Marketing on Reddit: 3 Rules to Ignore at Your Own Peril

Reddit is known for eating companies and celebrities alive.

With over 542 million users, everyone's initial impression is that it's a high-speed avenue to success. But Reddit is one of the only platforms where the users have their own customs and courtesies, and when someone disrespects these cultural norms, it can be catastrophic.

So before you put yourself out there, believing it's like every other social site, read about the rules and expectations of the audience as you begin marketing on Reddit. It could save you from a lot of damage control.

Increasing Brand Awareness By Marketing on Reddit

Reddit is its own beast. The site was founded in 2005 and has since become one of the most visited sites on the internet.

While the general user base is made of good-hearted people, they leave nothing on the table when someone tries to take advantage of them. If things go wrong, the best case scenario is that your post is "down-voted" and no one sees it. The worst case scenario puts you in the news' highlight reel.

The site's users have specific expectations that keeps the site working the way it does. If you want any chance at marketing on Reddit, it's critical that you're aware of them.

1. Provide Value to the Discussion

The first rule is that you can't overtly sell on Reddit. While there are pages of the site explicitly dedicated to pitching your own offers, the site as a whole doesn't support self-promotion.

If you want to stand a chance at marketing on Reddit, you need to provide value the same way you would with your customer-centric marketing approach. You want to give a reason for people to check out your company's offering, and this is done by showing you're worth their time.

Xbox 360 does a great job of this, providing comments on their subreddit (more on these later) to help customers with problems. Because they're also on their own sub, customers expect them to be there. If they were to comment on Playstation's sub, the results would be different.

When writing comments, don't paste the same answer to different posts. People will see your comment history and call you out for self-promotion. This can even cause you to be banned from some subreddits. If the moderators disapprove, it could result in the blacklisting of your entire domain.

The best way to provide value on Reddit is through advice sharing. People want to hear your expert opinion. That's one reason why they're on the site. Give them your insights and let them know why you're qualified to help.

If someone finds value in one of your comments, there's a chance of them checking your profile to see what else you can offer them. From there, users can follow your account and see your posts and comments in their feed.

Ultimately, you don't need to avoid mentioning your business on Reddit, so long as the content you're providing is actually worthwhile to other users.

2. Understand Reddit Culture

There's an expectation that if you're using Reddit, you're aware of the culture the users have established.

People come to Reddit for many reasons. They want to learn, be entertained, or share stories with other users from around the world. But, as we discussed before, they're not coming to Reddit to be sold to. So, if you don't understand how the site works, take some time to explore and read before posting.

Redditors are continually trying to help each other in life. Subs like Random Acts of Pizza and Random Acts of Coffee exist because of the community-like atmosphere built on the platform. Reddit has even brought attention to funding pleas for surgeries and debt payments, changing lives in the process.

Reddit can mass political movements to significant effect. As believers in free speech, users came together against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and started a nation-wide digital blackout that raised awareness of the bill. Whether it contributed to SOPA not being passed or not, Redditors believe they were instrumental in the campaign.

Don't pretend to be an expert if you're not. Reddit's user base is enormous. If someone asks a medical question, they're often answered by actual doctors. If they have a question about space, astronomers are chiming in. Professionals in every industry are on Reddit, and if you're trying to fake it, the audience will find out.

3. Know What Subreddit You're In

Just like Xbox, you should interact with subreddits within your industry. Reddit has over 1.2 million subreddits covering every topic imaginable. There is literally a place for every niche, and that means you can find an audience that is already interested in what you're putting out. Providing value becomes that much easier if you're interacting with people who know your industry.

Volunteer moderators run each sub. Unlike other websites, administrators of Reddit have no control over the actions of these volunteers. Someone could start their own subreddit, serve as a tyrannical moderator, and Reddit would allow the page to continue.

Reddit relies on users to control moderator behavior. If a subreddit doesn't approve of how they're governed, someone creates a new subreddit, and they take the conversation there. It's in everyone's best interest to look out for the good of the group.

Those who subscribe to the sub provide all the content, so there's plenty of opportunities to have your own material seen, so long as you're contributing to the discussion. Provide posts that are on topic for that subreddit and be sure to read the rules before publishing.

Each subreddit has its own internal culture. Most are in sync with the parent site's unwritten code, but some have minor nuances that aren't apparent at first. Do your research on any sub before posting to mitigate the chance you're out of touch with the users.

Below are a few of the more popular subs marketers use and some tips to posting without hurting your business.


AMA stands for Ask Me Anything, and that means anything.

This can be extremely useful for bringing awareness to a company or campaign, but it requires you to answer any question posed. AMA is also the most popular subreddit for marketers.

Woody Harrelson serves as one of the best examples of what not to do. He and his team of marketers dodged some questions and kept trying to bring the conversation back to the film he was sponsoring. The post became a complete disaster as Redditors tore them apart, even resulting in a meme being created.

Jerry Strizke, REI's CEO, had a different scenario play out. He was admittedly not familiar with Reddit, and when users asked questions that attacked his company, focused on meager wages and other business practices, he started to lose credibility. Although he responded the best he could and didn't avoid the issues, the audience decided to support frustrated employees who were contributing to the discussion.

It's important for you to respond to criticism and answer all questions, but it's more important to be ready for anything. Even if it's not what you were hoping to talk about, a well-executed AMA will offer an opportunity to share your focus.


Explain Like I'm 5 is an excellent tool for providing value and showing your brand's worth.

Try not to pitch your products specifically, but let users know where you're coming from as an expert. It'll build credibility in your answer. Then, as clearly as you can, provide a response that anyone could understand.

People will ask questions about everything you can think of, and sometimes, the topics aren't technically advanced, the person just wants a better explanation. This is a great way to show your company's worth and provide value to the community.


Today I Learned is a sub where people can share any random or crazy bit of information they heard for the first time.

While you may not be able to create a post without appearing to pitch your product, you can provide additional information on the topics they present. Search through recent posts and offer deeper insight into those that fit your industry.

Planning Your Reddit Strategy

Reddit doesn't require formal education to earn benefits from marketing, but you do need an understanding of how the users work. Through all engagements, focus on providing value, and you'll find Reddit to be a valuable addition to your marketing strategy.

If you're interested in using other social platforms, download our free eBook, The Inbound Marketers Guide to Social Media Apps and Tools. This resource will assist you in selecting automation tools and apps that will allow you to do more in less time while connecting with the right people.

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