Beginner’s guide to using Reddit for audience research
When you hear the phrase “audience research” or “marketing intelligence,” which social platform comes to mind?
If you’re like most marketers, you think of Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter. And for good reason — they bring in over 5.8 billion users every single month.
But there’s a certain social media platform missing from that list. One that only brings in a fraction of that monthly traffic, but punches well above its weight in terms of qualitative insights for audience research.
That platform is Reddit.
Before we get into how Reddit enhances audience research, here’s a quick 101 on the platform:
Reddit is a network of over 100,000 communities called subreddits, each of which centers around a specific topic. Naturally, these communities cover a massive array of topics, from sports to politics to medical ailments to comedy.
In these subreddits, users (aka Redditors) post content in the form of text, images, videos, or links. Other users then comment on the post in general and have the option to comment directly on the responses of others, creating strings of comments aptly known as threads. All subreddits have their own rules about what type of content to post and how to engage with other Redditors, and moderators enforce these rules.
Users can also up- or down-vote both comments and the original post itself, giving an additional layer of context to these community interactions. All posts and threads can be sorted according to the date, number of upvotes, and how popular they are.
How Reddit audience research unlocks marketing success
Reddit’s two most recent slogans, the “Front Page of the Internet” and “Dive Into Anything,” perfectly encapsulate the main benefits this platform has over competitors in terms of marketing intelligence:
- It covers an incredible range of topics, including the most popular trending topics across the web — all the stuff that’s worthy of the “front page.”
- A bulletin-board style interface that allows users to deep-dive into their favorite topics while encouraging a high level of thoughtful engagement.
Most social media platforms focus on the content users share, hopefully generating likes, comments, and shares in response. Reddit’s bread and butter are the comment threads themselves, which are often just as insightful and engaging as the original content shared.
It’s in these context-rich threads that the true value for marketers is revealed. But before we dive into it, there's one more thing to keep in mind…
The same things that make this platform such an engaging place — mainly, its candid, unfiltered, curious, and skeptical users — make Reddit a tough space for the success of traditional advertising tactics.
This is mainly due to marketers unfamiliar with the platform masquerading as users and filling subreddits and threads with obnoxious, overtly-promotional content.
So, while it may seem like the perfect platform for organic promotion— a diverse, highly-engaged, high-income user base that self-selects into groups by interests — Reddit marketing is much more difficult than it seems.
Bottom line: Reddit is a much better bet as an audience research tool than an advertising platform (at least for now).
Okay, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at how you can use Reddit as a supplemental audience research tool while avoiding the pitfalls of past marketers.
1) Find subreddits that perfectly align with your ICP
According to Buffer, Reddit is the 15th most popular website in the world, with 430 million monthly active users — that’s a huge number of people placing themselves into audience segments and deep-diving into specific topics. Endless opportunities to collect marketing intel.
But before you dive in yourself, you need to have a strong understanding of your ideal customers.
Once you’ve identified your business’s ideal customer profile (ICP), you can use the subreddit search tool to identify communities centered around their profession, interests, or hobbies. If you want to identify which subreddits have been most popular over the last week, month, or year, websites like subredditstats.com, which track how much engagement the top subreddits receive, are a great place to start.
For instance, if your company or client is targeting software developers, plenty of subreddits offer insight into niche segments of this broad audience.
Once you’ve collected a group of subreddits, you need to vet them to determine the intent behind them.
For instance, r/softwaregore is full of lighthearted conversations and jokes about poor-quality software. On the other hand, r/cscareerquestions features lots of questions and concerns from aspiring programmers and computer scientists. It’s crucial that you’re aware of the intent behind the subreddits you research.
Now that you’ve identified the digital tribes most likely to attract your ICP, you can begin to mine those spaces for valuable audience data.
2) Gain insights from specific audience segments
It’s now time to scour these niche forums to see what topics currently resonate, both positively and negatively, with your desired audience segments.
Take advantage of Reddit’s filtering features for both posts and comment threads, sorting through comments based on what’s New, Hot, Controversial, or Top over the last day, week, month, year, or all time.
Reddit’s filtering features let you sort through each subreddit based on the posts and comments that generate the most interest. From an audience research perspective, this helps:
- Confirm you are researching a subreddit that accurately reflects your ICP
- Identify the affinities and experiences of your specific audience segment
For instance, the image above shows a top daily post in the r/programming subreddit about reducing annual server costs. In addition to being an interesting topic in and of itself, this popular post also sparked a context-rich discussion about cloud service providers:
Just a few of the topic comments on this post provide valuable information about the real-world experiences and pain points of programmers and software developers. The number of upvotes tells you that just under 100 people have similar sentiments surrounding these qualitative experiences.
Needless to say, repeating this content and comment investigation across multiple subreddits generates a lot of valuable marketing insight.
Regardless of your industry and the ICP you target, Reddit offers similar opportunities to collect data that help inform targeted marketing campaigns.
3) Collect accurate, filter-free feedback
Most of the major social media platforms — the Instagrams, Facebooks, and LinkedIns — are designed in part for people to connect with their real-world network in an online space through personal accounts. Users sign up with their real name (for the most part), sharing photos and other content depicting their daily experiences.
While these accepted rules of engagement are great for being social or networking, they also negatively impact how genuine people are in their posts and comments.
Social conventions and personal insecurities can constrain users when they post on major social platforms. On Instagram, people often present their “best selves,” while on LinkedIn, they generally stick to business-related topics that won’t “rock the boat.”
Reddit provides users with anonymity, which in turn grants them the freedom to follow and discuss any topics that interest them with fewer concerns about being judged by their usual social following. This is what gives Redditors the ability to speak so candidly and honestly about the subjects they are passionate about.
As a marketer, you can even set up an account and engage directly with Redditors from your areas of interest, asking questions and responding to comments (just don’t be, you know, “market-y'' about it). This allows you to prompt discussion surrounding topics that may not be typically discussed but are important to know nonetheless.
Once you’ve collected all this audience research, you’re ready to inform new strategies.
4) Identify new advertising opportunities
The qualitative information you gain from analyzing the top posts and comments within relevant subreddits not only helps you understand your audience better but also identifies new advertising opportunities.
Use popular posts and comments from subreddits to inform the framing, writing, and formatting you use in your paid ads, web copy, and social content.
Marketing departments that have done their due diligence in understanding their subreddits can also try their hand at Reddit advertising (just remember what we told you earlier).
Meme-style ads are particularly popular on Reddit because they fit seamlessly into feeds.
For specific subreddits, such as those centered around professions or healthy living, these types of ads can be effective.
Reddit for Business also has a page explaining the different ad formats it has available and how they can be used to reach different audiences:
So Reddit isn’t just a powerful tool for your audience research stack — it also lets you target specific audience segments with promoted ads that appear more natural. All you need to do is ensure your ICP is receptive to this type of advertising.
But to do that, you need a more robust audience research tool.
Now that you have a better understanding of Reddit’s power as an audience research tool, it’s time to get cracking. After all, the best teacher is experience.
You’re ready to:
- Find the subreddits most likely to resonate with your ICP
- Comb through the posts and comments to find the audience research gold within the subreddits using Reddit’s filter options
- Collect the candid, unfiltered opinions of your ICP and even engage with them to generate further insight
- Use the qualitative information you collect to update your own marketing efforts (and maybe even take a crack at your own Reddit Ads)
This is a great start for marketing teams looking to level up their audience research efforts but remember, it’s just a start.
Reddit attracts a specific audience profile that may not always fit perfectly with your business goals. Pairing the insights you gain from Reddit with the intel you collect from other social platforms and online channels allows you to test how viable Reddit insights are en masse.
Never leave your audience research up to a single platform or resource — arm yourself with a powerful audience research tool to corroborate the insights you gain from Reddit.
Learn more about how Audiense Insights helps you understand what moves and motivates your audience.