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Reddit is a great place for many businesses to have a presence. Its demographic is largely male (59%), 25-34 years of age, and based in the United States. For the right company, the site is an audience development sweet spot, which allows for great opportunity to get a wide range of interesting content in front of consumers.

For companies doing it wrong, there’s a possibility to crash and burn – the network is widely known for its hatred of marketing tactics, and has banned several domains for manipulative strategies. To succeed, you must bring great content to the table and tread lightly – anything less is potentially putting a huge traffic source at risk.

Building a Traffic Source Backwards

Using Reddit to its utmost potential does not start by simply building something, and then finding a relevant subreddit to submit to. The best use of the service is to break down your target demographic’s interests by subreddits, and then determining whether content you can build will actually appeal to that subreddit’s audience.

For example, let’s pretend you sell beer accessories. The first step is to do a simple [site:reddit.com KEYWORD] search, to find the highest intent subreddit that exists for your topic. You’re in luck – Reddit has a /r/beer subreddit.

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With a quick glance through, it’s easy to tell at this point that the subreddit allows external links, and that they might potentially be receptive to content from commercial publishers. Some subreddits will only allow discussion threads labeled with “.self” and others will only allow photos. Others have very restrictive submission policies, such as /r/netsec/, which conversely won’t allow images. You can find these guidelines in the sidebar of the subreddit, which you should take close note of during your research.

So for /r/beer/, there are no strict guidelines. Good content seems to win the day, although there is about a 50/50 “self.beer” to links ratio, which means they may have extremely high standards for their content.

The next step (and an important one) is verifying the subreddit size. The bigger the subreddit size, the more worthy it is of keeping it in mind specifically when developing content up front. In this case, /r/beer/ has 123,332 subscribers.

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This is a nice number – it means that an exceptional piece of content could mean 10,000+ engaged visitors, and a fallout effect from other links, tweets and shares. It’s also worth keeping an eye on the number of people online – sometimes subscribers can be like an RSS feed – old topics have high numbers, but that doesn’t mean they have a high number of engaged visitors today.

And this can also be the reverse – sometimes hot subjects like Bitcoin can have super high engagement but not as many subscribers. For example, Bitcoin had 100k subscribers and 1000 current users at the time of the above screenshot. So almost the same subscribers, but almost 10x the activity.

Establishing Other Relevant Subreddits

The next step is to look to the sidebar of your subreddit for other relevant places content like yours might be pertinent. On /r/beer/, there are many regional beer subreddits covering the local beer scenes. They might not be as large, but if you made something about Los Angeles beer culture, for example, the LABeer subreddit (474 readers/7 online at time of posting) might be a solid place to think about as a secondary source of traffic.

Once you start compiling relevant subreddits, I suggest creating a spreadsheet of relevant information for each section of the site. This will be valuable during the idea process.

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Once you’ve done the short-tail analysis of subreddits by browsing manually through the site and establishing what sections would actually be receptive to content you build, you can break out to related but not as obvious sections that may still be interested in your content.

There are a few ways to identify these kinds of subreddits during your research phase:

  • A simple Reddit search for your keyword. Reddit does a good job of surfacing relevant subreddits that you may be able to target.
  • A [site:Reddit.com KEYWORD] search. Don’t stop on the first link – Google will often surface many relevant subreddits below the first.
  • General content brainstorming. This will be your best bet for not-as-obvious connections, such as food connections for beer, or how to grow hops. To confirm tangential relevancy, it is suggested you do a keyword-specific search on that subreddit. This will show you other related content that has done well in the past.
  • Using tools like MetaReddit.com and RedditMetrics.com to locate fast-growing sections and also for identifying high keyword-usage subreddits by tags. Hat tip to Eric Pratum for this suggestion.

To give you some examples of content that would fit this context, let’s brainstorm a few beer related content ideas that may work on big subreddits:

  • /r/Cheese/ – 5.1k Readers – Potential Topic: Beer and Cheese Pairing Guide
  • /r/Gardening/ – 65.6k Readers – Potential Topic: How to Grow Hop Vines
  • /r/SanDiego/ – 15.9k Readers – Potential Topic: The Best Beer Towns in America

Confirming Demographic/Content Fit

Once you have a decent list of potential subreddits that may accept content from you, and an idea of what kind of content they might like, I would take a few steps back to confirm that your content would fit the subreddits you’re thinking about. Remember, Reddit has very specific demographics, so what may appear like a perfect fit may in fact turn out to be a bad one.

For example, let’s look at /r/cocktails/. Cocktails are enjoyed by both men and women, but some folks may assume cocktails are just for women. If you made a similar assumption and walked into this subreddit with sugar-heavy cocktail content, you’d probably fall flat on your face.

As mentioned previously, Reddit is mostly male, and it seems as though this subreddit fleshes that out. The second most upvoted post on the cocktail subreddit is actually a picture of beer (even though it’s actually a joke), two post titles mention their wives, and a third is an engineer’s guide to cocktails, a job field known for being predominantly male.

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If your business has a focus that mostly appeals to a female demographic and you walk into a male-dominated subreddit, you won’t do well. Think long and hard about the actual subreddit demographics, not your perception of that subject’s general demographics, in order to truly succeed.

Long-Term Success = Getting Your Content Submitted

I can’t emphasize enough that you should not manipulate Reddit. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with building amazing content and occasionally submitting it to a subreddit that would like it.

I do think there’s something wrong with submitting every single post you make, and using an upvote ring to push your work up the site.

Given that, the best way to future-proof success on Reddit is to build an audience that comes back to your site naturally that also frequents Reddit.

To do that, you must have a large amount of content on your site that actually appeals to their target demographic – not just one piece. To multiply the effect, you can also occasionally submit to Reddit, and when doing so, you must employ social hooks to get them to follow your work in the future because it’s good. These social hooks can be email signups, getting people to like your Facebook page, or to follow you on Twitter.

Finally, you can also prime readers to submit by using Reddit buttons.

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I recommend using buttons like this when you can reasonably say that a huge majority of your content is relevant to the Reddit audience. If you don’t, you’ll become another site with 95 share buttons and really slow load time.

If You’re Reading This, Reddit Hates You

Redditors hate marketers. They submit clean guides from marketers to their network and rip them apart. It’s very possible they may submit this article and do the same thing.

There’s a good chance you may read this and misinterpret what I’m saying and make Reddit a worse place by submitting junk. I hope you leave, never read our blog again and drop marketing as a career forever.

What I describe here is, yes, marketing to Reddit, but at the same time, it’s making Reddit better by serving them damn-good content their readers want.

By doing intense research up front, you can build extremely-targeted content their audience will love. If you wait until after, you’ll likely be the marketer they hate – because your content will just be “okay” and a bad fit for their site, but you’ll still force submit it to subreddits that it’s not appropriate for.

Do the research and succeed – don’t and be hated. I’d prefer the former.

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