A startup founder's guide to Reddit

5 min read by Fed on 2021-09-24

I've been using Reddit for almost a decade. Between personal use, startup self-promotion, and building a SaaS product on top of the platform, I've really seen it all. Here are 10 lessons I've learned about Reddit over the past 10 years that startup founders can leverage to grow their business on Reddit.

How big is Reddit?

50,000,000 people visit Reddit every single day. It's the home to 150,000 active communities known as Subreddits.

.... That's quite a lot, isn't it? WOW

As a startup founder, thousands of your target customers are visiting Reddit each day. They are asking questions, giving recommendations, and providing insight into how they think about purchasing products like yours.

Companies that manage to harness the power of these communities benefit at each stage of their journey.

Self-promotion on Reddit

Now here's where it gets tricky. According to the Reddit Wiki, "It's perfectly fine to be a Redditor with a website, it's not okay to be a website with a Reddit account."

This is where many startup founders go wrong on Reddit. They come in and instantly try to self-promote, and get confused as to why they get kicked out of certain subreddits or downvoted into oblivion.

A good way to think about it is - Give more to the community than you take. It's fine to mention your company from time to time when it's applicable, but that shouldn't be all you do on the website. The good news is that actively participating in communities full of your target customers has other benefits. You will learn more about them, their problems & needs, your competitors, and the market as a whole. You will also have plenty of opportunities to pitch in with your expert advice, build up trust amongst the community, acquire customers when they are looking for products like yours, and eventually have the community promote your product for you.

What is Karma?

Karma is Reddit's social currency metric. You acquire Karma for posting good content or participating in other people's community contributions. You lose Karma for interacting with the community in a way that others don't appreciate.

What you should know as a first-time Redditor with a startup, is that you need some baseline of Karma in order to post in most Reddit communities.

About 1.6 times a minute, some brave new Redditor writes their first submission and sends it out into the ether ...and meets u/AutoModerator. Their post gets taken down without anybody even seeing it because they don't have enough Karma.

It's easy to avoid this, just go contribute on other people's posts first to build up your Karma.

Subreddit Moderators

Reddit is the wonderful place that it is because it governs itself, and the moderators are an important piece of that. Each subreddit has 1 or many people that ensure that the content in the community meets a threshold of quality.

Unfortunately, the moderators get a bad rep amongst startup founders that use Reddit, because they often times take down self-promotional posts. Love em or hate em, mods are not going anywhere.

Still, there are still some easy things to do so you don't get your content removed.

  • Read the subreddit rules before posting
  • Look at sub's mod comments to see reasons for bans
  • If you're unsure about subreddit etiquette, DM the mods and ask
  • If you get banned, don't take it personally. Happens to the best of us 😇

Finding Subreddits for your target audience

The first step to using Reddit to grow your business is knowing where to look.

Make sure to go thorough, and pay attention to the small subreddits just as much as you do the big ones. The big subreddits can give you more reach, but they are moderated more heavily. Smaller subreddits have less readers, but if you post content in them it will stay at the top of the feed for longer.

One of the things that GummySearch does best is help you find online communities full of your target audience, and organize them so that you can stay up to date with everything going on in those communities that could be related to your business. Give it a try, you'll be surprised as to how many communities there actually are for your niche.

Make your posts personal

If you're going to post about your project/startup, give it a human touch. That helps with the "Redditor with a website" as opposed to "website with a Reddit account" vibe.

One of my favorite Reddit indie hacker success stories is when @_joshuafonseca posted about his movie app.

That one Reddit submission got him over 22 thousand signups! The title - "I made tinder for movies for me and my girlfriend". Don't make it about your app, make it about the why behind the app and your own personal story.

Dropping links

If you want to have your submission have the highest chances of not being removed, don't add any links in the description. However, it's understandable that you might want to redirect some traffic from engaged readers to your website.

Do it poorly and your post gets removed. Do it well and your site might go viral.

Some tips on where to put your links:

  • In submissions: often removed unless critical info for the post
  • In comments: much less moderated
  • In bio: works if you have good comments
  • Remember, links on Reddit are good for SEO ;)

My preferred method is comments. If you make a submission, give it the highest chances of not being removed by not adding self-promotional links in it. When the submission picks up steam, add an OP comment that has some clarifying information and a link to your website.

Your Reddit profile

This is really intuitive but so many people get it wrong.

Look at your own profile & post/comment history. This is the first thing that any Redditor or moderator does when they come across a questionable post.

Click on your own Reddit profile. Does it look like a helpful member of the community, or someone spamming others with their own website? Be the former.

Ease your expectations

Not every good submission takes off. That's OK.

If you want, repost a couple days later to a similar sub with a slightly different title.

Play the long game, it's worth it.

Magic in the comments

Remember, it's a community and not an audience. Posts can take off but comments are a much more consistent way of interacting with the community, even if you're also trying to promote your own projects.

Its not very hard to get a #1 comment on a submission if you are early to the game.

It's pretty simple to grow from the comments. Be helpful to others in the community on topics where you are an expert in. When they ask something you know, answer. And if the answer involves the blog/app/resource that happens to be on your website, it's a win-win.

I actually mostly comment on Reddit rather than make my own submissions, and it works wonderfully. The easiest way is to track relevant keywords to your business, in the subreddits where your target audience hangs out. This is a great way to inform people of your business when they are talking about pain points you can solve for them, or answer their questions with blog posts you have written on the topic.