Reddit is possibly the most intimidating social network in existence.
It’s certainly one of the oddest.
If you’ve never used Reddit before, this probably looks like nonsense to you:
At the very least, it looks like an early-2,000s message board throwback.
It also has a reputation for having ruthless users.
It’s been the home of several controversial communities, and Reddit users (who are called Redditors) are known to be incredibly harsh to others.
Yet Reddit is an amazing source of traffic generation, and you can use it to grow your following.
How is that possible?
While Reddit looks complex, it’s surprisingly easy to get the hang of.
When I was first introduced to Reddit, I was confused and honestly a little scared.
However, it didn’t take long for me to see the potential of using the site to get traffic.
If those statistics don’t blow your mind, listen to this. Redditors are highly engaged––the site has an average bounce rate of just 25%.
That’s not bad for a site with millions and millions of users.
My description might have scared you, but rest assured that Reddit isn’t always a toxic place.
You can use it to get some productive discussions going, but you have to know where to look and what to do.
You’ll have to bring your top content marketing game, and you’ll make some mistakes along the way, but it will help you hone your marketing skills like nothing else.
You can become a valued contributor and get more people to your site. Let’s look at how to do this.
What is Reddit?
Reddit was started in 2005, and since then, it’s grown into a digital juggernaut.
One reason why Reddit’s so big is that it’s partially a huge aggregator.
Users submit links from other sites that are relevant to each specific community. These submissions have the link URLs at the end of the title:
Users can also submit what are called text posts or self posts. These are original contributions by each user.
You can identify these by the self tag at the end of each submission.
Text posts enable you to submit your own original content, which is important for driving quality traffic to your site.
Redditors can either upvote or downvote each submission. This concept is called karma.
Having a high karma score will work wonders for your Reddit credibility, so you want to avoid downvotes as much as possible.
As you’ll soon see, the best way to do this is by submitting super valuable content.
One more concept you need to understand is subreddits. A subreddit is a community based around a specific interest.
Each subreddit is identified by the URL structure https://reddit.com/r/subreddit.
To find a subreddit, replace “subreddit” in the URL with a word or phrase.
There are general subreddits like /r/fitness and incredibly niche subreddits like /r/bearsdoinghumanthings. (Yep, that’s a real subreddit.)
All of this only scratches the surface of Reddit.
To really understand Reddit, you’d have to spend months using it.
I don’t want you to have to wait months to get results, so I’m going to tell you what you need to know to leverage the power of Reddit now.
First, it helps to get acquainted with Reddit, so check out this beginner’s guide to get started. Reddit is more than just a website. It’s a culture of its own.
There are social norms that are different from everyday life, and there’s lots of unique slang and expressions that get tossed around.
Second, you should target specific subreddits in your niche.
There is a subreddit for anything you can think of. You want to post in subreddits that relate to your niche.
Luckily, Reddit has a helpful search feature that allows you to search for subreddits.
There are two ways to search: by keyword and by name. I recommend using both, and here’s why.
Let’s say you sell cooking accessories. You could start your search by entering the word “cooking” into the two search bars.
Using the first search bar will give you some suggestions:
But not all of these are accurate. For example, /r/relationships is obviously not related to kitchens at all.
If you search by name, you’ll often get better results:
Again, not all of these will be relevant, and some might even be inappropriate. You have to filter the results and find the best subreddits for you.
Once you’ve found a handful of subreddits, you can start using Reddit for real.
Step 1: Participate
This first step is one of the most important steps, but unfortunately, it’s also one of the most time-consuming.
You have to start out by participating quite a bit. You’ll have to wait a while to post anything.
The site is infamous for rejecting any form of sales, and if you go on Reddit right now and try to market your site, you’ll get torn apart in moments.
You can still use Reddit to get traffic, but you have to walk on eggshells at first.
New accounts are largely distrusted on Reddit. Many people will create accounts and immediately spam their product or service.
In order to gain the trust of the subreddits you’re targeting, you need to start off by posting in them.
It’s a good idea to get a sense of what each subreddit values by clicking on the “Top” tab.
This will show you the most popular submissions for this particular subreddit.
You can also choose the timeframe by choosing the option in the upper left-hand corner, so you can even see the most popular posts of all time.
The top results will be different for each subreddit, and they’ll help you understand what kind of content you should post there.
In /r/entrepreneur, the top posts of all time are mostly in-depth articles and case studies written specifically for Reddit.
These articles tend to be longer and cover detailed business subjects.
Now let’s look at /r/books. Here, the top posts of all time are mostly links to interesting or timely articles about books:
These results are the complete opposite of the results from /r/entrepreneur, and it goes to show how different two subreddits can be.
When you have an idea of what your subreddits value, start participating.
Your journey on Reddit absolutely has to start with participation.
If you jump in and post about your site with a brand new account, you’ll get countless downvotes, and the subreddit will probably shun you.
It sounds extreme, but it’s the reality of Reddit. I’ll prove it to you.
Look at these posts:
These are obvious spam posts, and here’s how you know.
First of all, the submissions are just links with a generic description. That’s not always a red flag, so you have to check the user profile.
But something’s up here. Notice how the username is the name of the company mentioned in the links?
That’s the first red flag. (Pro tip: Choose a username that’s not related to your company. This is normal on Reddit, so don’t feel like you’re deceiving anyone.)
Now let’s check out this user’s profile:
There are only two posts, both to the same site, and the account is only 24-minutes old.
In this case, you can assume this account was solely created to promote the site.
The Redditors at /r/coffee definitely noticed since both posts from this account had a total karma score of 0.
You want to give a ton of value to each community. The goal is to gain a reputation as an esteemed member.
You should post for about three or four weeks (at minimum) before posting anything that leads to your site.
In the meantime, you can submit links and start discussions with text posts, but don’t mention your site for about a month.
Once you’ve built up some positive karma (lots of upvotes on your submissions), you can mention your site in a post, but you have to do it in a very specific way.
Before you post a link to your site, you need to see how others are doing it successfully.
Step 2: Find what works
After you’ve participated in your target subreddits for a month or so, you can take the next step and create a post that mentions your site.
Since you already know what type of content each subreddit finds valuable, your goal is to create and submit something awesome and helpful.
Let’s look at /r/entrepreneur and /r/books again.
On a subreddit like /r/books that’s mostly link-based, you could simply submit a link to content on your site.
But on a subreddit like /r/entrepreneur where in-depth content is king, it’s best to create a long, detailed piece of content just for that subreddit.
There are other strategies, but this is the best one because it will cause the least amount of backlash among Redditors.
That said, even the best posts will cause a little bit of controversy. That’s okay as long as the naysayers make up the minority.
Check out this post from /r/entrepreneur:
Read through the comments. They’re mostly positive, but there are a couple of negative responses.
Overall, the post gained a 296 karma score and a generally positive reception because it provided so much value.
If that poster hadn’t given away so much value, the users of that subreddit would have been much more disrespectful.
See how it works?
There’s another piece of this puzzle. Sometimes, it’s easier to identify self-promotion.
Look at this submission from /r/malefashionadvice:
Is this a self-promotional post?
In other words, is the poster linking to their own site?
It’s impossible to tell. The username is different from the site name, so either option is totally plausible.
However, on other subreddits, it’s much easier to tell if a post is self promotional.
On some subreddits, like /r/entrepreneur, people openly admit when they’re linking to their own sites.
Of course, you could link to your own site without mentioning it and no one would know it’s yours.
The potential downside of this is less traffic. If you don’t highlight a link, there’s little to no incentive for people to check it out.
As a rule of thumb, see what other Redditors are having success with and copy them. (That’s also a good general rule for using Reddit.)
On /r/entrepreneur, it’d be best for you to admit you’re linking to your own site, but that’s not true for every subreddit.
Step 3: Create your first link submission
It’s finally time to submit a link to your site.
You’re not in the clear just yet. There are several ways to optimize your submission.
You should have already decided if you’re going to submit your link directly or link to your site in a text post. You’ll probably end up doing both on different subreddits.
Depending on which one you choose, you need to make your submission as visible as possible.
This is a lot like standard content marketing, so you might recognize the process from this point forward.
It all starts with a great title.
On Reddit, optimizing your title will make sure your post gets seen.
Each subreddit has about 25 submissions per page. You have to stand out from the 24 other posts, and that’s difficult if your title isn’t irresistible.
All the rules of writing good headlines apply here, but there are a couple of secret hacks you can use.
First, capitalize your submission properly. Big capital letters will help your post pop, but not all capitalized titles are created equal.
If you’re posting something like a guide, you should capitalize all the important words.
But if you’re just posting a link or starting a discussion, only capitalize the first word and proper nouns.
Capitalizing every word or none of the words will make your title look awkward. You want it to look natural.
Second, use certain tags if applicable. If you poke around on Reddit, you might see words in brackets like this:
These are called tags. They help people identify what kind of post they’re looking at, and it helps to keep Reddit nice and tidy.
Take a look around each subreddit and look for tags people are using. If any of them apply to your post, use them in your submission title.
Some subreddits also require tags with posts, so make sure to check the sidebar and FAQ before posting.
This might seem like a lot, but going through all of this will make sure your post won’t get deleted by subreddit moderators or reported by users.
Bonus hack: Host an AMA
I wanted to save this strategy until the end of this article because it shouldn’t be the first thing you do.
You should only do this after you’ve made a couple of informative, helpful posts so people know who you are.
It also doesn’t apply to every subreddit.
The concept is to host an Ask Me Anything, or AMA.
AMAs are basically interviews, but the questions are asked by Redditors.
Here’s what an AMA looks like:
An AMA is a perfect opportunity to naturally mention your site or brand, and almost no one will mind.
Redditors love AMAs when the person being interviewed drops a lot of interesting information.
Think juicy behind the scenes stories and detailed tips that are written specifically for the Redditor asking.
There is an entire subreddit for AMAs, but most subreddits allow for AMAs to happen as well.
I recommend hosting an AMA on your niche subreddit. This will qualify your traffic for you and increase the likelihood that you’ll get lots of engagement.
Just like you did with your content, make sure to give Redditors a humongous amount of value during your AMA.
Answer questions in detail and don’t hold anything back. Redditors can sense when someone is just doing an AMA for exposure, so you have to give back to the community.
This might seem obvious at this point, but Redditors are passionate.
Often, that takes the form of severe criticism. I’ve gotten my fair share.
On the other hand, if Reddit loves something, it goes crazy.
This works even with smaller subreddits. One entrepreneur hosted an AMA and got nearly 2,000 unique visitors to his site the same day.
That’s not bad at all for someone who’s not an influencer. And your numbers could be even higher than that.
That’s why Reddit is so useful for building your tribe. If someone from Reddit likes your content, they will probably love your content.
Like I said, Redditors are passionate, so they’ll be passionate about your brand too.
Most marketers don’t put in the effort of mastering Reddit. They fail almost immediately and dismiss it.
And sure, Reddit isn’t the place for shoving anything down anyone’s throat, but it’s still a valuable source of new blood for your site.
The way to succeed on Reddit is the way to succeed with content marketing in general: Provide tons of value. If you do that, you won’t go wrong.
Are you a Reddit user? Let me know in the comments if you’re planning on using these strategies to generate traffic.
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