenting increases your karma, which is very important.
Because some subs have restrictions that state you have to have a certain amount of Karma to join or post.
New users start with zero Karma, which can restrict certain actions.
So, to start and accumulate your first Karma, the best is to do what most Redditors are here for: be helpful and answer existing posts with your comments.
The Reddit community
If you’ve spent any time on Reddit, you might have encountered weird acronyms like AMA.
Reddit, like most online communities, has its own jargon.
OP refers to the “original poster” in a thread, while TIL means “today I learned” and is one of the most common abbreviations you’ll see.
Both IAmA and AMA refer to one of Reddit’s most popular features: The Ask Me Anything thread.
In an AMA, a well-known person, such as former President Barack Obama, or someone with a unique life experience, answers questions from Redditors for a set period of time (after which the conversation is archived but still accessible).
The Reddit community has also recently proven to have real-world impacts.
In one of their most famous stunts, users of r/wallstreetbets managed to take on hedge funds betting against the stock of video game retailer GameStop.
In the space of a few months, Redditors managed to rally millions of small investors to invest in GameStop, increasing the stock's value by 8,000 percent and causing huge losses for the hedge fund that initially shorted GameStop's stock.
More recently, a large number of subs locked their doors in protest at the company’s decision to try to monetize access to its data, resulting in several weeks of power struggle between moderators and the company’s management.
So yes, marketing on Reddit can be a risky game if you don’t play by the rules of the community.
But still, the opportunity is worth it, as long as you genuinely want to participate.
How to do marketing on Reddit
Approaching marketing on Reddit is a delicate thing.
Of course, you can simply take the straight approach and pay to advertise on Reddit.
But in my opinion, this is far from leveraging the real power of the platform.
To market on Reddit, you need to become a Redditor.
And don’t hope to reuse the influencers’ tricks you’ve been learning from LinkedIn.
This won’t help at all here.
Most dedicated Redditors despise influencers and the way social media promotes them.
Self-promotion or link dumping is also heavily penalized by the community, so don’t go on Reddit thinking that you can just unload your promotional links everywhere and call it a day.
This is a sure way to be downvoted or have your comment removed by moderators.
So, if you can’t do that, how are you supposed to do your marketer’s job?
Well, here are a few things to consider:
Reddit is a great place to understand your audience better.
People are constantly asking and answering questions about very specific science-related topics.
Imagine you are working for a company selling chromatography columns.
You could jump on r/CHROMATOGRAPHY/ and see what people are struggling with, in order to develop a better product for them.
Although it's probably a bad idea to post polls directly, you can ask users real questions and expect eye-opening answers, as long as you're not trying to sell them anything directly on the platform.
You can even send a direct message to a user who seems like a good target and offer to discuss their needs privately to come up with a better solution to their problem.
The anonymity of Reddit is a strength, and you might be surprised to hear things your sales rep can’t even imagine hearing.
Similarly, you could use Reddit to help your existing clients.
Places like /r/labrats/ are full of scientists asking technical questions like this one:
It’s just a goldmine waiting for you to increase customers’ happiness.
So keep an eye out.
A common theme on Reddit is career advice.
The subreddit r/biotech/, which has 112,000 members as I wrote this, is mostly comprised of career discussions in biotech.
Whether you are an HR professional or a headhunter, I think this is the place to be to understand the struggle of candidates and potentially find great talent that is being overlooked by the competition.
Whatever you do on Reddit, education should always be in the back of your mind.
Educating people, be it about a specific field of science or a specific technology, is the core of the Reddit experience.
If you really sign up to help people, I can tell you that your efforts will pay off in the long run.
And it will also be a good way to share your own perspective and avoid one-sided views that could damage your whole industry, like this one:
A good way to do this could be to host a series of AMAs with leading scientists or researchers from your organization or network.
People on Reddit love to talk about science, as long as the intention behind it is pure.
Which subreddits should you join?
As I wrote above, there are literally thousands of subreddits for a wide variety of topics.
In the world of science, I would divide the subreddits into two groups: generalist and specific.
Among the generalist ones, /r/science/, which counts 31.2m members and is ranked number 9 of the top subreddits, is mostly a place where people share science news, and /r/askscience/, which counts 24.7m members and is ranked 16, is a place where people answer questions with scientific explanations.
Despite their huge size, I think those channels might not be the best for science marketers.
As with other platforms, there is an argument to be made for going niche on Reddit.
And what’s great with this platform is that wherever there is a community, a subreddit exists.
Here are a few examples of good subreddits in life sciences:
- r/labrats/ (A hangout for lab nerds!) - 622k members - in top 1% of subs
- /r/biotech/ (mostly career talk) - 112k members - in top 5% of subs
- r/bioinformatics/ - 99.8k members - in top 5% of subs
- r/genetics - 98.2k members - in top 5% of subs
- /r/medlabprofessionals/ - 53.3k members - in top 5% of subs
- r/biotechnology/ - 18.7k members - in top 5% of subs
- r/molecularbiology - 15.5k members - in top 5% of subs
- /r/Virology/ - 14.1k members - in top 5% of subs
- /r/massspectrometry/ - 5.6k members - in top 10% of subs
- /r/CHROMATOGRAPHY/ - 2.3K members - in top 20% of subs
As you can see, many of these niches have quite large numbers of members and some, like r/massspectrometry, can be very specific.
The best way to start is to identify one sub that fits your niche and start engaging with it.
You can also use a tool like this one, to find similar subreddits and increase your scope step by step.
Crafting a science marketing strategy on Reddit
Always remember that Reddit is a world governed by its own norms and values, and thriving here means adapting to its unique culture.
Reddit isn’t just about broadcasting your message; it's about being an active, contributing community member.
As a science marketer, this is how I would approach Reddit at first:
- Open a Reddit account
- Join 2-3 subreddits that are relevant to your niche
- Check new posts regularly and answer them with helpful comments
- Build your karma up to 100 before you start posting your own threads
- Keep engaging and exploring new subs
- Consider doing an AMA thread with an expert in your company
- Keep being helpful
The immediate feedback loop of Reddit, provided by upvotes, comments, and Karma, offers a unique opportunity to gauge audience reaction to new products or technologies.
This is a goldmine for marketers who are agile and attentive enough to understand and react to these cues.
But it takes time to get it right, and you’ll have to learn and be patient.
So start by joining a subreddit in your niche and engage with it.
The potential is immense if you genuinely act like a Redditor.