Reddit Rising: It's Time for Brands to Leverage the Platform's Power

Engage with Redditors, but be prepared for pushback

When it comes to how many active users are on the various social media platforms, the numbers are fairly stark. Facebook, not surprisingly, leads with nearly 3 billion monthly active users; YouTube, WhatsApp and Instagram follow with 2.3 billion, 2 billion and 1.3 billion, respectively. The under-a-billion cohort includes TikTok and Snapchat. Way down at the bottom of the list, at just over 400 million, lies Reddit. Interestingly, Twitter is next to last with 397 million active users—talk about outsize influence.

And yet only one of those platforms—Reddit—can wreak the kind of havoc on the U.S. stock market that's usually reserved for natural disasters or terrorist attacks.

You may recall earlier this year when members of the online Reddit community WallStreetBets mobilized their followers to invest heavily in perennial losing stocks like GameStop and AMC. The move was not a sound investment strategy, but rather a middle finger to hedge fund managers who prior had been making oodles of money by shorting the stock, basically betting for it to lose. In a short amount of time, WallStreetBets had managed to temporarily drive the stock price from a pathetic $17 per share to an absurdly high $483. In response to this "short squeeze," hedge funds lost a lot of money—for a little while anyway.

Despite what you make of this digitized-collective redistribution of wealth, the lesson for brands is clear: If one subgroup on Reddit can make a failing stock jump several hundred-fold in days, imagine what’s possible for a brand they actually like and believe in.

Reddit is changing.

Reddit is certainly not the go-to social media platform brands consider when launching a new product, but with its rising user growth, new audio features, and super-engaged communities—not to mention its crack down on abusive content in recent years—many marketers are sensing an opportunity to engage with Reddit communities. These are, after all, passionate, extremely knowledgeable, potential consumers obsessed with everything from K-pop to indie video games. Why not your brand?

According to Reddit, its users are more informed purchasers than the average person; do more research before buying (on average they do four times more research sessions than average); and make purchasing decisions nine times faster. While brands have been able to advertise on Reddit for some time, the site has recently started to refine its services for brands by working closely with them and letting them know about the latest Reddit trends so they can connect effectively with the community. So how should brands and agencies approach Reddit?

Five tips for advertisers considering advertising on Reddit.

Be passionate about the community you’re communicating with.

People join subreddits because they’re passionate about a subject. Brands need to seize the opportunity to work with profoundly engaged communities. Reddit gives brands a chance to target their content to niche audiences who can be harder to reach on other social platforms.

Tailor your content to each subreddit.

Subreddits have unique cultures. Branded content that reflects or enhances this culture will see more engagement and suffer less mockery than those that don’t. It’s easy to get it wrong. For example, many gaming subreddits host ads from major tech companies that sound overly corporate and have no relation to the subject of their subreddit and are clearly designed for business leaders. They just don’t fit the community and thus have low engagement. That’s on the brand for bad strategy.

Be prepared for pushback.

Reddit can be a pretty unforgiving place. If someone steps out of line in a well-managed subreddit, their fellow Redditors—or the moderators—correct them quickly. Brands are treated the same way. If your subreddit promotion doesn’t strike the right tone or clearly shows the brand doesn’t know the first thing about the community, people will mock it mercilessly. There are even subreddits dedicated to poking fun at ads on the site.

Set realistic expectations.

Redditors remain somewhat skeptical about brands on Reddit (that’s one reason getting a gold or platinum award, which gives users a limited time of ad-free experience, is so coveted). Engagement levels are likely to be lower than on other platforms, but are still very much worthwhile.

Be willing to engage creatively throughout the campaign.

It’s one thing to have an ad full of personality that resonates with the community, but Reddit is a discussion forum. A lot of ads across Reddit seem to be posted and left to run their course. The ones that engage and start conversations offer the chance for a deeper level of authentic communication with participants. Take advantage of it.

Reddit can be a difficult platform for brands to make a positive impact, but it’s far from impossible. For ones that take the time to learn its nuances, and effectively show both their creativity and real understanding of the Reddit community, the rewards can be high.

Just ask those who sold their GameStop shares at $483 per share.

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