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Are Reddit Ads Worth It? What We Learned From Our First Campaign

Reddit ads

Marketing

06 Jun 2024 • 8 min read •

Austin Shong

Reddit users, or Redditors, are infamous for being cynical, skeptical, exclusive, and hard to get along with. If you’re new to the platform, these “Average Redditor” TikToks will give you a good idea of what to expect.

There’s two big factors that contribute to this reputation:

  • Reddit is largely anonymous: Redditors can say what they want without fear of IRL (in real life) retribution. Unlike the more identity-based platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and LinkedIn, Reddit’s anonymity encourages users to put it all out there — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
  • Reddit is for niches: Reddit is built upon thousands of subreddits — forums that center around very specific interests. These niche communities develop their own cultures with unique rules, language, and rituals. Users are loyal to their particular subreddits, and it creates a hivemind culture of skepticism and protectiveness. Ads can set off alarm bells.

At the same time, Reddit users can be incredibly knowledgeable, supportive, and generous with their time. Ultimately Reddit is one of the hardest social channels to advertise on while also being one of the most rewarding. Why?  Because Redditors are super engaged.

Many businesses are well positioned for success on Reddit — you just have to figure out the right way to show up.

We ran our first set of Reddit ads and learned some valuable lessons in the process. And we want to share it all with you. 

What’s different about advertising on Reddit vs other social channels?

At face value, placing ads on Reddit follows the same rules as Meta ads, X ads, LinkedIn ads, and any other paid social ads. Pick your audience, add your creative, and start testing. While the ad buying process will be familiar, Reddit requires a different approach to producing ads.

Do your research

Reddit is a special place on the Internet. Every social platform has its unique purpose and user behaviors, but Reddit throws you into an entirely new environment. Like we said up top, the platform is made up of smaller communities or subreddits. Users spend their time on the platform interacting within these niches, so when an outsider starts posting irrelevant things -– especially an outsider running ads — the alarm bells go off.

That’s why research is incredibly important. You have to spend some time learning the ropes, on both the general platform and the particular subreddits you want to target. Start a personal Reddit and join some communities for fun. Post, reply, and upvote. Build up your karma. Learn about proper etiquette.

Sure, a bit of research helps you run great ads on other platforms too. The difference is that people simply expect ads on Instagram or Facebook or LinkedIn. An irrelevant ad on these platforms isn’t a jarring experience. TikTok requires a similar level of research as Reddit to nail targeting, but at the end of the day if a user comes across an ad in their FYP that isn’t relevant to them, they’ll probably just scroll past it.

Not so on Reddit — an out-of-place or poorly executed ad can get a much more intense reaction. There’s more danger in not being relevant, so you need to immerse yourself in Reddit culture at the outset.

Rethink your standard campaign goals

We’re performance marketers, of course we track click through rate.

Until you advertise on Reddit. Above benchmark CTR is the classic performance metric of a successful ad campaign, but it might not be the right number to track on Reddit. Of course it’s possible to drive traffic to a website, especially if you’re selling a product. But hinging your campaign on high CTR is risky because of Reddit’s general skepticism towards ads.

Reddit ads reporting dashboardReddit ads reporting dashboard

If you’re a new, lesser known brand, or a small business, consider the value of just getting your name in front of your target niche. Think about measuring brand awareness metrics instead, like impressions. If you turn on comments, you can also get a reading on brand sentiment.

What we learned from running Reddit ads (with comments turned on)

We ran three ads on Reddit, all targeting the social media marketing subreddit. We even turned on comments for one of the ads. It didn’t go perfectly, but it also didn’t go horribly wrong.

Loomly Reddit ad
An ad simulating an unrealistic text message exchange between a social media manager and their boss. We turned on comments for this one and got 60 interactions.
Loomly reddit ad
A meme format ad showing a cute kitten. The "Not me..." phrasing is also a popular meme format.
Loomly reddit ad
A simple text-based ad that leans on Reddit's language, like "TIL" (today I learned).

We took stock at the two-week mark to see what was working and what wasn’t. Here are the lessons we’ll apply to our next set of Reddit ads.

1. Be a fellow Redditor

Reddit has a language, and you have to speak it. It’s extremely self-referential, meaning it’s built on memes, acronyms, phrasings, etc that originated from Reddit itself. Take Reddit acronyms, for instance: you might know what AMA* means, but how about YMMV**? OP***? IANAD****?

A huge component of Reddit culture is not taking yourself too seriously. Approach your audience like a fellow Redditor, and lean into self-deprecating humor if you can. Visuals are important. Reddit is the land of memes and screenshots. The more polished your ad looks, the more it will stand out — in a bad way. Adjust your creative to match the lo-fi nature of the platform. We used a simple text convo. But you can also try (current) memes, or screenshots with messy annotations. Just don’t try too hard to be “down with the kids.”

Screen_Shot_2017_07_13_at_1.09.20_PMDon't try too hard to be down with the kids. Source: Fellow Kids meme.

Your copy also shouldn’t be too over the top. Marketing speak and direct calls to action stand out like a sore thumb. Strike a balance between communicating your brand’s value props while being light, conversational, and tapping into the right amount of Reddit speak.

Takeaway: In the end, Redditors are probably going to poke holes in your ad just because it’s an ad. Don’t take yourself or your ad too seriously and it might just perform better.

*AMA = Ask me anything
**YMMV = Your mileage may vary
***OP = Original poster
****IANAD = I am not a doctor

2. Set your goals correctly

Reddit is a great place to gain brand goodwill — or destroy it. Straight selling just won’t stand, even if you approach it organically. The ultimate goal of any ad is to get people to purchase or sign up, but a more realistic goal on Reddit is to help people recognize your brand and draw positive associations with it.

We got a respectable amount of traffic to our ads, but not a ton of conversions to our website. In this case, CTR was simply not the best measure for our Reddit ads. We learned more in terms of impressions and comments, so we’ll probably build our campaign around these metrics next time.

That’s not to say that you should abandon any hope of direct conversions from Reddit Ads, but know your audience and set expectations accordingly. If you’re used to only running campaigns with the goal of purchases, consider splitting your budget between that goal and one focused on awareness.

Takeaway: Don’t sacrifice all your spend at the altar of CTR or CAC when awareness metrics might serve your creative and your audience better.

3. Comments maximize your reach

We ran three ads, and turned on comments for just one — the one with the strongest copy and creative. We got some great comments and some not so nice comments.

comments on reddit adsPositive comments on our Reddit ad

There’s a huge initial benefit to turning on comments: people are more likely to stop and look at an ad that has any number of comments. They’ll click because they want to see what other people commented. Right there you’ve increased your ad’s penetration. The question is, will all those comments be positive, or will it be a dogpile on your brand?

Comments on reddit adMore comments on our Reddit ad, and a nice example of how turning on comments can promote brand goodwill

You should only turn on comments if you have the right creative to support conversation. Some big brands probably shouldn’t turn on comments at all because they’re too well known and the risk is too high. But smaller brands can ride this opportunity by pairing their best, most Reddit-friendly creative with comments. Think memes, pop culture references, interesting primary data, or deals.

If you turn on comments on the wrong creative, it could become a pile on. You might get hundreds of comments and that correspond to an increase in clicks. But that also means more people will see negative comments about your ad and potentially develop a less than favorable association with your brand.

Takeaway: If you turn on comments, always be prepared for several bad responses. But with the right ad copy and creative, a few bad egg comments might be worth the sacrifice for your brand to catapult into the awareness and goodwill of your target audience.

4. Ad fatigue hits fast

Subreddits are naturally smaller compared to the audiences you would target on Facebook or Google search. That means ad fatigue can hit fast. The smaller your audience, the faster Redditors will grow tired of seeing your ad in their feed.

We clocked about two weeks before we started seeing comments to the tune of “why am I seeing this ad again?” It depends on the size of the subreddits you target, but we estimate that a two week run time is a solid duration for a Reddit campaign. After that, you start to burn out any goodwill you were able to acquire.

Takeaway: Reddit ads have the shortest shelf-life across paid social channels.

Are Reddit ads worth it?

At this point you might be asking yourself, “why even bother with Reddit ads?”

The answer is simple: You won’t get targeting like this anywhere else.

Reddit ad audience targeting dashboard

Audience targeting for Reddit ads

Subreddits provide extra defined niches. The people who join a given subreddit and then spend time scrolling it are guaranteed to be interested and invested in the topic at hand. Their potential interest in your ad and your brand is already quite high.

Plus, Reddit has become a default search platform for many people on the internet. This behavior is scaling every day — this survey showed that nearly 70% of respondents append “reddit” to their Google search results to get better answers. That means the audience on Reddit is growing.

Finally, all those people adding “Reddit” to their search queries are often in the middle of a buying journey. They’re in the consideration or research mindset. As more people wise up to affiliate marketing and review site strategies, they are turning to Reddit to find real opinions from real users on brands, products, and services.

All together, that means Reddit ads offer you the ability to hyper-target a growing audience of consumers who are looking to make a purchase for a very specific product or service. It’s a potential ad paradise.

H2: Advice for getting started with Reddit ads

If you’re at all curious how your brand could perform on Reddit ads, it’s worth a real shot. Reddit often offers a promo for free ad credit when you spend a certain amount, so you can test out a campaign without eating too far into your social budget.

Reddit ad creditsAn example of Reddit's Ad Credits

Here’s a few tips for getting started with your first Reddit campaign:

  1. Spend some time getting to know the platform. Then spend some time getting to know your audience in a few specific subreddits. Hang out for a month or two, and even consider engaging (from a separate personal account).
  2. As you join subreddits, take note of the ads you see. Just spend some time looking at them, see how people react to them, see how you feel about them as part of your own organic experience. Screenshot any ads that you think are really good or really bad and use that as inspiration.
  3. Start with a small audience, and DON’T start with your best audience. Pick a smaller subset within the audience you want to target. This will save you from burning the entire group if your ads don’t hit right the first time.
  4. Test a wide variety of creative. Start with three to five ads and make them all very different from each other. Unlike on Meta, where you might test subtle copy or creative variations, in your first Reddit test you want to find exactly what’s working and then cast it to the wider subreddit audience.
  5. Make it a quick test. Ad fatigue hits fast, so set your duration for two weeks max and see how the creative performs.

Wrapping it up

We’ve gone over all the reasons running ads on Reddit can be risky — and all the reasons running ads on Reddit can slingshot your brand’s reach and goodwill. If you feel your product is well positioned and your brand can match Reddit’s energy, then it’s worth running a small test on the right audience. 

Before you go any further, start by learning what it takes to be a Redditor. It’s unlike any other social media channel, but it could be your ticket to increased brand awareness, trust, and loyalty.

 

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