The first time I saw my site visitor numbers go from 41 one day to 4266 the next, I cursed loudly enough to disturb the other people in the coworking space.
I’d just seen a 10,404% traffic spike…all from one reddit post.
After a bit of dancing and fistpumping, it became pretty clear that I’d stumbled into an untapped growth hacker's goldmine.
Like any self-respecting growth hacker would, I spent the next few months of my life fervently trying to figure out the art & science of guerrilla marketing on reddit.
Since then, I've used my reddit growth hacking tactics to….
And every time these spikes happen on a business project of mine, sales & email subscriptions spike as well.
Today, I'm going to teach you how to do the same for your own websites.
Imagine if every forum for every niche imaginable, from cute cats to entrepreneurial tactics to obscure fetishes and philosophical practices, got mashed together into one huge website. That's reddit.
The reddit community is notorious for being both a gigantic, website-crashing, source of traffic and a painfully unwelcoming & fruitless place for marketers.
Redditors have successfully gotten a Greenpeace whale officially named Mr. Splashy Pants, paid to send the Jamaican bobsled team to the Sochi winter Olympics, hosted an Ask Me Anything session by Obama, sponsored a Nascar racecar with Dogecoin, founded a crowdsourced "University of Reddit", and was the reason behind the creation of imgur.com (which gets almost 20,000,000 monthly visitors today).
Snoop Dogg, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Zach Braff, Deadmau5, William Shatner, John Green, Verne Troyer, Neil Degrasse Tyson, and Bill Gates are all redditors.
Unlike other social media channels, you will almost definitely never achieve any kind of loyal follower base on reddit. Nobody will be notified when you make a post, there is no way for people to subscribe to you, and no one really cares about who you are anyway.
Every reddit post you make will be judged on one thing and one thing only: it's value to the members of the subreddit in which you posted it.
What is a subreddit? It's like a forum, where anyone can submit a post & everyone else can upvote or downvote it. The more upvotes you get, the higher on the subreddit's page you climb, and the longer you stay up there, the more people see you.
Right now, there are 786,912 subreddits and counting. There's a subreddit community for just about everything.
Wanna take a trip down the rabbit hole? Keep going to reddit.com/r/random, and you'll be randomly sent to a new subreddit every time.
Also, if you've never used reddit before now, go give this 101 a read before continuing, and maybe spend an hour just playing around on the site. It will make the rest of this post a lot more understandable.
Right, without further ado, here's how to growth hack reddit…
This is not some kind of kumbaya give-value-before-you-take-value bullshit. If you skip this step, you will fail. Hard.
Sherlock Holmes would defecate in his knickers if he saw the skill and extent with which redditors sleuth those who make posts they think might be market-y.
They will go through your post history to see how often you post stuff about your business, they will find out if you are using other accounts to share the same business or upvote your own posts, and they will call you out on it.
When they do, the best thing you can hope for is having your post downvoted heavily. At worst, you'll be banned from the subreddit and have a group of overzealous redditors commit to downvoting every post you make for a while (a practice called brigading).
So, how do you avoid being called out as a marketer and downvoted to the abyss?
Well, it really just breaks down to the idea of being a normal, prolific, redditor. You should find a bunch of subreddits you love (just put your interests in the search bar), and become an active member in them on your down time.
In the words of the reddit admins themselves, in the official self-promotion guide, "It's perfectly fine to be a redditor with a website, it's not okay to be a website with a reddit account."
But we’re all growth hackers here, so let me give you some numbers and steps on how to do this.
First off, don't post a single thing about your biz until you've got a minimum of 1000 link karma, have made at least 10 posts & 10 comments that have been upvoted at least a bit & have nothing to do with your business, and have an account that is two weeks old. Remember, text-only posts (“self” posts) don’t get karma-points; they’re powerful in their own ways, but not for that initial beefing up of your karma score.
Once you start posting links to your biz, maintain at least a 3:1 ratio of unrelated posts to posts about your own stuff.
This will keep you safe from the most common reason that someone gets called out for being a marketer: posting about their own shit too often.
It will also give you a chance to test out different tactics to see what works, without risking being called out for spamming your own stuff. For example, I learned that redditors really like philosophical quotes overlaying cool pictures when I got this photo on the top of 6 different subreddits (including /r/minimalism, with 174,286 subscribers, where it is currently the 83rd highest upvoted post of all time). I’ve done alike with alike photos many times.
Reddit is a thriving example of XKCD’s solution to spammers: if you want to successfully market on reddit, you have to post constructive, helpful, and useful content.
I know a ton of you aren't going to do this. And to those, I can tell you with 80% certainty that you will fail and this will be the reason why. Therefore, I ask that all "this doesn't work, I tried it" replies contain a link to your reddit account so that we can see what your history looks like.
The short life of a marketer on reddit:
You want to gather as comprehensive a list as possible about which subreddits your target audience hangs out in.
For example, when I was sharing the Momentum habit tracker app, I gathered 32 different subreddits from /r/sex to /r/nofap to /r/lifeprotips to /r/applewatch to /r/minimalism to /r/getdisciplined. For RadNomad, I've gathered 63. For this SumoMe post, 28.
Here's how you do it:
A quick warning, you're almost definitely going to get sucked into reading reddit posts while you do this, especially if you are your target audience. It would take some truly heroic self control not to.
Try to make it useful by taking note of what kind of content gets upvoted in each sub. The next step will help you use that info.
You want to know how big these subreddits are, how much they like your posts, what kind of posts they upvote, and when is the best time to make a post...Essentially, all the data that will help you go from a good post to a website-crashing post.
I've created a template google spreadsheet you can copy that's made to organize all this data. Here's a working example of what I'm using to share this SumoMe posts (so meta!).
Here's how to gather the info you need:
First: Gather how many subscribers each subreddit has. You'll see this on the top of the sidebar on the left.
If you'll be growth hacking these niches long-term, it's a good idea to update these numbers every few months.
Put that info in the "Subscribers" box of the sheet.
Second: Take a look at their 100 top posts of all time (add /top?sort=top&t=all to the end of the URL), and see if you can notice any commonalities.
For example, I noticed that /r/minimalism likes pictures, minimalist gear, lifestyle & philosophy discussions, and how-to posts. /r/survival tends to upvote survival advice, DIY gear, and personal stories.
Third: Find the best time to post by going to RedditLater.com/analysis/.
The times it shows you will be in your time zone. Keep this in mind if you're using a proxy or travel often.
RedditLater gathers data all month, and resets its data to 0 at the 1st of each month. Which means the most accurate data is to be found closer to the end of each month.
If you'll be sharing different types of content (for example, brand pictures, stories & interviews, blog writeups about you, and how-to posts), replace a "POST TYPE" box with that post type & put an "X" in the box of every subreddit that will be receptive to those posts. That’ll help you, at a glance, know where to share what type of content.
This is where you finally start to see your traffic from reddit. If you do it right, you can expect regular spikes in your site visitors ranging from the hundreds to thousands every week.
Like the sea, reddit is a harsh and unpredictable mistress. I've had posts I made for fun in obscure subreddits get thousands of upvotes, and posts I was confident in wind up with a score of 0 (which is the worst score a post can get, since negative numbers aren't displayed for posts).
I can't really tell you what content to post except to say that it can't sound like a marketer wrote it. Think conversation-over-coffee, not microphone-on-podium. Markety posts get downvoted, even in /r/marketing (in fact, they got so inundated with marketing posts that they made their sub self-post only. Which means you can only submit text posts, no URLs).
Here are a few of my posts which resulted in significant visitor spikes:
This one, for the habit tracking app Momentum, is 21 highest post of all time on the 14,110 subscriber /r/theXeffect subreddit:
When you do make a post, feel free to post it on as many subreddits as you think will like it. There's no limit here, though you won't find success & will risk getting your other posts brigaded if you get spammy and start posting to subreddits who are unlikely to care. Remember the XKCD rule: your content actually has to be a good fit for the subreddit’s readers.
You can use RedditLater.com to schedule your posts to auto-post at the ideal times you researched earlier. It's a freemium tool, and the free version lets you schedule one post every week. If you want to upgrade to 1 post per day or unlimited, I've talked to Adam Bard (it's creator) and gotten all SumoMe readers 25% off for life. The discount code is "sumome".
Let me just start this one off by telling you that reddit is gonna hurt your feelings. You may find yourself feeling like an unskilled spammy piece of less-than-worthless human refuse with potato-like intelligence and an ugly face.
Redditors can be mean.
For example, here's a few comments I've gotten:
"Good to see you back spamming your shitty blog across multiple subs again. This time we're reviewing a product for a moron who doesn't know how to use the change pocket on their jeans right? Someone with no socks? Or indeed any of a million things that normal people own where a few bucks could be discretely hidden.
And the substitute for those morons is a plastic bullet that goes on your keyring and falls off? And that was worth a near essay on that product? Congratulations - you have way too much time on your hands."
"Please stop spreading this kind of illogical metaphysical bullshit. It doesn't really apply to anything meaningful, now does it?"
"Jesus, I hope OP is embarrassed, because if not, I sure am. This is the most cringy blogspam ever."
"This is beyond moronic."
"NO! you are ruining the point of couchsurfing you can make Facebook spam bot and it will find you a place so stay so don’t release it and stop using it. WE DON’T NEED SPAM BOTS !!!"
"It's people like you that give travellers a bad name."
"It's fine to want to become a more talented writer and for people to see your work, but this is spamming articles that people don't want. It's why you're getting downvoted right now; your content simply isn't good."
I've literally had to take months off of posting before because I couldn't deal with the hate I'd sometimes get. Despite the good comments, I wasn’t sure if I was actually adding value or just being a leach. It took me a bit of emotional recovery and a re-read of the comments to realize that more people were thanking me than flaming me (and to fix the errors for which I got flamed).
Now don't get me wrong, you're gonna get a TON of uplifting comments too. If you do your job right, they’ll drastically outweigh the negative ones.
But, occasionally, you'll just get loaded with hate. And it can really take a toll on your psyche. So brace yourself for that when you enter the comments section.
On that note, commenting is really quite simple. Just participate in the conversation, defend yourself when people attack you (if you can… sometimes their points are solid and fighting will just dig you deeper), answer questions, and learn from the feedback you get.
While you're replying to comments, take note of feedback. If people keep saying the same things, start up a tally of what their thoughts/problems/ideas are. This can often help you choose the next step you'll take in your biz.
A week after the posts, go back and take a note of the scores of all your posts. In the Template, you can add that number to the "Specific post" box.
Take note that, when gathering these numbers, it’s best to be logged into an incognito browser, logged out of your reddit account, and looking at the number on the comments page (the page you go to when you click the ‘comments’ link of any post).
Thanks to reddit’s vote fuzzing algorithm, you’re numbers will never be 100% accurate, but this will get you as close to accurate as possible.
These values multiplied by the # of subscribers a sub has will give you the value in the "Score" box, which just tells you how valuable that sub is to you. Over time you can use this data to know which communities love you and what types of posts of yours they upvote.
That’s it. Really, in the end, growth hacking reddit for thousands of new visitors every week is as simple as being a good redditor, sharing your own stuff, and throwing some geeky data analysis into the mix.
I’d beseech you to respect reddit, recognizing it as a community where just about anyone with a geeky interest can find a home amongst friends, and never abusing it by posting shitty content… Except that that’s the beauty of reddit: those who post shitty content get downvoted into oblivion, and reddit stays valuable and untainted.
Which means that having your content get upvoted in a niche subreddit is one of the best indications I can think of that what you’ve created is genuinely interesting for a specific group of people.
You may make mistakes at first. Your headlines may come off too spammy and get you downvoted & hated on. Or they might be too bland and give you so few votes it doesn’t matter. Or your content might not fit the subreddit, which also results in never being upvoted or seen. Even when you’re at your best, most of your posts about your business just won’t take off.
But that’s alright. Once can get just one or two post to take off each week (cross posting makes this a lot easier), getting >10,000 new visitors every month will be easy.
Good luck, and may all your votes be up.
P.S. Got questions? Ideas? Tips I missed? Let me know in the comments.GET THE REDDIT GROWTH HACKING TEMPLATE
It’s that easy. You can install Sumo for free and get results in a matter of minutes.