Reddit is great for many things.
For example, it’s awesome for finding hilarious memes.
There’s one thing, though, that Reddit is definitely not known for.
Reddit is like the anti-sales social media channel.
Redditors are notoriously touchy and protective of their tight-knit communities. In fact, they have a whole community dedicated to calling out spammy companies. The very last thing they want (and tolerate) is some commercial enterprise spamming their boards for profit.
And yet somehow, that’s exactly what Wax and Wick did.
The soy candle upstart from Chicago managed to generate $5,000 in a single day right after launching.
They’ve also since been able to use Reddit for everything from market research and rewarding customer loyalty.
Here’s how Wax and Wick did it (and how you can follow their lead).
How to use Reddit to gauge market demand
Initially, Wax and Wick wanted to create candles solely for other men.
It wasn’t that they were tied to the gender, necessarily.
It was that they wanted to create ‘real’ scents (like woodsy ones) instead of the fake, artificial stuff that populates the market today (like linen).
However, when they started digging deeper into customer research, they quickly found that “most of the time it was women who purchased candles.” Later, they even reportedly found this number as high as 80% in some estimates.
That threw them a curveball.
They now had conflicting data that didn’t jive with their initial vision, and they hit a pivotal crossroads.
Should they proceed with a niche business focused on men (despite what the data said), or would that force them to be too narrow and limit their potential?
Rather than stubbornly proceeding one way or the other based on intuition alone, they went to Reddit for help.
They wrote a short piece on the “malelivingspace” Reddit thread explaining their story and asking for help.
And the responses were incredible:
They had no idea what to expect necessarily, but they certainly weren’t braced for the feedback they received.
Over 130 positive comments flooded in with people willing to help provide a sounding board.
That unfiltered feedback was incredibly beneficial in these early days. However, they also got something else that was almost more helpful in the long run: $5,000 in sales in a single day.
Their decision to request feedback from Reddit was a good one based on its demographics. Reddit is full of 25-34 year-old males in the U.S. according to Siege Media.
Here’s how you can find similar subreddits that cater to niche audiences.
Step #1. Start with a simple keyword search (just like you would in the Google Keyword Planner).
Your search results will quickly recommend newly related subreddits along with the subscriber count for each one.
Step #2. In the early stages, you’ll want to go broad. So Ryan Luedecke recommends pulling together at least “15+ subreddits with people interested in buying your product” with at least “10,000 subscribers or readers.”
Step #3. Use Siege Media’s giant list of 750 subreddits to pull from to round out your list. They’re even helpfully organized by industry and submission type so you should be able to find a dozen within five minutes or less.
Step #4. Place those subreddits in a simple spreadsheet to stay organized.
This should be the easy part. The hard part comes next.
Reddit has a unique community with a very specific personality. And the last thing you can afford at this point is to come off too strong, pissing everyone off before you’ve had a chance to get their help.
Here’s how to avoid that disaster scenario.
How to become a member of the Reddit community
Way back in 2012, tech geek Kevin Rose did a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything).
The short story is that it didn’t end well.
Before he even had a chance to get started, the community started revolting. Little by little, the thread quickly devolved into a series of personal insults.
Believe it or not, this is not uncommon.
Reddit is a little like Tumblr in that sense.
The best way you can prevent this from happening is to become a member of the community. That means you start contributing before you start asking for things in return.
That’s exactly what the founders of Wax and Wick did long before posting their $5,000 Reddit thread.
“Being a member of the community first has been really helpful for us.”
By being established, active members of the Reddit community they were able to simply ask for ideas, rather than trying to pitch or sell people immediately.
Instead of spamming and possibly driving potential customers away, they asked for their opinions instead.
Remember that subreddit spreadsheet you were just putting together? Time to pull that bad boy up and start contributing a few comments or replies where you can (on any and all relevant threads).
For example, the founders of Wax and Wick started with “r/candlemaking” to simply learn as much as they could from experts more knowledgeable than themselves.
They were even able to leverage this community to start a few private discussions with experienced candle makers that taught them a lot about the “how” and “why” of successful candle manufacturing.
“Artists and gifts” was another invaluable subreddit for Wax and Wick in the early days, as was “male living space,” “r/ecommerce,” and “r/entrepreneur.”
You can see how these were all tangentially related to what they were doing and who they were going after. So it wasn’t as if they were strictly bound to candle-specific subreddits the whole time.
But many times you have to learn these lessons the hard way. Even Wax and Wick had their own learning curve.
They tried using one of their own blog posts on the “r/todayilearned” subreddit, and it got shut down almost instantly.
They learned the hard way that you had to be an active participant on Reddit, rather than showing up for just the promotion.
So it’s a give and take. You can post your own promotional stuff, sure. But you also need to make sure you’re giving back and looking out for others interests in the group, first.
For example, Reddit’s informal rulebook suggests a 9:1 ratio. That means only one of your ten posts should be self-promotional.
Anything over two or three out of ten will start to develop a bad reputation.
Even comedian Louis C.K. knew these unspoken rules before embarking on his own Reddit promotional efforts.
For example, even though he was doing an AMA to help promote one of his latest comedy specials, he cleverly leads with self-deprecating humor that diffused Reddit’s usual angst.
In other words, “Redditors want to know you’re a redditor” at the end of the day according to Jesse at Social Fresh.
How social media ‘Engagement’ creates lifelong customers
Every social media blog post says that ‘engagement’ matters.
However, the only problem is that none of them actually go on to describe what that means or why it is, in fact, important.
The long and short of it is that people won’t buy from you unless they trust you. Plan and simple.
Think about the last time you found a new restaurant to visit. Chances are, you probably vetted all of your options before ever even calling them or setting foot in their location.
Instead, you’re using social reviews (more on that in a second), placement in search engines, and recommends from friends or family to make this decision.
Instagram has been a key contributor of both traffic and engagement for Wax and Wick. And counterintuitively, the best results often come when they don’t ask for something but kick off the engagement themselves.
They actually found that asking people for engagement on their content backfired.
They’d get almost none.
But, if they actively engaged and genuinely engaged on users content, that engagement would come right back to them!
Nearly a decade ago in 2007, toy company Step2 was searching for ways to increase online sales.
Their early Facebook adoption efforts were gaining traction. So they embarked on a more ambitious plan to integrate these siloed social efforts back into the main hub of their website.
Partnering with PowerReviews helped them quickly build up their site to 20,000 legitimate reviews across their products.
These reviews weren’t just thinly veiled social proof, but also like a friendly sales agent or honest best friend, where the most relevant reviews from previous customers would be surfaced and matched with new shoppers who needed them most.
From 2010 – 2012, Step2 saw a 300% increase in revenues from visitors coming through the Facebook Connect button.
And sales increased 130% year-over-year on Step2.com after PowerReviews added loyalty and badges for reviewers and buyers.
Since then, simple product reviews like these have evolved into social commerce (a $30 billion industry today).
Wax and Wick started incorporating social commerce initially with Receiptful (now Conversio). Each receipt contained a survey link with questions that could then be automatically sent back to your site to help sway new visitors.
A survey conducted by Dimensional Research and Zendesk showed that 90% of positive reviews influenced purchases, while 86% of negatives ones did too.
And then another survey from Dan Hinkley showed that any negative reviews have the potential to prevent 70% of purchases.
Wax and Wick is also a big believer in live chat to engage with site visitors in real-time.
The chat widget is there, waiting, for anyone who has a question. So it gives off the appearance that someone is always around, ready to talk.
Despite being harder for lead capture and getting information, they found that the few leads lost with live chat were outweighed by the pros.
It was easier to connect with their potential customers and answer any hesitations that were stopping conversions.
Plus, messaging is a win-win for both retailers and customers.
And the companies using it can see response rates between 7-20% (as opposed to the measly 1-2% of previous efforts) according to messaging platform Drift.
Wax and Wick will also use coupon codes on each platform from Instagram to Reddit. They like to give back to the community to show their appreciation.
The hidden benefit of coupon codes is that they allow you to track results back to individual channels, posts, or even groups.
For example, you can use different coupon codes for each subreddit listed above so you can not only see which ones are driving the most traffic but more importantly, which is driving the most buyers.
Have you used Reddit for business?
Trying to use Reddit for business is a tricky proposition.
At best, it’s an amazing channel with smart users that can teach you a lot. But at worst, they’ll turn on you in seconds before you even know what hit you.
That’s what makes the story from Wax and Wick even more incredible. The Reddit community embraced them, providing them with valuable market research feedback early on (in addition to a few thousand bucks in their pocket).
Have you used Reddit for marketing?
Are there any subreddits that you’d recommend to other ecommerce marketers?
Let us know in the comments below.
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