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The Ultimate Guide To Using Reddit As Free Viral Traffic Source

Noah Krasser
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Introduction

Reddit is a really unique social network. Unlike Facebook or Instagram, you have access to millions of users at your fingertips without the need of a single follower or audience-building.

But that's exactly what makes it especially tricky to use reddit as a marketing platform. Because when redditors sense even the slightest corporate interest in a post, your post will be immediately downvoted and die in new, with only a dozen views.

If you do get it right, however, there is the possibility to get your message in front of hundreds of thousand of people.

I am using reddit daily for many years already now, know the platform, had some great successes so far and now wanna share my experience with you.

The Holy-Marketing Rule Of Reddit

First of all, the most important rule of all rules on reddit: Corporate is bad. Don't even try to remotely post advertising material on other subreddits. Public company accounts only work in two cases:

  • Company-specific subreddits (for example r/hetzner)
  • If you're discussing with people in a normal manner without trying to sell them on something (for example Corsair on r/pcmasterrace)

If you're a company producing dietary supplements for example and post on r/nutrition about your products, you can say goodbye. Most subs even have a rule "No advertising/self-promotion".

Same goes with comments. If someone asks for advice on what supplement to take and you comment how good yours is with a company account you can also say goodbye.

Those posts and comments will be downvoted immediately, reported and eventually removed by the moderators. If they haven't banned you after the first time you can even consider yourself lucky.

And to demonstrate this, I invented a new nutrition company called "VENDABENE".

I made up a fake product, designed a bottle label and created this ad:

And then I posted it on r/pics. The outcome:

Charming comments:

And eventually:

You can't see the downvotes on posts, but you can estimate it. By refreshing often you can see if someone upvotes when the percentage goes up. I know that at least one person voted up for that ad, so that would be two upvotes including mine. Now we can form that into an equation:

Downvotes=\frac{Upvotes}{Upvote Percentage}

That's 28 downvotes contrasting 2 upvotes in case of the VENDABENE ad.

So, open advertising and a public company account is not the way to go here. Except for when you want to settle for a company-subreddit with maybe 100 followers that are already your customers or just casually talking with people in other subreddits.
But that's not what you're here for. You're here to leverage the gigantic user base that's at the tip of your fingers for more sales, a bigger mailing-list, views or whatever you want to accomplish.

The Reddit-Rule Of Copywriting

Before the actual guide starts, one more very, very important concept to understand when using reddit for marketing.

If you're usually doing content marketing or copywriting, you are probably planning on creating the best headlines for your post and the best landingpage copy.

Well, better not. I am writing this part before the whole guide because it will apply to nearly every step of it and you should always keep it in the back of your mind while planning your reddit campaign:

As I said, redditors don't like corporate and they also don't trust corporate on reddit. Still, copywriting techniques will work of course, but the more salesy you write, the more suspicious people will become.

In general your copy on reddit should be personal. Like casually talking with friends. Absolutely don't use "we", if you represent a company. Always use "I". The more personal, the better.

Do
I have created this free ebook for you.

Don't
We have created this free ebook for you.

Also always address the individual in your post, instead of the group.

Do
I am sure you will like it.

Don't
I am sure you all will like it.

Apply this to everything in your reddit campaign. The title, the post body, the website copy, the autoresponder, etc.

You can now decide which overall level of salesiness your copy should have.

This is a very important step in the whole process. Keep this in mind when deciding:

Salesy Copy

Pros

  • Your post will gain attention much quicker.
  • Your conversion rate will be higher.

Cons

  • Your post will be taken down by moderators more quickly.
  • Redditors will generally be more suspicious about you and trust you less. The newsletter unsubscribe rate will be higher.

Non-Salesy Copy

Pros

  • Your post will not be removed as quickly.
  • Redditors will trust and like you more which means fewer newsletter unsubscriptions.

Cons

  • When not applying those influencing copywriting techniques your post will gain less attention and the landingpage will as well have a lower conversion rate.

It's completely up to you to and the result of your analysis you will make next chapter to determine the level of salesiness of your copy.

You have to evaluate what's better in your specific situation.

The Guide

Let's now go for the main part you've waited for.

1. Scout The Subreddit

The first thing you will want to do is scout the subreddit. Gather as much information as possible about it. You will want to find out the following things:

How Well And Strict Is The Subreddit Moderated?

The bigger the sub, the better it is usually moderated. How many mods are there even? What do the rules look like? What do the policies say about self-promotion?

This is to know how much of resistance you will have when posting.

What Content Works?

Also, if you haven't already, look at the top posts and find out what content this community praises most. On the other hand, sort by new as well and pick out some downvoted posts, so you get to know which content to avoid.

2. The Content

Next up, you need your piece of content that you will share. We now know that a normal ad will backfire, so what else can it be?

Genuine, Useful, Content

That's what reddit likes most. Two things that will work nicely are blog posts and lead magnets.

But it must be something extraordinary, something really amazing, because redditors are used to high-quality resources. Don't show up with your meaningless 200 words blog post or your shitty $3 PLR ebook. Nobody will give a damn.

Your content must provide genuine and exclusive value to those people. That's where the upvotes and engagement come from.

You can do that with a detailed 2000 word blog guide for example, or an ebook with amazing information on a specific topic.

An ebook used as lead magnet will bring the best results, as you can "lock" it behind a newsletter-subscription and create a custom landingpage. After newsletter-subscription, you can then send those people to your main website using a custom autoresponder for this reddit campaign.

What have I done?

Let me tell you what I created here: So, I am quite interested in WWII and also follow a WWII-game subreddit. One day, someone posts a German training document about the Tiger tank in there. Even though nobody could read it, it received many upvotes. That's where I thought I should create a translation.

It took me two weekends to finish it. Not the whole thing, only three chapters, but it was absolutely amazing. I translated it authentically, even recreated some rhymes what was really hard to accomplish. I reused many images while also optimizing it for print, so everyone can easily reference it while playing the game. A massive 48 pages ebook with separate versions for the imperial and metric system.

At first I thought about selling that thing for $5. I wrote the post on reddit, published it, received relatively many upvotes, but only three sales. I still don't know if $5 were too much for most people, which is strange as it would've made them way better in the game using this manual, or if a small UX error I didn't think of caused a misunderstanding.

My little mistake.

As this is a guide I will also explain to you that mistake really quick, so you can avoid it yourself:

I created a simple store page with only an order form, the description and some photos.

For photos I used screenshots of not that important pages.

Now, what was the mistake? Well, I fear many people didn't quite read much of the text, what I should've thought of. I suspect people thought those preview-images were the whole thing and the order form was just some kind of donation.

So, they read those four preview-pages, liked it and went on with their day.

From now on I will always watermark those pages with a big, fat PREVIEW.

However, a few months later I remembered the pdf still laying around unused and with only a few people having seen it. That was a shame, so I decided to try out some new marketing tactics.

I built a landingpage using Unbounce, that is what I consider the best landingpage builder ever existing, set up MailChimp to deliver the ebook right away and it was finished.

I created a post, on three niche-related subreddits and the outcome was amazing. Within a short period of time, I received a total of 5287 views and a whopping average conversion rate of 34,25%. Why average? I did some A/B-testing as well. In the end, I was able to increase the CR to 40%.

There were lots of things I would do differently now, but I will come back to all of them later in this guide.

That was just to show you things are possible on reddit. The three subreddits I posted to have a combined following of 170.000.

3. The Website And Autoresponder

Perfect, you got your piece of content, but before posting you need a website to present your content on.

I will use a lead magnet (ebook, pdf, etc. behind a newsletter subscription) for download as an example from now on, as it has the most potential in my eyes.

What you will definitely need is a landingpage. The landingpage needs four crucial things:

  • A 3D rendering of a book/tablet with your cover
  • Some description of what to expect
  • A newsletter subscription-form
  • Scarcity inducing elements

And just so you don't forget:

  • Cookie banner
  • Legal notices
  • Privacy Policy
  • Social share buttons

Having a rendered image of a real book or your cover displayed on a tablet makes your ebook look more real and valuable . There are some free online services that let you upload your cover and then render that for you. Alternatively, you can also render a tablet and/or smartphone with the cover on it. That all depends on your design choices.

Then you need a description of what to expect in this ebook. As always, focus on the benefits and why they should download it and build trust with them. Some people have justified fears of giving away their email address to a stranger.

Next up the heart of the site: The subscription form. Keep it simple. Just a field for the email, a checkbox for GDPR if you're in the EU and the submit button. Place a small text below that button acting as a trust element. For example "I will never send you spam" or similar. This also boosts CR.

If someone would like to know how to set up the autoresponder, write a comment and I will consider writing another guide for MailChimp.

Last but not least you absolutely need to include scarcity elements that trigger peoples FOMO (fear of missing out). What I first did was include the price I sold it for previously and next to it I placed a "FREE" label. After some time I made an A/B-test where I included another label saying "OFFER ENDS SOON". The CR absolutely skyrocketed. As this landingpage is only being used for reddit and a reddit post dies after two days, I absolutely recommend you to do this.

By the way, it's better to use tangible dates (ENDS IN 3 DAYS) instead of using a vague "ENDS SOON".

But now good advice. Don't make this landingpage too professionally looking. Many people will not care, but some will become suspicious, especially mods.

You remember what I told you about corporate? A nicely made custom landingpage smells a bit too much like corporate.

So, keep it simple, nothing too fancy. I made the landingpage for my tank-ebook a bit too professionally looking and some redditors got suspicious because of that.

A tip aside on how to deliver the ebook:

You can either use software that restricts access to only subscribed people. However, I have no experience with such software and I think it's a bit overkill to set something like that up for a free lead magnet.

That's why you will want to trigger a direct download from a link in the email. I haven't found a proof way to do this directly with the pdf yet, as Chrome and many other browsers always open the file in its own pdf reader instead of downloading it.

You don't want that. It's too easy for people to just copy the URL and paste it wherever they want. We want to make it at least a little bit harder for them.

What I did so far is zipping the pdf into an archive. This triggers an immediate download. Not the best way to do it, but acceptable and nobody complained.

Don't forget to make your website Safe For Mods.

If you decided to post a blog article/guide, make the site SFM (safe for moderators; a term I just invented). Remove all ads from the site, remove any elements of self-promotion, everything that mods may make suspicious that there's more behind your post than just providing value.

Give people an incentive to stay subscribed.

Another important part you must not overlook: You are forcing people to sign up for your newsletter. Many people don't like this and in consequence, you will have lots of unsubscriptions, which is not good.

People don't know you and they know even less about what they just subscribed to. They will get your ebook and nope the hell out of that unknown newsletter.

You don't like this, because you lose many of your precious highly-targeted and highly-committed subscribers.

Your mailing provider also doesn't like to see this. It will think you are sending spam when the unsubscribe rates exceed a specific threshold and in last consequence will ban your account. (Their mail-servers simply are their business and can't afford to have them blacklisted)

That's why it's a really high priority to keep as many subscribers as possible.

How you may ask? Just give them an incentive to!

First, clear up what you are going to send them right on the landingpage. Short and concise. For example "To get the ebook, subscribe to my fishing newsletter to receive more great information about fishing".

When they signed up, repeat this in the mail that you deliver the ebook with. Also, include another incentive to stay subscribed. I used a very vague "All subscribers will receive a special when I publish my new translation, so be sure to stay tuned". I just plan to give a discount on my next translation, but that's another story.

Or to stick with the fishing example: "I am already writing on a second ebook (about topic) and you as newsletter subscriber will be the first to know. So stay tuned!". Again, make it personal address them as "you as newsletter subscriber" instead of "all my newsletter subscribers".

Group your mailing list.

Also be sure to group your mailing list (automatically add them to a group (or tag them) that indicated that they subscribed through this specific reddit campaign). The more information you have about your subscribers, the better. This allows you to send out highly-targeted mails to different parts of your mailing list.

4. The Post

When the website and autoresponder works (better double check), it's time to write the post.

No link post! Use a text post. Link posts will look like spam and you need that text field.

The Title

We will begin with the title, the absolutely most important thing to gain attention in the first place.

Redditors are title-readers. Write a nice, long, descriptive title.

Remembered that redditors should be spoken to like friends? Good, because that's what we start our title with. Begin with a friendly greeting, but don't address the subreddit itself in your greeting, it's just strange.

Do
Hi there, I wrote a nice...

Don't
Hey r/health, I wrote a nice...

Next thing: Don't use title case. It looks too salesy.

Do
Hi there, I wrote this amazing guide for you.

Don't
Hi There, I Wrote This Amazing Guide For You.

Here is the title I came up with for my tank ebook that worked really well. I went the 100%-salesy way and left out the title in the greeting as people already knew me on this sub.

Armored Gamemode is Coming Up! Quickly grab my free, authentic Tigerfibel-translation and learn how to annihilate the enemy-team and dominate the battlefield with your crew. The little-known, ultimate guide to Panzers. (Many concepts and tactics can also be applied to allied tanks)

The Body

The body acts as little introduction to your ebook/blog post. Describe it in more detail and something is very important: Build more trust!

Get people to like you.

It's simple psychology. People like people they know and trust. So, tell a story, say something they can relate to and they will immediately like you more.

You can get out your whole persuasion toolset and do everything to gain trust and sympathy.

Drop your link in the post wherever you want, maybe even twice. Don't use URL shortening services, that will trigger spam alert. Also, don't insert it as an inline link. Copy and paste the whole URL in there (you can of course inline link the URL itself).

Do
Read it here: https://noahkrasser.com

Don't
Read it here.

Here are some phrases and elements you can use, to get sympathy from people.

  • "Hope you like it"
  • "Hope you like it, it's really been a lot of work"
  • "I worked four full days on it, really hope you like it"
  • "My friend said it is shit, but I don't actually think so" (Creates a common enemy situation)
  • ":)" (Smiley Emoticon can be appended to all those phrases. Consider adding a nose ":-)" for an even more innocent look)

People love being seen or seeing themselves as "superior individual". Phrases like that convey innocence and insecurity. People will subconsciously notice and take position as a self-confident human being who takes you under his protection. So, be prepared for many "Thank you, you are amazing" comments. It's a really powerful technique if used the right way.

I'm sure there's some psychological term for this, but I found it out by reading and analyzing thousands of reddit comments and you can too spot examples for this all the time when keeping an eye out for it.

It's some kind of self-deprivation and maybe not suited for every situation, but it will boost sympathy.

Engender Indebtedness.

The "it's really been a lot of work"-part also doesn't come from anywhere. It engenders indebtedness. Tell them how much work it was and they will value it even more. They will be more grateful and also feel more obligated to return something. Be it an upvote, a nice comment or a social media share. And you would do everything for those precious orangered arrows, right? (yes, that's actually the name of this specific color)

Don't ask mods for permission!

Now, another important thing: Don't message mods and ask for permission before posting! If you ask and they do not comply you messed up your chance.

Just post without asking them. The post has potential to gain lots of attention before mods take it down. One of my three posts got taken down three days after submitting it at a score of 2.2k upvotes.

After they take it down you can message them and ask why they did it, when you just wanted to provide some genuine value to the community. Maybe you are allowed to put it up again. And if you can persuade them into how good of a person you are and the amazing value you bring, they may even help you advertise the post on the subreddit.

5. Promote The Post

Alright. Now you submitted the article and it's live. But we're not done yet.

Research shows, that even 4-5 upvotes in the early phase of a post greatly increase the probability of becoming popular.

Use alternate accounts or ask friends and colleagues to upvote the post in the first few minutes after posting.

And now what you definitely have to do: Award your own post. Not right after submitting it obviously but later on when the post already received attention or else it will look strange.

Gold is only $2 anymore and it will passively push your post. A gold badge next to the title stands out and people will click even more, because everyone wants to see the content other people spend money on, because it must be good then, right?

Is gilding your own post kinda strange to do?

Yes.

Is more views and conversions the only thing that counts?

Yes.

Expect Resistance

You will have to expect resistance. With so many people looking at your post and a direct, anonymous way to communicate with you and everyone else, there will be some black sheep. Just be prepared for that.

I really have no idea how people think I would want to sell their emails. All the pages are completely compliant with strict, European law with all my contact information and still those people think I am planning something bad.

Just stay friendly and don't care too much about those people.

See this example: This user reports my newsletter and domain for spamming for absolutely no reason. I still don't exactly get why someone would want to do this, when there is not a single hint of spam, but okay.

"I just got this really nice ebook from this dude, but I don't like his newsletter. I mean, his website doesn't look spammy and I also haven't received a single mail that even remotely looks like spam, also all of his contact information is public and he has a privacy policy AND he is an EU-citizen, but let me just report all of this as spam."

Some people are just idiots and get upset for no reason, but we gotta live with it.

</rant>

Sorry, but this makes me fuming.

Fight The Pirates

There absolutely will be people who get your ebook, put it on a cloud and blatantly comment the link on your post.

Don't live with that, fight them!

On my post there were three people that put the ebook on cloud services.

First, just tell them to put it down.

The second thing to do is just to report the file for copyright infringement using the "Report" button. The platforms removed my ebook within 24 hours of me reporting it.

One redditor even commented people should private message him for the download link. Whipped out my second account, messaged him, reported it and gone it was a few hours later (together with his whole account hopefully).

Don't let those pirates make your mailing list smaller!

Final Thoughts

You see, there is much potential in using reddit for marketing, but you can make a ton of mistakes on the way.

Don't hesitate to ask any questions in the comments or write me an email, I'm always glad to help you.

Also post your own success stories into the comments. I'd love to hear them.

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