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Using Reddit to Market to Engineers

Reddit Blog Featured ImageWe all know Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn are massive social media platforms on which brands should consider a presence. However, one of the largest and most community-oriented social media platforms, Reddit, is talked about far less than the big four I mentioned earlier – why is that?

Compared to Facebook’s monthly active users – 2.9 billion in 2021 – Reddit’s monthly active user base of 430 million looks tiny. However, Facebook is a juggernaut in the social media space and, really, an outlier when it comes to monthly traffic. In fact, Reddit’s monthly active user base is in-line with other competitors like Twitter (436 million), Pinterest (454 million), and Snapchat (538 million). Most businesses maintain a presence on at least Twitter (and many others also have a presence on Pinterest), so we can’t point to traffic as the reason Reddit has been overlooked.

I suspect the real reason is because of the level of authenticity that Reddit demands. On its surface, Reddit is not as friendly to promotional posts like the Big Four (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn) are. You can’t just sign up for Reddit and start posting links to your company’s products or services within subreddit groups (more on what these are later), as these groups are policed by their members who want genuine, authentic contributions from their community. This makes onboarding to the Reddit platform a bit more challenging, and it certainly demands a personal touch for ongoing posting and engagement.

However, while Reddit’s guidelines are protective of its members, they are not exclusionary. Whether you’re looking to post organically in these communities, or you want to pursue paid advertising on the platform, Reddit is one of the best social media platforms for reaching an audience based on their interests. As marketers to engineers and the technically minded, perhaps no audience targeting parameter is more relevant to us than what our audience finds interesting.

How Does Reddit Work?

Put simply, Reddit is a collection of discussion posts (sometimes called threads) that are centered around different topics. Individual discussions are started by individual users, and other users can comment on and upvote or downvote (like liking or disliking a video on YouTube) a discussion to increase or decrease its visibility to the rest of the community.

Each of these individual discussions takes place within a “subreddit.” A subreddit can best be compared to a Facebook or LinkedIn group in that there is a broader theme or topic of interest that defines the group. For example, r/engineering is a community dedicated to discussing topics related to engineering (note: r/ is just a prefix used on the site, similar to www.). R/AutomotiveEngineering is an entirely separate and distinct subreddit for the discussion of topics specifically related to automotive engineering.

Anyone can start a subreddit on just about any topic (and sometimes this can result in duplicate or similar subreddits), so it’s best to judge the significance/importance of a subreddit based on how many members it has. We’ll look at a few essential subreddits for engineers and engineering marketers in a moment.

Why is Reddit so Useful?

Reddit isn’t just another social media platform. Of all the major social media platforms, it’s the most community-oriented and most explicitly interest-based. This is what makes it so powerful for marketers.

Reddit allows you to focus on specific topic-based communities of users you know are interested in something because they are browsing and participating. Suppose users are actively seeking out and participating in subreddits related to, for example, aerospace engineering. In that case, it’s safe to say that those users are in, or trying to break into (e.g., a student), the industry.

In effect, your audience on Reddit will be more informed and educated about the space your company operates in than your audience on Twitter, Facebook, etc. This is also why your interactions on Reddit should feel more organic and non-promotional. Your audience already knows the basics and they might even know the details!

So, when you interact with members of a subreddit community, keep it conversational and try to offer information, advice, etc., that is genuine and only promotional when it’s relevant to the topic at hand. Engineers see through marketing fluff, so engage with them honestly!

How Do I Get Started on Reddit?

First, you’ll need an account. It’s okay to use your company name as your username, but you may want to start with a personal account first to familiarize yourself with the site. You can’t change your username later, so start with a personal account, and once you feel comfortable, sign up with your company name later.

Something to think about here are the requirements for starting a subreddit of your own. To create a subreddit, your account must be at least 30 days old, and you must have around 50 “karma.” Karma is awarded to you each time another user on Reddit upvotes or engages in a positive manner with one of your posts/comments. So, if you sign up with the username Bob_Bobson will get listed as the administrator of your company’s subreddit. So, be aware of this if you plan on starting a subreddit as quickly as possible.

Subreddits for Engineers

Before posting or advertising on the platform, you’ll want to determine which subreddits you want to engage with. While the following is not a definitive list, these are some subreddits engages with and which I feel might be relevant to your marketing efforts.

  • r/engineering: hopefully, you saw this one coming. With 385,000 members at the time of this blog’s publishing, this subreddit is dedicated to professional engineering topics (note, there is a separate subreddit for engineering students). This forum is for engineers to share information, knowledge, experiences, and best practices related to any of the numerous engineering disciplines.

  • r/EngineeringStudents: the student equivalent to the above subreddit, this forum has 465,000 members at the time of this blog’s publishing. This subreddit is for engineering students of any discipline to ask for career advice, help with work, discuss methods, or just engage in conversation with other engineers. While the topics may be of a more theoretical or elementary nature than those discussed in the r/engineering subreddit, many may still find thissubreddit intriguing or valuable when trying to reach the engineers of tomorrow.

  • r/EngineeringPorn: it’s not what you think…or maybe it is? With 794,000 members, this is the largest engineering subreddit we've looked at in the past. This subreddit is dedicated to sharing helpful videos, pictures, or stories of today's latest and greatest engineering-related technologies. Based on the name alone, I hope you can tell this forum is the least professional and most fun-oriented. If you want to reach people who are highly interested in engineering-related topics and not just professionals working in the field, this might be the subreddit for you.

These are the three largest engineering-related subreddits on the site, but numerous other subreddits look at specific disciplines (i.e., r/manufacturing, r/cad, r/AutomotiveEngineering, r/ElectricalEngineering, r/AerospaceEngineering, etc.). While some of these subreddits might have smaller memberships, it may still be worth engaging these communities if you know the bulk of its members are specifically interested in or work in that engineering discipline.

A Note on Reddit Advertising

If organic engagement on Reddit feels overwhelming, or you just want to utilize the platform to the full extent, consider paid advertising. The paid advertising platform for Reddit, found here, should be relatively intuitive for anyone who has ever used Facebook or LinkedIn advertising before. You’re able to upload a photo or video-based advertisements and target them at specific subreddits or topics.

This is a simple (but more expensive) way to get your company's products or services in front of an audience on Reddit. It can also help supplement your organic efforts on the platform. For example, if members of a subreddit have had positive interactions with members from your team and later see your ads on the same subreddit, they'll be more likely to engage in some way.

Reddit and Forget It?

Reddit isn't a silver bullet for your marketing efforts, but neither are other social media platforms. Reddit is a significant online community that many companies have yet to utilize. Despite its prolific growth over the last few years, Reddit's active monthly user base grew 44% year-over-year from 2019 to 2020, and it will likely match that figure by the end of this year as well.

If you’re looking for new avenues of engagement for your marketing efforts, consider giving Reddit a shot. Even if you don’t find it useful for your company’s marketing efforts, you might just find a community of technically minded individuals that you enjoy participating in.

If you have anything you’d like to add to the content of this blog, like sharing your personal or professional experiences using Reddit, please feel free to leave a comment below!

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