Advertising on Reddit: The New Wild West of Digital
Reddit made digital advertising headlines in late March 2017 when it announced its new, revamped self-serve advertising platform. Reddit has enormous potential for advertisers and this certainly marks a major milestone and first great step towards realizing its potential. The self-serve revamp included changes to reporting, analytics and billing. No longer do advertisers have to pay upfront for a campaign then get reimbursed for unspent dollars! Despite this, with vast uncharted territories and a lawlessness of sorts, this platform is definitely akin to the Wild West for Marketers.
What exactly does this all mean for you? Is the risk worth the reward? Should you go out and stake your claim? Giddy Up!
Reddit is a social bookmarking site founded in 2005 that puts the user in charge. Users post content, and then the community votes on the content’s quality (upvoting vs. downvoting). Great, relevant content thus rises to the top, while poor, troll-ish posts sink into obscurity. These social votes, along with a multitude of other factors including recency, determine the page position of the content.
The site is divided into a tremendous variety of niche communities, called subreddits. Each of the 1.1M subreddits (as of June 2017) are user-created and user-moderated. They each have their own set of rules as to what type of content and format to post, as well as expected user behaviour. They are truly individual, customizable microcosms, with userbases ranging from a handful of users to millions. Registered users can choose to subscribe to subreddits to receive content updates directly on their homepage feed.
Subreddit titles range from /r/funny to /r/television, /r/askscience, /r/politics or more locally, /r/calgaryflames. An up-to-date list of the most popular subreddits can be perused at: http://redditmetrics.com/top
A Vast Audience
According to Amazon’s Alexa traffic estimates, Reddit globally is driving an approximate 524M unique visitors per month in 2017. What about Canada? An estimated 5.9M unique Canadian visitors browse Reddit’s pages every month, which is 17% of the country’s total population (according to 2016 Census numbers). That’s an immense, mostly unexploited audience just waiting for you to tap in.
What’s more, Canadian visitors rank first in terms of loyalty metrics, with more (monthly) visits per visitor, pageviews per visit and pageviews per visitor than the rest of top 5 visitor countries (USA, UK, Germany & France).
In other words, Canadian Reddit visitors typically have deeper visits and visit more often than your average top 5 country. These quality visits offer intriguing potential for the keen advertiser.
Reddit is the 5th most visited website in Canada according to Alexa.com (also 5th in USA & 9th worldwide), behind only google.com & google.ca, YouTube, and Facebook. This ranking takes into account the aforementioned loyalty metrics as well as pure traffic volume.
A Focused Demographic
The platform has a very heavy skew towards white, educated, millennial men with no children. While the specifics may vary wildly from subreddit to subreddit, there is no question that the overwhelming majority of users are male (about 70%) and college-educated. A US study also found that users mostly self-identify on the political spectrum as liberal (47%) or moderate (39%) (Pew Research Centre, 2016).
Reddit can thus be a gold mine if your company specifically seeks to target male millennials!
There are currently three ad formats to take note of: sponsored posts, mobile, and banners.
Desktop sponsored posts appear at the top of a page, with a light blue background with the mention “promoted”. These posts can either be link posts or text posts. Link posts send users to a website while text posts present text in-platform and are better for promoting discussion around a topic or product. In both cases, comments are turned off by default.
Mobile and app ads appear mid-feed rather than at the top. Furthermore, they may appear as a card view, with a bigger image, or a smaller compact view.
Banner ads are simply what they sound like. They currently only appear on the desktop right-hand rail of the website.
Lastly, Reddit announced its intent to introduce video advertising in June 2017. A bold and surprising move considering the platform does not currently host user-generated video content.
Fickle Location Targeting
While Reddit offers state and city level targeting for the US, Canadian advertisers are left out in the cold with only country-wide targeting available. This makes advertising to specific Canadian geos very difficult.
The main workaround would be to target geo-specific subreddits. For example, an advertiser wishing to target the greater Toronto area could target /r/Toronto, /r/TorontoBlueJays and /r/TorontoRaptors, among others. While this method does allow for a level of geo targeting, it becomes especially fuzzy with the sports team subreddits, which probably attract sports fans from Ontario (and Canada) all over. The Toronto subreddit probably allows for tighter, yet still fuzzy targeting.
You need to do Reddit correctly – or not at all
Reddit features a unique community in a unique environment and thus should not be approached like any other advertising channel or social network. Redditors can be very snarky and cynical, and are usually very wary of ads. How then can you get your message across without getting shot down by hostile users?
Keep it real! Be honest! Reddit will not miss an opportunity to call you out on your advertising superlatives, hyperbole, and other buzzwords. Be sure to avoid ad copy with “#1” or “best ever” if you can’t back it up. Make sure the copy avoids inviting snarky responses or being too stiff and market-y.
A casual and friendly tone works best. Try inviting discussion with a conversational, open-ended title. Personalize the copy to the subreddit you’re targeting, like “Hey r/CalgaryFlames” or “Hi Reddit! We are …”. If you can, and are brave enough, allow comments and engage the community in conversation.
Lastly, add valuable information such as Q&As or contests and promotions. Advertisers with Reddit-specific promo codes (ie. REDDIT15OFF) in their copy have had great success in the past!
While the platform is still young and immature, a careful advertiser with the right attitude (and tone) could reap the rewards from this massive, still largely untapped audience. Finesse and engagement are key to a successful Reddit campaign, and it must be treated differently from all of your other ad campaigns and platforms.
Reddit advertising features and targeting options (including geographic targeting) are bound to improve over time and give more control to the advertiser’s hands. Until then, it’s still a digital Wild West out there, with riches awaiting the lone frontiersman willing to put in the hard work of figuring out the lay of the land and striking gold.
See you out on the range! For those that would rather have support, please don’t hesitate to reach out.