Reddit, the platform known as the “front page of the Internet,” has become an invaluable platform for conducting market research. With its diverse user base and extensive range of discussions, Reddit offers a wealth of insights for businesses looking to gain a deeper understanding of their target audience. In this article, we’ll explore how you can effectively use Reddit for fast and accurate market research, and walk you through all of the steps to get started.
What Exactly Is Reddit and How Does It Work?
Reddit is considered a social media platform, although it resembles more of a traditional internet forum where users can post, discuss, and vote on content. There are a number of terms that may be unfamiliar to you if you haven’t ever used Reddit before, so let’s go through the ones you need to know real quick. (Feel free to skip this section if you already know the basics of using Reddit.)
Redditor: A member or user of the Reddit community.
Subreddit: A subreddit is a space on Reddit dedicated to a specific topic, theme, or interest. Subreddits serve as mini-communities within the site and serve as virtual gathering places for like-minded individuals.They are denoted by “r/” followed by the name of the subreddit, i.e. r/marketing.
Reddit has hundreds of subreddits, and there is one for just about anything you can think of. There’s also plenty of subreddits for things you wouldn’t ever think of (r/BreadStapledToTrees, I am looking at you. And in case you are wondering, yes, this subreddit is exactly what it sounds like.)
Bread… stapled to trees. I don’t know why. The internet is weird sometimes.
Upvote/Downvote: A system used to approve or disapprove of content or comments. Upvoting indicates approval or liking, while downvoting signals disapproval. When content is upvoted, it moves up in the feed. The content and comments with the most upvotes is seen the most, as it appears at the top of the page.
Karma: A point system that reflects the value of a user’s contributions based on the number of upvotes and downvotes they receive. You receive karma by posting comments or posting a new thread. Each comment you make will give you +1 karma to begin with, and then other users can upvote or downvote your comment, changing the amount of karma. So for each additional upvote on a comment, you receive +1 karma. And the opposite is true for downvotes, meaning that you receive -1 karma for each downvote.
Comments that receive lots of downvotes are considered to be low value or not contributing positively to the discussion at hand, and will eventually be hidden in the comments section entirely.
You can see how much karma a user has by clicking on their profile. (You can also see your own karma at any time in the top right corner of the page.)
Mainly just showing off my internet karma here and the fact my Reddit account is over 12 years old. But anyways…
Now that you’ve got the basic terminology nailed down, let’s take a look at why Reddit is so valuable for conducting market research.
Why Use Reddit for Market Research?
One of the key advantages of using Reddit for market research is the platform’s vast user base.
With over 430 million monthly active users as of 2023, Reddit offers a diverse range of perspectives and opinions. This allows businesses to tap into a wealth of information and gather insights from a wide range of demographics.
Unlike traditional market research methods where you are limited to observing from a distance, Reddit allows you to engage directly with your audience and gather feedback in real-time.
When used correctly, Reddit can provide invaluable insights into consumer preferences, opinions, and behaviors. By analyzing the discussions and interactions within relevant subreddits, businesses can gain a deep understanding of their target audience’s needs and preferences.
Another advantage of using Reddit for market research is the platform’s anonymity. Users can create anonymous accounts, allowing them to share their honest opinions and experiences without fear of judgment or repercussions. This anonymity fosters a more open and candid environment, leading to more authentic and valuable insights for businesses.
Lastly, Reddit offers a wide range of features that can aid in market research. You can analyze user engagement metrics, such as upvotes, comments, and awards, to gauge the popularity around a particular topic, or use Reddit’s advanced search function to find specific keywords or topics related to your industry. (I’ll show you how to do this later on.)
How to Find the Right Subreddits
The key to effective market research on Reddit is finding the subreddits where your target audience is most active.
Now, there are two ways of doing this, and I’ll give you both of them just because, hey, I am feeling generous.
Here’s the first method to find the subreddit(s) where your audience hangs out.
- Start with a broad search: Begin by heading over to Reddit, and searching for keywords related to your industry or target market in the search bar at the top of the page. This will help you find subreddits that are directly aligned with your area of interest.
When conducting a search, it’s important to consider various terms and phrases that are commonly associated with your industry. This will ensure that you cast a wide net and capture all potential subreddits that may be relevant to your research. Take the time to brainstorm and compile a list of keywords that accurately represent your niche.
So for example, if I type ‘marketing’ in the search bar, it gives me multiple different subreddits to choose from. In this case, I am going to start out my research by going to the r/marketing subreddit, as it is the first one that popped up.
2. Explore the subreddit sidebar: Once you’ve identified a potential subreddit, the first thing to do is take a look at the sidebar. The subreddit sidebar is often a great source for valuable information. It provides insights into the community’s expectations, preferred content types, and any specific rules that need to be followed.
It also will often have a list of additional related subreddits or other related communities that are on other platforms (like Discord). By thoroughly exploring the sidebar, you can gain a deeper understanding of the subreddit’s culture and get a better idea of whether or not the community fits with your target audience.
You’ll see here that the r/marketing subreddit lists many other marketing-related subreddits that might be worth checking out, like r/socialmediamarketing and r/digitalmarketing.
3. Assess the subreddit’s activity: Activity levels within a subreddit can vary significantly. Some communities may have a constant stream of posts and comments, while others may be more sporadic. An active community suggests a higher likelihood of receiving valuable feedback and insights for your market research.
Look at the frequency of posts and comments within the subreddit to help determine if it is an active and engaged community.
You can also see how many users are currently online in the community in the sidebar, as well as how many users are subscribed to the subreddit in total. This will help you determine the size of the community, and the size of your potential audience to engage with.
Keep in mind, a larger community isn’t necessarily better. In fact, it often can be more useful to find a smaller, more niche subreddit of the topic you are searching for. So perhaps instead of looking at just r/marketing, I could get even more specific and look at r/socialmediamarketing, because that subreddit more accurately describes my target audience. You might find that the smaller subreddits have a higher engagement level. I gauge this by looking at the number of current users that are online.
For example, in the image below, the r/marketing subreddit has 274 users online, which really isn’t a lot, considering there are 595,000 members of the subreddit.
Whereas the r/socialmediamarketing subreddit has 62 users online, but the overall size of the subreddit is 8x smaller, with just 74,800 users. So despite the r/marketing subreddit having more users online, the r/socialmediamarketing subreddit actually has a higher percentage of its users that are active and online, possibly indicating it might be a more engaged community.
4. Analyze the subreddit’s demographics: Understanding the demographics of a subreddit is crucial in ensuring that your market research efforts are focused on the right audience. Look for any available info regarding the age range, gender distribution, geographic location, and interests of the subreddit’s users.
If you are confident after going through these steps that your chosen subreddit is where your target audience lives and engages, then you can start your market research!
But what if you aren’t totally confident you’ve found the best subreddit?
Well, then you can use method number-two to identify the right subreddit. (This method doesn’t actually involve using Reddit at all.)
Here’s what you need to do.
- Create an account on Sparktoro.
If you aren’t familiar with Sparktoro, prepare for your mind to be blown by how useful it is when it comes to audience research. Head over to sparktoro.com and create an account if you don’t have one already. This will give you 20 free searches per month, which is more than enough for the purpose of this exercise. (If it’s in your budget, I highly recommend paying for Sparktoro, because it is incredibly useful and can help you understand your audience on a new level.)
2. Search for your topic on SparkToro
Once you have an account set up, click on the Audience Research tab. Then, you will need to conduct your search. You may notice that there are a couple of options to choose from in the search bar. That’s because there are a number of different ways you search for something using Sparktoro.
The types of searches include:
- Search by a topic that your audience frequently talks about
- Search by keyword or phrase that your audience uses in their profile
(i.e. director of marketing)
- Search by a social media account that your audience follows
- Search by a website your audience visits
I am going to just continue with the marketing example I used previously, and search by the topic ‘marketing’.
3. Analyze the results
When you get your search results, you’ll notice that on the left hand side of the page, there are a number of different headings you can click on.
Choose the one that says ‘Reddit’. (There’s also TONS of other information that you might find useful in the other tabs, but for this article, I am just going to focus on the Reddit section).
And just like that, you’ll be presented with the most popular subreddits for that particular audience. It can be quite interesting, because sometimes the results are not a subreddit you would have considered looking at.
In this search, my results include the more obvious subreddits like r/marketing, but also some unexpected ones like r/cryptocurrency and r/stocks. You’ll notice the percentage of my total audience that is on these subreddits isn’t very big, so this might be an indication I need to get more granular with my search term.
If I try again, and this time I search the term ‘email marketing’, the results are slightly different. The top three subreddits for this audience include r/marketing, r/emailmarketing and r/entrepreneur.
And as you’ll see, the percentage of the audience for each of these subreddits is much higher than the ones in the last search, so these subreddits are probably more representative of the audience I am looking for.
Using this method with Sparktoro to find your audience on Reddit can be much faster than going through individual subreddits manually to find the right one for your market research.
That being said, really the most effective method is to use both of these together. Doing so will ensure that you have chosen the right subreddit that most accurately represents your target audience.
You’ve Chosen a Subreddit. Now What?
You basically have two choices now. You can choose to gather information from the subreddit simply by looking at the content, or you can create a Reddit account and join in the conversation! Both research methods can be useful, but the latter option is much more fun if you ask me.
By actively participating in discussions, providing valuable insights, and engaging with other members, you can position yourself as a trusted authority and gain the community’s respect. This will not only enhance the quality of the feedback you receive but also increase the likelihood of others being willing to share their experiences and opinions with you.
However, it is important to approach Reddit with caution and respect. Redditors are known for their skepticism towards marketers and dislike blatant self-promotion. So before you get all excited and start creating posts nonsensically, take some time to understand the “vibe” of the subreddit first.
Each subreddit has different rules in place for posting and commenting, so be sure to actually read them or you may find yourself banned from that particular subreddit. In fact, some subreddits may not even let you create a new post unless your account is of a certain age, or has a certain amount of comment karma.
If this sounds intimidating, and you’d prefer to observe from a distance, that’s okay too. There are still plenty of ways you can conduct market research on Reddit without actually posting or commenting at all.
Passive Market Research Methods With Reddit
Monitoring discussions and trends
In addition to actively participating in discussions, you can use Reddit as a listening tool to monitor conversations and gather insights passively. This can help you identify emerging trends and stay up-to-date with your target audience’s preferences. For example, if you are in the tech industry, subscribing to subreddits like r/technology or r/gadgets can give you a firsthand look at what consumers are excited about, what features they desire in a product, and what issues they are currently facing.
Additionally, Reddit’s upvoting and downvoting system allows you to gauge the popularity and credibility of different opinions. By paying attention to highly upvoted comments or posts, you can identify the popular topics within a community and use that knowledge to inform your decision-making process.
Keep in mind that when analyzing the user engagement, you need to go beyond just the number of upvotes and comments. It is essential to consider the quality and depth of the interactions.
For instance, a post with a high number of comments may indicate high engagement, but if the comments are short and lack substance, it may not provide as much valuable information as a post with fewer but more detailed comments. Analyzing the content of the individual comments can give you a better understanding of user sentiment and preferences.
By examining the comments associated with a highly upvoted post, you can uncover the specific aspects that resonated with the community. These comments may highlight additional insights, suggestions, or personal experiences related to the topic at hand.
Using advanced search methods
Another way to conduct passive market research on Reddit is by using the advanced search functionality. The advanced search allows you to find highly specific information by narrowing down your search using manual filters. This can be particularly useful when looking for very specific topics related to your target audience, industry, or even your company. Here’s how it works.
If you want to limit your search to a specific set of criteria, you can use special manual filtering words to do so.
You can filter your search by any of the following:
- author The person who created the post.
For instance, author:MarketingWhiz
- flair The descriptor or label attached to the post.
For instance, flair:SEO
- self Filter by self posts. Use true to limit the search to text posts, false to exclude them.
For instance, self:true
- selftext The main text or body of the post.
For instance, selftext:engagement
- site The domain linked within the post.
For instance, site:marketingblog.com
- subreddit The community where the post was submitted.
For instance, subreddit:DigitalMarketing
- title The headline or title of the post.
For instance, title:Lead Generation
Example: If I am looking to find posts regarding ‘content strategies’ created by the user u/MarketingGuru in the specific subreddit r/MarketingInsights, I would type the following in the search bar:
author:MarketingGuru subreddit:MarketingInsights content strategies
Make sure you don’t have whitespace between the manual filter name(e.g. ‘author’) and the word you want to search for:
❌ author: cats
PRO TIP: When making a multi-word field search, wrap the query in double or single quotes. For example, title:“kitten gif”. This will ensure that it searches for an exact match of the entire phrase, rather than instances where the words appear separately.
Another valuable search tool at your disposal is the use of boolean operators. Reddit’s search supports operators such as AND, OR, and NOT. These operators can help you refine your search and find more accurate results.
For instance, if you’re interested in finding discussions about both “technology” and “artificial intelligence,” you can use the AND operator to narrow down your search to threads that mention both terms. On the other hand, if you want to broaden your search and find threads that mention either “technology” or “artificial intelligence,” you can use the OR operator.
With Reddit’s advanced search functionality, you can effectively search the large amount of content available and quickly find the most relevant and accurate information for your market research.
Using Reddit’s API for Automated Market Research
For businesses looking to scale their market research efforts, Reddit’s Application Programming Interface (API) offers a powerful solution. By leveraging the Reddit API, you can automate the data collection, analysis, and reporting, allowing you to gather insights at scale and make data-driven decisions more efficiently.
Best Practices for Reddit Market Research
When conducting market research on Reddit, it’s essential to follow best practices to ensure accurate and insightful results:
Be transparent: When engaging with the community, make it clear that you’re conducting market research. This helps build trust and encourages users to provide honest and valuable feedback.
Respect subreddit rules: Each subreddit has its own set of rules and guidelines. Make sure to familiarize yourself with them and abide by them to avoid any negative consequences.
Engage authentically: When participating in discussions, be authentic and genuinely interested in the topic. Users are more likely to provide valuable insights if they perceive you as a genuine participant.
Mistakes to Avoid When Using Reddit for Market Research
While Reddit is a valuable platform for market research, there are a few common mistakes that you’ll want to avoid in order to get the best results.
Confirmation bias: Be mindful of your own biases when analyzing the data. Avoid cherry-picking information that confirms pre-existing beliefs and instead strive for an objective analysis.
Sample bias: Keep in mind that Reddit users may not represent your entire target audience. Be cautious when extrapolating insights from Reddit data to make broader conclusions about your market.
Data overload: With the abundance of information on Reddit, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Stay focused on your research objectives and prioritize the most relevant insights to avoid getting lost and looking at irrelevant data points.
Overall, Reddit presents a unique and powerful platform for conducting market research. By finding the right subreddits, utilizing advanced search functionality, and analyzing user behaviors and trends, you can gain valuable insights about your target audience. These insights can be used to inform your marketing strategy and give you a competitive edge that will drive business success.