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Dissecting Poor Performing Reddit Ads

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Reddit advertising has received a really bad rap online. If you look for information online regarding Reddit advertising, you’ll easily find complaints from about poor click through rate, poor conversion rate and low ROI for businesses. In fact, the general consensus is that Reddit advertising just plain doesn’t work, and is the worst idea.

But it’s quite unfair to blame the Reddit advertising platform itself for the failure of these campaigns because that failure has nothing to do with the advertising system. Rather, the cause of this failure is down to the advertising strategy deployed by most advertisers.

The biggest mistake is that advertisers approach Reddit advertising in the same way that they approach AdWords, Facebook or LinkedIn advertising. However, that is a fundamental mistake. Reddit is a completely unique platform with its own unique personality. It is unlike any other platform on the web.

Now, if you’re Apple, Nike or a massive household brand, then you could probably get away with cold advertising on Reddit. But even then, you’ll generate far better results if you’re willing to engage in conversations around your product or brand. But the fact is, for small businesses, you’re going to have to be a lot more strategic with your advertising.

And that is because of the nature of the platform. Self-promotion just doesn’t work on any level on Reddit. More than anything, Redditors generally hates anything that makes you seem like you’re only using Reddit as a place to promote your products or services, no matter what you’re selling.

And it really doesn’t matter whether it is an organic post or paid. Redditors just don’t like obvious, direct marketing or advertising. That’s the main reason why sponsored ads do not perform well on Reddit, not because of the Reddit advertising system itself.

Reddit is a conversation-driven platform, where people like to have discussions around content. Any type of content that doesn’t encourage discussion or any type of self-promotional content will not do well on the platform. Right now, the vast majority of self-serving advertising campaigns on Reddit don’t have any chance of being successful.

Here’s an example of a typical Reddit self-serving ad that contains many of the issues that afflict poor performing Reddit ads.

This is a self-serving ad, also known as a promoted post. The ads are typically featured at the top of the page, and will always have the icon of a bullhorn and include “promoted.”

So let’s take a look at this particular ad in detail, and identify what is good and bad about it.

Now, as you can see, the ad has zero engagement. Successful ads on Reddit can have thousands of upvotes.

So, what are the good things about this ad?

It has social proof: The statement “Trusted by 100+ agencies” is powerful social proof. That word trusted is a very strong word to add to your ad, and when you say trusted by 100+ agencies, that is something that will resonate heavily with prospective clients.

Unfortunately, that is the only good attribute of the ad.

Let’s look at various issues with the ad and how it can be improved.

The copy used in the ad is not in keeping with the spirit of the community.

The copy focuses heavily on the service that the company offers which is link building. However, what exactly is the big deal about DA30 to DA80 sites? What can they do for the reader? What is so special about them? What are the emotionally driven benefits of building links from DA30 to DA80 sites from $25? If I’m a business owner, exactly what is that going to do for my business?

The copy could have been much more engaging. The advertisers could started a conversation about domain authority. They could have talked about the trust, authority and credibility that a company’s website would generate with links from DA30-DA80 sites. They could have also talked about the impact that building links from DA30-DA80 sites would have on a website’s organic position in the major search engines.

Those are benefits that will resonate with website owners. You are given 300 characters to work with in this headline. They could have used all of those characters to talk about emotionally driven benefits that would connect with the emotions of business website owners.

Self-serving Reddit ads are typically promotional.

Self-promotional posts that sound as if you’re selling something are not popular with Redditors. It doesn’t matter whether they are organic posts or paid posts. Redditors do not like any type of obvious marketing or self-promotional content, unless it is coming from loyal customers sharing their experience.

The thing is, if those ads had been submitted as organic posts, they would have been ripped to shreds in the comments and the original poster would have been labelled a spammer. But because they are paid for, they are allowed to remain visible.

But if a post has 0 chance of being successful organically, why on earth do you think it could do well as a paid post just because you can pay to make it visible on Reddit? Why would you advertise a post that would never do well organically?

And that is the most fundamental reason why most of these ads fail. Because they have no chance of doing well organically. The fact of the matter is, Redditors hate any type of self-promotion. Their language is not in keeping with the spirit of the platform.

Now, that never happens on sites like Facebook. Ads are not looked at with the same level of disdain on Facebook. But on Reddit, self-promotional content, whether they are ads or organic posts are often met with an incredible amount of hostility.

The ad is a link post rather a text post.

Link posts are the least popular type of posts on Reddit. The only type of link posts that actually do well are breaking news stories from sites like CNN, Forbes, BBC, CNBC, ABC, etc.

As a business, the only types of links posts that are more likely to do well are those that are posted by well-known brands such as Amazon, Apple and Nike and brands that are familiar to consumers. If you’re a small business, using link posts in your ad is a massive mistake. You need to be ready to engage with your target audience on Reddit.

The nature of the Reddit community is curious, opinionated, and vocal. It is a conversation-driven platform. Redditors like having their voices heard and enjoy having conversations around content. As a whole, Reddit isn’t simply about posting and sharing content but also about discussing that content.

When you use link post ads, you do not give Redditors the opportunity to have conversations with you around the content of your ad. Reddit is a conversation driven platform. Users like to have conversations engage and add their own opinions on everything. They like to hear from other Redditors.

Your ad needs to be engaging rather than promotional. It needs to be benefit-driven, and you need to be willing to have a conversation about the benefits that you’ve highlighted in your ad. In addition, you need to be ready to talk about those benefits. As a small business, any ad you post on the platform can only be a text post.

Here’s an example of an engaging Reddit text post ad:

No Reddit karma.

Another major problem with self-serving ads on Reddit is that a lot of these ads are posted by people who’ve never contributed any value to any subreddit.

These are individuals that approach Reddit advertising in the same way that they approach Facebook advertising, which is a fundamental mistake. If you’re offering any type of service on Reddit, you need to understand that Redditors will dig through your entire history by clicking through to your profile. They will check out the content that you’ve been posting.

If all you have are promotional posts, then you’re not going to get any traction on the platform because it will be clear that you are not interested in providing any type of value on the platform. All you are interested in doing is to promote your business.

No matter how good your content is, if you submit an organic post when you have 0 karma, most redditors are going to be wary of engaging with your post because they will see you as an outsider with an agenda. You need to have social proof, whether you’re posting an ad or not. That is what is going to validate your content.

Karma is like a recommendation from other Redditors that your content is valuable and that you have been contributing real value to Reddit. More than anything, it means you are a part of the Reddit community. When people hover on your username, they want to see a snapshot of a real human being with karma that demonstrates a history of contributing value to the platform.

Who are you?

If you’re a business and want redditors in your target subreddit to engage with your content, you need to let them know who you are, what you do and why you do it. In other words, you need to build your brand in your target subreddit by adding value. There’s no way around it. You can’t lurk. To see success, you need to active and become a genuine redditor.

And that’s because other users can easily see your entire posting/commenting history, which makes it easy for the community to gauge how authentic you are based on your past behaviour on the site. This is especially true if you’re representing your business.

Poor ad image.

Unless you’re a popular brand like Apple or Nike, you should not be using your logo in your ad. If you’re a small business, you need to be a little bit more personal. Reddit is all about being personal. Reddit is about people building relationships with people. Not with logos and brands.

If you’re using a personal account, the image you use is irrelevant. If you’re Apple, Nike, Chanel, Amazon, you can get away with using your logo because those are massive brands and most people already have an emotional connection with those companies. Redditors would prefer a face they can relate to but as long as it is a verified account, big brands can get away with using their logo on any social media site.

However, as an unknown business, you need to have an engaging photo of your smiling face that people are already familiar with in your subreddit. It doesn’t need to be your photo. It can be a photo of anybody in your business. People in your subreddit need to already have an emotional connection with your brand and they need to already know who you are and what you do. You need to be a human being on Reddit, not a logo.

No comment thread.

Reddit is conversation-driven. Reddit ads that have been successful don’t simply have a great headline title. They also have an interactive comments thread just like an organic post. When you encourage discussion in your comments thread, you are effectively engaging the Reddit community.

As other users see the number of comments increase on your ad, it is going to pique their curiosity will be piqued, and this can provide the opportunity for more engagement.

Case Study

Pocketderm is an online dermatology practice, providing acne and anti-aging treatment with just a smartphone and a computer. The company targeted a hyper-specific community of users by advertising in the r/SkinCareAddiction subreddit.

After just two months, they earned 220% more customers and shifted 50% of their marketing budget to running Reddit ads.

If you’re considering advertising on Reddit, do not pay attention to all of the negativity surrounding Reddit advertising. Self-serving ads that have failed on Reddit have failed due to the format and content of the ads, and the overall perception of the users who posted the ads. Not because Reddit advertising cannot be successful.