Why Reddit is a Social Media Channel That Matters to Marketers

Forums have been a way for like-minded internet users to socialize over common interests since the beginning of the internet. They were the precursor to social media as we know it today. Many message boards saw users shift over to traditional social media through products like Facebook groups, but Reddit has shown its staying power.

But from a marketing perspective, is Reddit social media? We’ll take a look and also show why the answer matters to marketers. Specifically, we’ll explore this often-overlooked goldmine of brand intel by answering the following questions:

  • What is Reddit?
  • Is Reddit considered social media?
  • Should marketers use Reddit?

For context, here are a few facts and figures we dug up to help understand the platform:

  • Reddit has upwards of 52 million users that use the platform daily. 430 million engage the site every month, leading to over 30 billion monthly views in 2020.
  • Those 52 million daily users represent a 44% increase over 2019.
  • In December, the Wall Street Journal reported that Reddit’s “ad revenue totaled more than $100 million in 2019 and is on track to rise by more than 70% this year.”

With that, let’s see what makes Reddit tick and why marketers shouldn’t dismiss it as part of their social media marketing strategy.

2021 social analytics guide to influencer marketing on reddit

What is Reddit?

Reddit was founded in 2005 and hailed as the “front page of the internet.” In contrast to the more mainstream social media networks, Reddit uses a forum structure emphasizing communities called subreddits.

Users create subreddits for topics that interest them and draw like-minded users who subscribe to the channel. Topics can be broad or ultra-specific. There are well over a million different subreddits for every topic under the sun and multitudes of new ones added every day. For example, March of this year saw over 60 thousand unique subreddits added to the platform.

subreddits by month

While TikTok was all the rage last year (and still is this year) Reddit is seeing a swarm of new users and subreddits this year as well, which is why marketers need to have it on their radar.

One of the things that draws users is that it feels more anonymous than many other social media platforms. Your name or identifying information isn’t shared with anyone else, and this appeals to many in a world overflowing with digital trust issues.

In a recent survey, 62% of Reddit users felt that the platform safeguards their data and privacy. That’s a stat that’s practically unheard of online. And it’s good enough to land them in fourth place among top social media networks, trailing behind LinkedIn, Pinterest and Snapchat.

Reddit users, known as redditors, share news, pictures, memes, meaningful web content, and generate discussion around their areas of interest. The site attracts celebrities, scientists, lawyers, gamers, professors, basket weavers and everything in between. They’re drawn to talk about their interests and consume content from like-minded users. Additionally, many redditors use it to supplement a new skill they are learning, learn about brands and products or keep up with world events.

Social credibility on the site doesn’t lean in the direction of follower count but the collection of karma. Posts and comments can be either upvoted for content other users like or downvoted when the reverse is true. An upvote results in one positive karma point, whereas a downvote removes one.

The more a user adds to discussion through comments or posts, the more karma they can collect. This encourages thoughtful or funny engagement since negativity will invite downvotes. Additionally, the more upvotes, or positive karma, a post or comment receives, the more visible it will become. Conversely, with enough negative karma, posts or comments become in danger of being hidden.

Posts that get a lot of traction in the way of upvotes can potentially make it onto the front page, or r/popular, where visibility to the masses is guaranteed. Comments within these posts that have garnered the most karma will likewise be moved to the top within the post, ensuring more views.

Often, mentions on Reddit can rival or surpass other social media platforms such as Twitter. As such, marketers should keep an eye on it for hot posts relevant to their brand, category or products. For example, here’s a notable swing in mentions over the cryptocurrency Dogecoin after Elon Musk tweeted about it, and again a few days later when the price of Bitcoin took a sizeable dip.


User interest and karma get these posts to the front page, so don’t miss out on them if they’re pertinent to your brand.

Nevertheless, many users jokingly refer to Reddit’s karma system as “fake internet points.” Still, there are some benefits to ensuring your karma count grows in a positive direction. Depending on the subreddit, accounts with low karma, short account age or little comment history can be regarded skeptically as having little credibility, or worse, as bots.

Additionally, some subreddits require a certain amount of positive karma to post within the group. While the karma system isn’t perfect, it does help discourage users from losing it once they’ve attained it.

That said, no matter how niche your brand may be, there’s bound to be subreddits having conversations around your brand – and your competition. So, don’t miss out on these consumer intelligence opportunities just because Reddit isn’t a behemoth like Facebook, TikTok and Instagram.

Reddit – An Essential Social Media Channel

If social media platforms were children, then Reddit is definitely the “quirky” kid. And perhaps that’s why many marketers tend to overlook it. It lacks the pizzazz of Instagram, the fast pace of TikTok and pales in comparison to Facebook’s user base. It may not be in the popular group, but its users like it that way. And they’re probably the most active group of online participants out there.

Reddit draws a “type” of user, and many of them don’t care for other platforms at all. There’s even debate among redditors themselves as to whether the site is considered social media. So, is it?

Merriam-Webster defines social media as “forms of electronic communication (such as websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content.”

Using this definition as our basis, Reddit most certainly ticks all the boxes for social media. The thing is – it just hits differently. In our highly individualistic society, Reddit seems to go against the grain by emphasizing community. Likewise, the anonymous nature of the platform doesn’t foster camaraderie between people you know in real life. And that has its selling points.

Not many of your friends or coworkers would be interested in seeing all of your posts about your love for mid-century architecture, romance novels and Pokémon cosplay. But other redditors sure will.

Perhaps due to its quirkiness, Reddit remains misunderstood by many brands and would-be marketers. There is definitely a unique culture to Reddit – and peculiar subcultures to each individual subreddit. It takes some getting used to, and if you color outside the lines, the community will let you know. A common phrase is to get “downvoted to oblivion.”

Of course, there are sitewide rules of engagement similar to any other social media platform. Still, each subreddit has its own set of rules that you must abide by or face getting blocked. Some are more stringent than others, but it can take some time to cozy up to what type of content gets traction and what falls flat.

Many of the subreddits have been around for years and have grown their subscribers by careful moderation. Over time these communities develop distinct personalities, cultures, slang and, yes – Reddit lore. Some subreddits are more freewheeling, while others uphold stringent standards. It all depends on the moderators of the group, most of which take the task very seriously.

Regardless, it’s communal, social and it spreads ideas online faster than most brands realize – or maybe they have a sense of it now, since Gamestop. It may not be as flashy as other platforms, but it’s definitely social media. And not only that, it’s worth your time to explore your brand’s place within the culture.

Redditors routinely explore topics centered around brands and their products or services. They also generate conversation that is relevant to your category and competition. That said, it’s a wealth of insight from a social listening perspective to enhance your voice of the consumer (VoC) data.

As we mentioned earlier, some topics that your brand may be interested in will get more traction on Reddit than anywhere else. Diet conversations are one of those topics.

For some reason, Reddit gives users the most bang for their buck in discussing the ins and outs of dieting. It’s a new space for many, and they have a lot to learn. If your brand touches the space somehow, you’d want to be privy to the consumers’ questions, products, and pain points.


First and foremost, it shouldn’t be ignored for the consumer intelligence reason alone. And sometimes, the anonymity makes the users more likely to be frank about their likes and dislikes than they would on a platform where they may be seen by people they know. That can be advantageous to see shades of conversation that you may not get elsewhere.

When you’re looking to market directly in the platform, that’s where some tact is in order. Yes, you can run sponsored ads without issue, but it’s best not to go guns blazing right off the bat within the subreddits themselves. That takes a plan.

Redditors are cautious and have extreme disdain for blatant marketing without providing to the community first. If you look, you can find the once used accounts of countless brands who tried and gave up. It’s a tough nut to crack if you don’t approach it right.

But – if you endear your brand to the right communities via their subreddits, you’ll have earned a seat among some of the most loyal social media users on the internet. Let’s talk about that.

Should Marketers Use Reddit?

Redditors are markedly curious and intrigued by clever content. Brands should keep that in mind when formulating their approach to the platform. It’s not that users of the platform don’t want to hear from brands at all. They are open to it, but they want to get to know the brand if they interact with it. That said, brands that do best find ways to humanize themselves and tell their story.

Brands that just show up in a long-running community and start flaunting their products are seen as disrespectful and will rack up immediate downvotes. You have to get creative and add to the conversation. This is where many brands get it wrong and move on.

What is part of your brand story that would be fascinating to outsiders? Is there a project your development team is working on that could engage a particular community? You can talk about that. For instance, the r/IAmA or r/AMA subreddits, short for “ask me anything,” are communities where celebrities, leaders, researchers, activists and academia set up a time for a dedicated thread where redditors pose questions to the host. They’re wildly popular and could be a great fit for brands with a fascinating story behind their work.

The best thing you can do is go through them and look for examples that would resonate with your target audience. Brainstorm and find the projects or brand stories that could be a hit with users on the site. Sift through the threads and see which ones took off and which ones tanked. Always learn from other’s mistakes when possible. That’s marketing 101.

The good AMA’s are the ones that humanize a brand or institution. And that’s what users are looking for in brand interactions. You are giving back to the community first before asking anything of them – and there is respect for that. It also lets the users know that you’re not out to make a quick buck off them and move on.

But there are other creative ways to give back and build your space within the communities on Reddit. Here, for example, Nissan’s community managers made a thread asking what people liked on Amazon. There was some apprehension towards the brand until people realized that Nissan started buying some of these items for the users. It was a hit and endeared the brand to the community. Here’s their follow-up post.

reddit post

And sometimes, after you get the right kind of engagement on Reddit, magic UGC happens. Nissan later shipped one of their vehicles to a buyer’s house in a giant Amazon box. A Reddit user happened to live nearby and took some photos, which they uploaded. That thread gained traction for Nissan at no cost to them. They just did something that caught people’s attention and reaped the rewards. It helped that they’d already kindled a relationship with the community too.

amazon via reddit

And this shows that maybe they knew one of Reddit’s little secrets. They love it when they get mentioned outside of the platform or in “real life.” And that goes for their slang and memes too.

For example, earlier this year, you may remember when the r/wallstreetbets subreddit made the news over the GameStop short squeeze. The thing is, that subreddit has a pronounced subculture, replete with a laundry list of slang terms. Of those, “tendies” is the word used to reference when your stock portfolio increases in value. Popeyes wasted no time jumping on that one with the hashtag #Tendies4Yall.

You’ll notice they threw this out on Twitter and not Reddit. They didn’t need to, as the Redditors themselves picked it up and went haywire with it on the platform. Seriously, take a page from Popeye’s playbook as their marketing department pulled off some 3D chess moves here.

They showed they could speak the community’s language while acknowledging they were trying to outmaneuver hedge funds shorting GameStop. They also provided a deal in the process which they shouted out off-platform and let the users drive the message onto the site themselves. It was a brilliant move, and they did it right as the story hit critical mass on the news networks. Reddit went wild.

popeyes reddit 1

popeyes reddit 2

So, should marketers use Reddit? Most definitely. While it can seem intimidating at first, there are opportunities to engage with your audience in very creative ways. Start off your approach to the platform with some heavy market research into brands that are getting it right. Chances are, you’ll find them not necessarily taking traditional marketing approaches. After all, if you endear yourself to the right subreddits, you may find that they take the reins and do your marketing for you.

Start small and be authentic from the get-go. Look for ways to humanize your brand, tell your stories and offer value. Reddit is only growing more prominent, and it’s worth your time to get your brand’s foot in the door. If you want more tips and insight, be sure to check out our 2021 Social Analytics Guide to Influencer Marketing on Reddit. Also, reach out for a demo, and we’ll get your brand armed with the social listening tools you need to make the best use of the platform.

2021 social analytics guide to influencer marketing on reddit

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