Reddit is a website with two reputations.
For Redditors (as its users are called), it's a good way to keep your finger on the pulse of the internet, participate in open discussions around shared interests, get answers from highly engaged niche communities, and, of course, perpetuate memes.
For outsiders who haven't learned how to use Reddit, though, it might seem like a haven for snark and sarcasm, where anonymity runs rampant, and users commit to weird inside jokes and try to one-up one another for upvotes.
Reddit is an entirely different world compared to Facebook, Twitter or wherever else you might spend your time online. So in a way, Snoo—Reddit’s iconic alien pictured in this post’s header—is a fitting mascot for this strange, wildly popular community-based website.
But there are plenty of reasons to put some time into learning how to use Reddit.
With 234 million unique users and 8 billion monthly pageviews, Reddit is the 7th most visited site online and considers itself “the front page of the internet”.
Reddit is also where a lot of viral content gets early traction, where celebrities and interesting people open up to let the world "ask them anything", and people come together to talk about every topic under the sun.
Once you get past the complicated-looking interface, understand the basics of how “sharing” works on the platform, and get to know its weirdness, Reddit can add a lot of value to your life and—despite being generally averse to marketing—your business.
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Understanding the basics of Reddit
The first thing you need to understand is that Reddit thrives on anonymity, but it's kept in check by transparency.
Reddit thrives on anonymity, but it's kept in check by transparency.
Using your real name or birth year in your username is strongly discouraged unless you plan to invest in your own personal brand. Speaking and engaging freely with others is how you get the most out of Reddit. That's because other users can easily see your entire posting/commenting history, which makes it easy for the community to police itself and gauge how authentic a person is based on past behavior on the site.
Creating an account is easy enough. All you need is a username and password—you only need to enter your email if you want to verify your account for long-term use.
For this reason, it's not uncommon for users to have one or two "main" accounts that they rely on and several "throwaway accounts" that are only used once or in certain situations.
Once you've signed up, you'll be automatically subscribed to several popular subreddits like r/videos and r/gifs, but should also subscribe to other subreddits you want to be a part of based on your interests, which you can search through here.
Subreddits are niche communities within Reddit—each with its own rules, subscribers and posts—indicated by r/subreddit (based on the URL structure: reddit.com/r/subreddit).
You can sort all the posts within a subreddit by Hot, New, Rising, Controversial, and Top submissions.
If there's a subreddit you want that doesn't exist (though it's unlikely), you can even create your own subreddit.
Learning the language of Reddit
On Reddit, people tend to be fluent in not only “internet speak” but also terminology that's specific to the platform. There are a whole host of terms and abbreviations you’ll end up learning over time.
Here’s a glossary of commonly used Reddit terms to help you navigate this strange new world—many of which will be covered in greater detail throughout this post:
A Glossary of Reddit Terms
Upvote: A positive vote that indicates a post or comment contributes value to the subreddit or discussion.
Downvote: A negative vote that indicates a post or comment is irrelevant, promotional, or doesn’t contribute any value.
Karma: There’s post karma and comment karma, both of which reflect the quality of your account on Reddit. These points are awarded based on the upvotes you get from your actions on Reddit, and only exist to give the community a sense of your legitimacy and experience as a Redditor.
Reddit Gold: A premium Reddit membership with additional features that can be bought for yourself or awarded to users who you think have made a significant contribution to Reddit.
OP (Original poster): Referring to the person who shared the post that the comment is made on.
Mod (Moderator): An account that polices the subreddit to make sure its rules are being followed with special permissions to ban and remove users, posts, and comments as they see fit.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read): A short summary briefly describing a large body of text, usually in a lengthy text post.
X-post (Cross Post): Sharing a post from one subreddit to another by submitting the URL of the original submission on Reddit and adding to the title that it's an "X-post from [original subreddit]". This is considered the proper way to share something across multiple subreddits.
Repost: Posting something that has already been posted in that subreddit. Try to avoid this by searching the subreddit to see if your link has already been shared.
Lurking: Actively consuming a subreddit, but not actively contributing to it. Many people use Reddit this way.
Throwaway account: A Reddit account that isn’t a user’s main account and wasn’t made for long-term use. A user can have several accounts made for different occasions.
OC (Original content): Content that isn’t reposted from elsewhere, but is something a user has created themselves.
IRL (in real life): Synonymous with the offline world and refers to your actual experiences outside of your online Reddit identity.
NSFW (Not Safe For Work): Explicit or inappropriate content you might not want to open in a public place. This is usually found in the post's title to warn people before they click the link.
FTFY (Fixed That For You): A correction made regarding a typo, a factual error, or sometimes used as a tongue-in-cheek comment.
TIL (Today I Learned): Something the user didn’t know before, but now knows (probably) because of the internet. There's an entire subreddit for these lessons in r/TodayILearned.
AMA (Ask Me Anything): An invitation for Redditors to ask any questions they may have with the promise that the user will answer. It usually starts with “I Am A [something unique/interesting about you], Ask Me Anything”. Visit r/AMA for examples.
Shadow Banning: Since a person with a banned account can just go make another one, "shadow banning' is a special punishment where the user is unaware that they are banned because, instead of having their account shut down, all of their future posts are essentially made invisible to everyone else.
Flair: Added as part of your display name within a specific subreddit (some are defined by the mods, and some let you create your own). Sometimes the subreddit's rules will require you to use a Flair to indicate you are a specific type of poster.
By no means is this a comprehensive list, nor should you expect to grasp it all right away, but it's a good resource to refer back to as you get to know Reddit.
Reddiquette: Understanding the rules of Reddit
Online etiquette is important wherever you post online. But it’s even more important on Reddit where it’s easy to hide behind anonymity and engage in bullying, spam, and sneaky self-promotion.
You can read up in full about Reddit’s own guidelines or Reddiquette, but it boils down to one simple rule:
Aim to contribute value with every action and consider the community first.
When you post something, ask yourself if it's relevant to the subreddit and do a quick search to see if it's already been posted there.
When you upvote, downvote, or comment on someone's post, consider how it's benefiting the greater good of the subreddit.
You’ll quickly realize that commenting and sharing on Reddit is very different from, say, Facebook.
Posts and comments need to add value—posting the same thing someone else has posted or commenting with "that's hilarious" or "cute dog" won't get you upvotes, but something new, witty, insightful, or educational will.
Each subreddit also has its own rules and guidelines, which you can find on the right sidebar.
These rules are enforced through a combination of:
- Manual moderation via the subreddit's moderators.
- Automation via moderator "bots" that flag posts that break certain rules.
- The subreddit's community via the downvoting and reporting system.
It's best to assume each subreddit is different from the next and to take some time to get to know the rules and posting behavior of each one before contributing. Ignoring the rules can get your post deleted or get you banned from the subreddit.
Posting and commenting on Reddit
Posting and commenting on Reddit is how you get upvotes that lead to "Karma", which is Reddit's way of quantifying the contributions of each user.
There are two types of submissions you can make on Reddit (although certain subreddits might limit themselves to just one or the other):
- Links: Take visitors directly to a webpage or piece of content when they click through on your post.
- Text Posts: Expand into a text-based post that you can format and add links to provoke a discussion.
You can submit these from the Submit page or by clicking on Submit Link/Text Post on the right sidebar.
Before you submit, however, be sure to use Reddit's search feature to make sure you're not reposting an existing post (Redditors frown upon this). You can find tips here on how to get specific with your searches.
Timing, the text you write, and the subreddit you submit to all play a role in gaining traction on Reddit. Get enough upvotes and comments in a short amount of time, and your post could end up at the top of the subreddit and then eventually the front page of Reddit where millions of people will see it.
How to build up your reddit karma quickly
Since Reddit embraces anonymity and having multiple accounts is common among users, the Karma system is how Reddit establishes credibility.
The more Karma you have, the more seriously Reddit will take you. But there are two kinds: Post karma and Comment Karma.
You get Post Karma for the upvotes you get on posts and Comment Karma for the upvotes you get on your comments, so it's a good idea to be active in the comments of your own submissions and in posts by others. You can also lose Karma if your individual posts or comments are irrelevant and get enough downvotes for the count to fall below zero.
There's no easy way to build Karma on Reddit. You'll need to consistently contribute to Reddit in meaningful ways. However, there are strategies to help you get going:
- Make a list of very niche subreddits that you’re in a good position to contribute to because you’re an expert or enthusiast. Then go to the “new” tab and see if there any relevant questions you can answer.
- Go to r/AskReddit and ask/answer questions for post and comment karma.
- Make an effort to incorporate Reddit submissions into your regular day-to-day browsing. When you find something worth sharing, post it on one of the highly active subreddits on this list, wherever it would be most relevant.
Free tools to improve your Reddit experience
To help you see more success with your posting on Reddit, I highly recommend the following free tools to up your Reddit game.
Reddit Enhancement Suite (a must!): This Chrome extension makes Reddit many times better, from making it easier to format posts to letting you quickly check up on specific users. It basically gives you some of the features of the premium Reddit Gold membership and more for free.
Reddit Insight: Track the status of a post in real-time from the amount of Karma to the number of comments. With it, you can basically watch a post go viral moment-by-moment.
Reddit Later: Find the best time and day to post to a specific subreddit and schedule your posts to go out at that time. This is invaluable insight for giving your posts the best chance of getting seen.
Together, these tools will make it easier for you to do well on Reddit.
How to use reddit for businesses
Reddit's community puts a lot of effort into protecting its integrity. Users will go out of their way to vet suspicious activity by browsing the account's posting history to gauge its authenticity.
Reddit generally hates shameless marketing, self-promotion, URL shorteners, and anything that makes you seem like you're only using Reddit as a place to sell your products or services.
If you want to understand the level of disdain Redditors have towards this behavior, just look at r/HailCorporate.
But that doesn't mean Reddit can't be useful for business owners.
While you might be tempted to use your anonymity to drop a sneaky link to your products in, say, r/shutupandtakemymoney, there's a chance this could backfire on you and harm your company's reputation.
Marketing isn't the only way businesses can get value out of Reddit.
Once you've built up some Karma and a decent posting history, you can begin harnessing Reddit to grow and improve your business.
1. Pay for Reddit ads
Advertising on Reddit is probably among one of the safest ways to market your products on Reddit.
With Reddit ads, you can target people based on the subreddits they've subscribed to, which lets you get in front of some very specific, super-passionate niches.
Keep in mind that Reddit advertising operates on a cost-per-impression (CPM) basis rather than cost-per-click (CPC) as you might be used to with Facebook ads or Google AdWords.
2. Promote deals in the right subreddits
There's a subreddit for everything and that includes deals. If you've got a discount code or are running a sale, you can share it in communities such as r/deals where savvy shoppers tend to hang out.
3. Customer service and community management
Brands both small and large should consider monitoring Reddit for brand mentions and replying to them. There's a lot of people on Reddit asking about potential purchases, airing complaints about companies, and other things you'll want to keep an eye out for.
4. Post something interesting (that happens to do with your business)
Reddit might not like marketing, but it does like authenticity. For a lot of entrepreneurs, their business is an extension of their life and it won't come across as inauthentic to share it in certain contexts.
5. Do an AMA if you have a compelling story
You can raise your company's profile and build your personal brand by doing an AMA on Reddit.
Post in r/AMA, or find a relevant post and comment on it with "I Am the CEO of ______. Ask Me Anything."
AMAs are conducted by regular folks, like this car salesman, all the way up to Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple. As long as you can position yourself as someone with unique insight, Reddit will have some good questions to ask.
6. Curate viral content
Reddit is an endless source of good content. By subscribing to the subreddits that relate to the niche you're selling in, you'll get a steady stream of top quality content to curate: articles, videos, GIFs and more.
7. Hire local or remote talent
Like any social network, you can also use Reddit to find and hire specific talent. If you're looking for someone who lives near you to hire full time, you can post about the job in your city or region's subreddit (e.g. r/toronto if you're hiring in Toronto). Or you can post in the subreddits dedicated to the skills you need (e.g. r/copywriting, if you're looking for a copywriter.).
8. Market research and feedback
Depending on the subreddit, you can ask its subscribers to give you feedback about your website or product idea. Be careful and transparent about doing this in non-business related subreddits, especially when you are a new user.
When in doubt, ask for feedback in business-related subreddits such as r/entrepreneur.
9. Run a contest in a subreddit
Running a content can be a good way to engage a subreddit in a way that contributes value through engagement.
If you want to run a contest or giveaway, you can reach out to the mods of a subreddit (you can find them in the sidebar) and work out an arrangement.
Prizes could be your products, Reddit Gold, or some combination of the two.
Reddit is best when you put the community first
When I first gave Reddit a try, I was put off because I didn't "get it" and couldn't find any substance on it because I didn't know how to find it.
But once you've subscribed and contributed to a few subreddits, and understand how to find the discussions you want, it becomes a great source of value in your life where you can freely ask your questions to a community of enthusiasts, learn new things every day, and contribute front page worthy posts.
Hopefully now you've got a better understanding of how to use Reddit.
Reddit won't always make sense. It can be hard to familiarize yourself with the site when every subreddit has its defined rules and inside jokes, each carving out its own unique corner of the internet. But that's what makes it so great.