Cracking The Code: Why Brands Fail At Marketing On Reddit (And How To Succeed)

November 2, 2015

The Reddit community is filled with opportunities for marketers.

It’s a great place to lurk and gain insight, contribute and add value or engage and build relationships.

It’s one of the best channels online for connecting with people who are passionate about specific topics and are willing to provide authentic feedback.

But most people are afraid.

They’re afraid because they haven’t taken the time to understand the network and its community.

Over the years, I’ve been on and off of Reddit for quite some time. When it first started, I used it as a tool to simply browse and find funny links that I could share and distribute with friends. I soon became bored and took a bit of a hiatus until a year or two ago when it became a site I visited on a daily basis.

Reddit has become one of my favourite channels to spend time on and one of my favourite channels for both personal and professional growth.

As a marketer by trade, I know first hand that marketers are challenged when it comes to Reddit. The entire concept of marketing and Reddit is one that makes marketers and brands nervous.

As I’ve began studying the channel more and more for my eBook about cracking the Reddit Marketing code, I’ve quickly learned why brands are failing so frequently. And while I’ve uncovered why brands are failing, I’ve also been able to succeed on Reddit by reaching the front page more than three times.

Brands are terrified that Reddit is going to bring out the pitchforks.

I’ve gone to countless events and conferences where people express that Reddit is a channel that is impossible to crack. It’s these rumours that have presented a great opportunity for the brands that decide to against the norm and tackle what others thought was impossible.

Bad Content: Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Reddit isn’t anti-brands.

Reddit is anti-horrible content.

When marketers assume that they can put up posts like this:

The Only Pen That Matters

And drive results, bad things are going to happen. Look at the first comment on this post:

“Pen sucks, poster sucks, everything about this sucks.”

They aren’t lying! How many people do you know on your Facebook or LinkedIn that would share this post? How many people do you think would comment on this post and say “Wow, that’s amazing!” 

No one.

Absolutely – No one.


Because it’s not remarkable or compelling content.

It’s boring.

It’s a forced meme that doesn’t add any value to the lives of the people who will see it. It’s a piece of content that makes me squirm in my seat just thinking about the fact that a brand probably paid someone to put this online.

I recently chatted with Eric Bandholz of Beardbrand about his experience with Reddit as they generate more than $ 120k per month in revenue and have the full support of the Reddit community. Beardbrand has been able to crack the code on Reddit with thousands of users engaging and supporting their brand.

When I asked him what he did to connect with the community, he explained that he’s not some talented marketer; he’s “just a guy who’s sharing his passion in a very authentic way.” 

That’s the key.

And that’s where most brands get it wrong. Most brands aren’t passionate about what they’re doing. Most brands aren’t authentic about their motives when they engage in online communities. Most brands don’t understand that Reddit users can see right through corporate motivations and will downvote your content because of it. Reddit users hate marketing. Reddit users hate ads. So what can you do to succeed?

So stop thinking about your approach the same way you would think about traditional marketing. In fact, stop being a marketer and start being a valued part of the community.

Stop Marketing. Be Authentic & Passionate.

Most brands fail at Reddit because they see the channel as nothing more than that; a marketing channel.  Beyond that, they fail at Reddit because they don’t actually care.

They don’t actually care about the people they’re interacting with on the other side of the keyboard and don’t care about the community as a whole. If you don’t care about the community in an authentic way, the community will reject you.

It’s as simple as that.

If you’re not passionate about helping others and providing value, the community will reject your brand. If you’re solely there to push your product down the throats of different Subreddits, you’ll be called out. The community will realize and acknowledge that your intentions are one sided and you will be met with resistance and a handful of snarky comments telling you where you and your post can go and directions on how to get there.

One of the most infamous examples of this was an AMA (Ask Me Anything) from Woody Harrelson who came on with the sole intent of promoting one of his movies. Within a few minutes, posts started coming in from people all over the world but many questions were being overlooked. In particular, a question about an alleged hook up was met with this response from Woody:

“First of off, its not true, and second off, I don’t want to answer questions about that. Lets focus on the film people.”

“You said AMA,” explained user joetoc. “That means ‘Ask Me Anything.’ Not ‘Ask Me Anything with regards to this movie I’m pushing.” Another user Rasalom spoke up, “So it’s more of an advertisement, not ask you anything?”

The AMA quickly came to an end and is now infamous for exactly WHAT not to do. Reddit responded with memes that further reiterated that this was a PR/Marketing fail:

Woody Meme

It doesn’t matter if you’re a celebrity or a mom & pops shop, Reddit embraces those who are passionate about what they do and authentic about their intentions.

If you’re looking to succeed on Reddit, it’s not going to happen by uploading a silly meme and crossing your fingers. It’s not going to happen from commenting only when someone mentions your brand. It’s only going to work for you if you’re willing to take the first step in delivering value to the community.

If you’re looking to build a relationship with users on subreddits like /r/BBQ, you should consider delivering value in the form of How To Guides or instructional content. If you’re looking to build relationships with communities like /r/Marketing be transparent with case studies and show marketers how they can do their job better.

Always add value. 

The first step in achieving success on Reddit is delivering your message through passion & authenticity. In my eBook about cracking the Reddit Code, I talk about this in more detail along with the steps you need to take after embracing these philosophies to achieve sustainable success.

With passion & authenticity, you’re already well on your way to winning. You’re already steps ahead of what most brands are doing and are likely to see results because of it. Reddit is hard but it’s not impossible. But as the old saying goes; if it was easy – It wouldn’t be worth it.

Have you used Reddit for marketing in the past? Are you afraid to try Reddit? What other tips do you think could help someone achieve success when marketing on Reddit?

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