Recently, reddit made some major changes to their home page. This has caused a bit of commotion amongst the community, and gives us an opportunity to discuss why the Reddit marketing system is well designed and a worthwhile, if overlooked, method of advertising. Due to the strict requirements of reddit’s custom ad network, and their belief in ethical advertising, the companies represented tend to be small or medium businesses, with a focus on retail and services that appeal to the community.
Founded as a technology information hub in mid-2005, and converted into the current open-source community in mid-2008, reddit has become a microcosm of internet society. It is the primary source of information for many people, and a resource for print journalists, who quote user comments in their articles. The website is a cross between a user-generated aggregator and a discussion-driven forum, created and moderated by the community. There are multiple categories, termed “subreddits,” each with their own specialized topic; they run the gamut from international politics, to memes & funny gifs, to Magento and ecommerce. The over 4,300 subreddits are created and managed by users, who determine content and establish a tone for their corner of the site. Voting is the primary method of establishing importance, depending on the source’s reliability, the community’s interest, and the relevance of the information.
With over 2 million users, mostly grouped in English-speaking countries, the links posted tend to be current. Posts with a large proportion of upvotes have a chance to make it to the home page, where they are seen by millions of unregistered, as well as registered users: there were over 70 million unique visitors to the site in the month prior to 7/22/13. According to a Pew research study released earlier this month, 6% of all adult internet users are reddit users – about half the rate of Twitter & Instagram. This number was likely augmented by POTUS Barack Obama’s question-and-answer session in the IAmA subreddit nearly a year ago.
Reddit marketing is unique in the world of the internet. Not only is it much more targeted than PPC or Facebook, the organization of the site makes ads much more relevant to users. Their methodology is unique; not a PPC system, or based on impressions, but rather set up as a fractional system. Let’s say a campaign has a daily cost of $50. If the daily total for all advertisers, combined, is $100, then that campaign gets 50% of that day’s impressions. It’s a beautifully simple way of managing ads.
Advertisments are restricted in size, style, and format, and a select group of advertising partners are offered opportunities to step even further into users’ good graces by posting deals to the Reddit Gold system. Reddit Gold is a standard user subscription, whereby users purchase monthly ($3.99) or yearly ($29.99) subscriptions to the site in exchange for benefits. In addition to giving users more control over how they use the site, it also provides discounts on the aforementioned partners. Vetted partners are also given the opportunity to sell items or services directly to users in the recently-established Marketplace. Partners do not pay reddit for the privilege – they have to be invited, and even then, they may not be kept as partners if they do not meet the high standards laid out by reddit.
Partners are expected to provide valuable services or products, directly relevant to the subreddits in which they advertise. Their responsiveness to customer problems is critical to the process, and companies which are consistently downvoted by the community do not have ads approved. Gold partners are curated carefully, and only the ones that meet the standards of the site are permitted. As established in their FAQ:
“We have strict criteria that we use to accept or reject ads. The main reasons for rejected ads are URL redirects/shorteners, links that don’t work, links that can’t be navigated away from easily, and broken sites. As with all content on reddit, falsifying votes or comments is grounds for immediate rejection. We also reserve the right to reject any link we feel is inappropriate or falls into unapproved categories, for instance, dating services, gambling services, stalker services, “spam,” insincere, trickery, or misleading statements/claims about product/service, alcohol or tobacco, cash-for-click sites, etc. We also reserve the right to not allow advertisements for services that violate the code of conduct or terms of service of another company, school, or service, and will remove them if notified.”
This is all very interesting information about the network and their methodology, but why would anyone choose to advertise on reddit?
There are multiple answers: one is that thanks to the nature of the site, it’s a community of young, technology-savvy adults and teenagers, generally with disposable income. Another is that reddit is one of the few advertising networks automatically whitelisted by Adblock, due to the unobtrusive nature of their ads. A third is the advantage of microtargeting: the ability to pinpoint the subject of your ad, and target it only to the specific subreddits that apply. That sort of precision eliminates a lot of the fiddling necessary with other ad campaigns.
A great benefit of reddit advertising is the feedback. Many people use reddit as a resource, before they even think of approaching a search engine, due to the trusted nature of the community and the responses provided by voting and comments. That responsiveness is a great way to test out a marketing campaign before going live on one of the large networks. Every ad has its own thread with responses, which allows you to tailor a campaign, then take it out to Adwords or another advertising network.
In many ways, reddit can be seen as a technology-aided word-of-mouth system. Information is shared, important information is passed around quickly, and companies that participate in the discussion see increased loyalty from the reddit community. It’s a different method of advertising, but one that is comprehensive and can see a long-term boost in sales and customer loyalty.