Marketing Reddit's highly engaged user community

Chief marketing officer shares the distinct challenge she faces bringing the platform's highly engaged community to product and services provides

Roxy Young
Roxy Young

Many CMOs find themselves striving to build engaged communities to which they can market their products and services. Reddit chief marketing officer, Roxy Young, faces a very different challenge however, as she works to market what is essentially a highly engaged online community to product and service providers.

Reddit is an online forum originally formed in 2005 that now supports well over 100,000 communities. It hosts discussions on everything from sports, food and popular culture to bread stapled and trees.

Young joined Reddit as vice-president of marketing in 2017 after an eclectic career in fashion and beauty as well as roles at Netflix and the online games company, Zynga, the creator of FarmVille and Words With Friends. Now in the role of CMO, she is five years into to the transformation of Reddit’s go-to-market plan, which has seen her working to accelerate the company’s user growth while also boosting its appeal to advertisers.

“Reddit is going to continue to grow organically, but what marketing has been able to do is to really influence the awareness of the brand, the familiarity with the brand and the perception of the brand, which will influence usage,” Young tells CMO.

Marketing activity from Reddit has largely leveraged content created within the site itself. However, Young is mindful of the strong relationship Reddit users have with the site, and the need to ensure users and content are treated in a respectful way.

Credit: Reddit

“Every time we are bringing Reddit to life, we want to make our community proud,” Young says. “Reddit is full of passionate people, and they are passionate about any topic that you could possibly imagine.

“They are participating, and they want to share their thoughts and opinions. That is why they are there.”

This high level of user engagement is reflected in the approach Young takes to Reddit’s marketing communications. She says these are based around four characteristics of being candid, eclectic, self-aware, and what she calls being “brilliantly absurd”.

“We look at things through those four characteristics when we are bringing our brand to life, and so if you look back at the types of things that we have done, hopefully you will see elements of that,” Young says.

These same characteristics are important to keep in mind for other brands that wish to engage with Reddit communities.

“Our communities have the power to drive real world action,” Young says. “Brands that embrace the power of the Reddit community and their passion can really build trust and see positive downstream impact on their business as a result.

“Over 70 per cent of people want and respect brands that are participating on Reddit, and Reddit can help you inform how you make your product or your service better.”

For Young, these characteristics also make Reddit significantly different to other online advertising properties, as it seeks to deliver marketers with the opportunity to engage with community members on a more equal footing.

“Marketing has evolved quite a bit over the last 15 or 20 years, and I don’t think people just want to be talked to, they want to be engaged with,” Young comments. “I’ve really had to evolve how I think about bringing our brand to life and find ways in which we can engage with the community.

“That is one of the biggest shifts that I have seen – opening yourself up to engage with your customers can be incredibly valuable for driving trust and driving that later engagement or action you are looking for.”

Campaigning based on people

In mid-2021, Reddit established an official presence in Australia to support its goals of community and advertiser growth. The company choose to celebrate its anniversary locally with a national brand campaign, ‘Find your people’. Young says the campaign is aligned to Reddit’s mission of bringing community and belonging and empowerment to everyone in the world.

“Australia is the first market in which we have ever done a national brand campaign,” Young says. “We are pretty early in our journey of marketing our product and our brand - we only started this in 2020 and so it is exciting to be able to roll out our first national campaign in Australia.”

Young says the campaign was formed around the insight that many Reddit users come to the site’s communities to share interests and passions not shared with the other important people in their lives.

“Sometimes they are not interested in the same things you are interested in,” Young says. “For the ‘Find your people’ campaign it all started by an insight was that sometimes the people who know you the least ‘get’ you the best.”

The next step in Reddit’s marketing evolution may involve bringing in Reddit users to help co-design or crowdsource campaigns.

“Ever though we haven’t reached that level, when we are releasing products on Reddit on a weekly basis, we are in a sense crowdsourcing the evolution of the those feature through open dialogue with our community,” Young says.

As for Australia, Young says the company has tripled its resources here in marketing, sales partnerships, as well as its community team. The company has facilitated successful marketing campaigns for brands including the AFL, Coles Supermarkets, the neobank, Up, and Finder.

“Half the people you are going to find on Reddit, you are not going to find them on TikTok, you are not going to find on Snapchat,” Young says. “People trust when they see brands on Reddit it is in a real and authentic space where people are sharing and engaging around things they are interested in.”

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