A couple weeks ago I decided to try out reddit’s self-serve advertising system for one of our products at Apture: the Apture Highlights browser extension. While I am an Apture employee, I’ve also turned into a rabid user of our browser plugin while browsing the web, I’ve found it to be perfect at answering a number of quick questions like “what does this word mean?” or “who the hell is this?” In a mix of curiosity regarding reddit’s advertising system and advocacy for our browser extension, I decided to run a trial campaign on reddit.

Looking up 'Voyager' with Apture

If you’ve not been exposed to reddit’s self-serve advertising platform, here’s a quick overview. The entire system is bid-based, with minimum bids starting at 20 USD a day. Ads are created by users (like me) and submitted for approval with tentative dates. Once the ad is approved by reddit, it is scheduled to run on a particular day. From my understanding of the system, the number of impressions given to your advertisement is based on your bid and the demand for ad impressions on the given day. On top of this basic structure, you can run advertisements “targeted” to a specific subreddit or reddit-wide.

For the purposes of my campaign, I wanted to try both reddit-wide and targeted ads, for my targeted portion of the campaign I ran my ad for two days on the /r/todayilearned, a subreddit with nearly 80,000 subscribers who all are looking to share an interesting nugget of information that they have learned today. In addition to targeting the ad to the specific subreddit, I tried to make the copy of the advertisement as compelling as possible for my potential clickers:

Add more TIL to every thread on reddit with the Apture Highlights browser extension

(note: The acronym “TIL” generally is used as a substitute for “today I learned” in threads on reddit)

This ad ran for two days on /r/todayilearned and for one day reddit-wide, bringing my total campaign expenditure to $60. The breakdown in numbers is as follows:

Impressions (unique -> total): 21,420 -> 141,037 Clicks (unique -> total): 146 -> 157

While the click-through rate is frustratingly low, what I found astonishing was the huge disparity between unique and non-unique impressions. What that indicates to me is that readers have a tendency to refresh a page (such as the subreddit homepage) a number of times during the day.

What you cannot tell from those numbers above is how many of the clicks came from the targeted placement (/r/todayilearned) versus the reddit-wide run. When the ad ran reddit-wide it received zero-clicks, not only did the targeting to /r/todayilearned garner more repeated (non-unique) impressions, it received all of the clicks received throughout the entire campaign.

The big take-away lesson for me from this brief trial advertising on reddit was: avoid reddit-wide advertising. Finding a subreddit with a large number of passionate users isn’t that difficult, so you should be able to identify a subreddit that overlaps with your target market and advertise to them specifically. Other than that, I don’t have any great “analysis” to offer, it was an interesting experiment but not a rigorously scientific one.

If you’d like to download the CSV with the data from the campaign, you can grab that here. The columns are: date, impression_unique, impression_total, click_unique, click_total, clickrate_unique, clickrate_total.