Infiltrating the Front Page of the Internet

Written by 5ivecanons Staff

How can marketers get their brands on Reddit and in front of consumers, while balancing the interwebz’ disdain for corporate bullshit?

Uplifting and demented, hysterical yet perverted, the rapidly growing social media outlet Reddit has become a highly trafficable platform for online bloggers, humorists, photographers, and everything in between. Unlike social media giants Facebook, Linkedin and Google+ (which encourage/require users to create detailed profiles), Reddit allows users to post anonymously under pseudonym screen names.

This format allows the Reddit community to be more open and personal online without fear of tarnishing their reputation in real life. For advertisers though, this poses an interesting question; How do brands try to appeal to a market generally hell-bent on keeping their identity close to their chest? And why would they want to?

An Internet Phenomenon is Born

Based out of San francisco, Reddit was founded in 2005 by Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian. Their vision was simple, create a platform for anonymous contributors to share content and discuss the important topics of the day. But Reddit quickly evolved into something much larger, breeding an entire subgenera of web enthusiasts.

reddit founders

Reddit is a bulletin style website composed entirely of user generated content. Posters affectionately coined, “Redditors,” are free to submit links as they wish. These links may contain original content or lead to various internet oddities. Other Redditors may then either “upvote” or “downvote” each link. In turn, posts with the most upvotes are boosted to the top of Reddit’s bulletin. This format allows the Reddit community to effectively choose which topics/posts they feel should be seen by the most users.

Reddit is segmented into subcategories called subreddits, each with their own bulletin within Reddit’s domain. This allows Redditors to categorize topics they are interested in exploring. Popular subreddits include Gaming, Funny, World News and TIL. Redditors can also start comment threads on posts where comments may also be upvoted or downvoted. The result is an online community where users can openly discuss the topics, broken down into categories that interest each user.

Reddit’s user-friendly and communal nature has made the site one of the most popular social media outlets worldwide. For advertisers, this demographic is impossible to ignore. So how exactly do marketers generate buzz using Reddit? Here are a few ideas:

Pay to Play

Reddit allows brands to purchase sponsored posts, which will automatically appear at the top of selected subreddits. The upside for brands is that they can virtually guarantee traffic to their advertisements and these spots are remarkably affordable. Sponsored posts start priced as low as 75 cents while campaigns start at a mere $5.00. The challenge for brands with sponsored posts is that they simply have to be creative. Redditors won’t appreciate the classic print ad or traditional spot. A sponsored Reddit post must be engaging and interactive. Sweepstakes, giveaways and games incentivize engagement but adding the sharing elements provides earned media that wouldn’t have been possible without the web.

Since Redditors cling to anonymity, buying ad space on Reddit can seem like a gamble for some brands as they are unable target users based on demographics. Marketers that monitor trends on Reddit and engage in the forums have an advantage on traditional shops, because they can see what type of content is trending via upvotes – but they can also read between the lines.


Earned Media

Reddit is also a place where brands are advertised for free by consumers. Whether it’s showing off new products, screenshots from a new game or sharing great customer service experience – users are talking about brands. Making contact with influencers within the Reddit community, and having them become brand advocates will help promote brand content through peer recommendations.

90 % of consumers trust peer recommendations

Marketers have tried sweepstakes and “limited time” promotions through subreddits like Giveaways, but the majority of giveaway content feels like a scam – repelling savvy users from even visiting the thread. That’s not to say users aren’t engaging within it to “enter for a chance to win,” but rather that it isn’t a place for marketers who want to maintain their brand’s perception and integrity.

Trolling the Interwebs

While Reddit presents an interesting and still somewhat new platform for brands to advertise, it’s important to note that the site also acts as a consumer watchdog for brands that do not live up to their promises. If a product fails to meet brand-set expectations or consumers feel they have been slighted by customer service, Reddit has been known to “troll” such brands in great numbers. For example, Reddit has tons of posts of food products that turn out vastly different than as promised through advertising.


Food, politics and religion are frequently slammed on Reddit – but when it comes to gaming the gloves come off. No brand has taken it on the chin with more force through Reddit than XBox. When Xbox began announcing release details of their new console, the XBox One, many Redditors reacted negatively, seemingly irked by XBox’s privacy policies as well as their failure to make their new Xbox one system backwards compatible.

The new system was lambasted by Redditors and many of the negative posts were upvoted to the front of Reddit’s bulletin. The reaction does not come as a surprise given the anonymous environment Reddit cultivates. It does bring up one of Reddit’s few unspoken rules – never mess with user anonymity.

The Conclusion

Positive customer service experience and outstanding product attributes are frequently rewarded with Reddit posts, an invaluable source of positive P.R given Reddit’s communal nature. More than anything, Reddit represents a challenge for brands that increasingly want to know more about their users and their habits.

Between the fiery nature of Redditors and the obstacles presented in reaching consumers through the site, brands face a difficult and still unexplored path in advertising through Reddit. Marketers that ignore Reddit’s influence and don’t take the site seriously as a legitimate opportunity to expand their image are simply missing out on an incredible opportunity to engage potential consumers and convert them to brand advocates. One thing is certain, respect Redditor’s privacy and they will respect you.