People have been getting together online to discuss common interests since the internet rolled out to just a couple thousand people in the late 80s. Forums, chat rooms, and message boards hosted these discussions into the 90s and early 2000s. But now that half of the world’s population has internet access, these discussion forums have grown into behemoths that often create the pop culture that the rest of society follows.
Reddit is the largest forum at the moment. As of January 2020, Reddit has 430 million monthly active users. So many people visit Reddit that content on its first page will sometimes receive 500,000 clicks in just 24 hours. Websites that can’t handle the visit load often crash in what’s been nicknamed Reddit’s “hug of death”. Chances are, if you see a piece of content on the front page of Reddit, you’ll see an author use it in a story on Huffington Post, Yahoo News, or Buzzfeed just a few hours later. So how can Reddit help content marketers?
Why is Reddit valuable to content marketers?
Reddit is an amalgamation of smaller forums called “subreddits” where each subreddit is dedicated to content and discussion around a particular topic. There are subreddits for DIY projects, restaurant chains, men’s fashion, politics, just about everything under the sun (good and bad). Reddit users subscribe to the subreddits they’re most interested in and can vote on whether they like content posted to that subreddit by upvoting the content or downvoting it. Users can also post content themselves and even comment on the content in long discussion threads. The content that users like best gets upvoted to the top of the stack. This upvoting mechanism is incredibly useful because thousands of things are posted to Reddit every hour, which could get overwhelming. But upvoting helps separate the gold from the dirt.
From a marketer’s perspective, it almost seems too good to be true. A massive online forum where people automatically segment themselves into different markets and demographics and then vote on what content they like best?! Sign me up.
Using Reddit, content marketers can tap into ideas that are already verified by upvotes and vetted by their target audience. Ideas that have already been done and were well received can be done again. Content that was good but maybe a little off the mark can be upgraded and released as part of a new marketing campaign. Content that worked well for one industry can be adapted to yours. By finding subreddits with subscribers that represent your target audience and then looking at those subscribers’ favorite content, you can take your online marketing to another level.
Here are the steps I’d recommend to get started digging through the treasure trove of content ideas.
Become an active member of the Reddit community
There’s no better way to grasp what Reddit is all about than diving in yourself and becoming part of the community. Sign up for an account (don’t use your real name or anything company related), and start commenting on the content you see. Read Reddit’s general rules and pay attention to any content guidelines created by the subreddits you subscribe to (example below). Post content you like and watch people’s responses. Try to gain some karma — the points attributed to your user account when other people upvote your content.
There’s no need to go all out, though you certainly can if you want to (if you really dive in, you may get invited to a private Reddit group called the Eternity Club for users who have posted content that made it to the top of Reddit’s first page). But just a few comments and posts will give you a good enough understanding of how top content rises with upvotes and gets in front of other Reddit users.
Get familiar with Reddit’s search functions
Reddit’s search function can be a content marketer’s idea machine if you know how to use it right. On the right sidebar of any subreddit is a classic search bar with a magnifying glass icon. The search bar works like any other, and generally turns up decent results. But you can actually get more granular by restricting your searches to particular subreddits, only looking for submissions from particular websites, or even using Boolean Operators. These search mechanics will become a critical part of your content mining process down the road. Creating content for a burger chain? Searching for “hamburger” and limiting the results to the r/Food subreddit will deliver some fresh ideas. Running an SEO campaign for a non-profit? Going to r/UpliftingNews and filtering the posts from the last year by the most upvoted can show you the phrasing for the stories that get the most attention. There are so many subreddits, that you could repeat this process across thousands of industries.
Typically, the most useful steps are (1) typing in a word that represents the type of content you’re trying to create and (2) filtering the results by the most upvoted. It’s simple but incredibly effective at showing you what content works and what doesn’t. You’ll know you have hit a winning idea when the same type of content (e.g. instructive “How-To” GIFs for household items) shows up in the top results multiple times. But if you ever want to get really detailed, Reddit has outlined their search mechanics at length here: https://www.reddit.com/wiki/search
The limitations of finding content ideas on Reddit
The Reddit demographic is skewed. Over 50% of Reddit’s user base is in the 18-25 age range and its also nearly 65% male. Granted, the 18-25 demographic is incredibly valuable to most marketing and advertising campaigns. But it’s good to know that your sample size is predominantly young and very, very male. A few other things to note about the Reddit audience — it’s more than 80% white, almost 59% single, and sees strong participation from grade school and college students.
It’s also important to know that not everything that is successful on Reddit can translate into successful content marketing. If you’re running a content marketing campaign for a jewelry company and your Reddit research shows you that Star Wars themed rings are upvote gold mines, you probably can’t translate that into content for your company without getting an angry letter from Lucas Film lawyers. You can still get around these limitations with slight tweaks (space-themed engagement rings for example), but not every idea can be a one-to-one translation to your content strategy.
Other forums to be aware of
Reddit isn’t the only forum on the internet obviously. Here are a few others worth knowing about:
Voat – a near pixel-for-pixel knockoff of Reddit with a much smaller user base and less content regulation
GrowthHackers – a smaller vote-based forum for “business growth” content that typically features blog posts and news articles
Hacker News – Y Combinator’s version of Reddit that caters to programmers and startups
Online forums are goldmines of good content ideas and Reddit is the biggest forum. Join Reddit’s community, learn how to use its search functions, and understand its limits, and you’re well on your way to some of the best content marketing you’ve put out yet.