Chances are the viral video you’ve come across on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, first went big on Reddit before it landed the main social media platforms. The self-proclaimed ‘Front Page of the Internet’ wields the power of up-voting and down-voting internet worthy content for the masses.

Content on Reddit spreads fast. Memes and tidbits, ranging from the profound to the bizarre are soon spread onto other sites. Breaking news is often on the front-page moments after it has happened; news sources have even sited Reddit as their source during terrorist attacks. It’s rapid information like no other, a community that dictates what is mainstream, but many marketers are wary of approaching the site.

Reddit itself goes against everything in the branding rulebook. They get zero traffic from advertising, they don’t ever email their users – in fact, they don’t even encourage people to sign up to the platform. They don’t use any page view gimmicks or integrate with Facebook, their social media isn’t even linked to the website. Its success lies within its steadfast community. In December 2011, Reddit served 2.07 billion page views; it has over 34 million unique visitors and the average user spends 16 minutes perusing the site.

Landing your content on Reddit means massive exposure for your brand, but that is no easy task as users are often strongly opposed to product placements and prefer to keep the platform void of marketing gimmicks. That being said, there is a ‘right’ way to approach it. Getting to know the demographic is key. Sticking to subreddits, which are small communities within the platform, is a viable way to reach a more specific audience. With subreddits ranging from gaming to peppers that look like they have faces on them, you can find a community for literally anything.

Wood Harrelson’s AMA, a question and answer format on the site, famously turned sour when users quickly realised he would only engage with questions relating to his upcoming film. This format usually allows for an honest dialogue between redditors and people of interest, however the failure to understand Reddit as an audience could ultimately lead to backlash.

With the immediacy of Reddit, PR on the site can be a curse or a blessing. When handled correctly companies can resolve issues directly with dissatisfied customers and sway public opinion in an instant. An example is when Xbox Live’s Director of Programming offered his own email address in order to help a user with a shipping issue. This is just one of the many instances where this Director has been deeply involved with the Xbox community, learning what they want as consumers, what their gripes with the system are and forming a solid relationship with commenters. The success of this lies in the fact that he brings value to the redditors, he acts as a touchpoint for the brand but is ultimately there for the people.

Above all, it’s humor that rules Reddit. The platform is synonyms with entertainment and if you’re a brand looking for a way in, that’s your best bet. Porn Hub’s ‘Give America Wood’ campaign was an instant hit with redditors. The brand pledged to donate 1 tree for every 100 videos viewed under their ‘big dick’ category. After going viral, Porn Hub received over 1 billion visitors that month, a partial testament to Reddit’s love for some crude humor with a cause.

When executed correctly, Reddit can be a powerful tool, but it takes more than a quick post or just sharing a link. It’s a deep dive into a community and really gaining an understanding. It’s no easy task and without bringing value and authenticity to the readers, your brand will quickly be down voted to oblivion.