Reddit’s Safe Play in the Game of Geo-Targeting

How does one of the world's most privacy-conscious sites geo-target without scaring off its user base?

Last April, Reddit took its geo-targeting practice a step beyond its basic banner ad offering, enabling advertisers to pinpoint readers at a country- or city-level through promoted posts that run on the front page. When considering the popularity and power of the social networking, news and entertainment hub (it boasts more than 113 million uniques worldwide) this rather broad geo-targeting effort sounds incredibly conservative. It’s small potatoes in the “geo-feast” where sites like Facebook and Twitter aim to get their ads as relevant as possible. But in the case of Reddit, going small is, for now, the smartest way to go.

A Private Party, A Transparent Host 

Victoria Taylor, Director of Communications at Reddit
Victoria Taylor, Director of Communications at Reddit

“We know that Redditors are so privacy-conscious,” says Victoria Taylor, director of Communications at Reddit, referring to the site’s community of registered users. So privacy-conscious, indeed. A number of sub-Reddits, which are user-made discussion and link-sharing forums, are devoted to the practice of online privacy tactics, education, and information. A noble Redditor respects “Reddiquette,” refusing to reveal the personal information of a fellow Redditor.

Reddit is explicitly on board with its users when it comes to their wish for such freedom. Unlike most other social sharing platforms, the site requires very little information from its members. All it takes to sign up and become an active part of the Reddit community is a username and a password. The site’s privacy policy is unusually thorough and plainspoken, reflecting the site’s promise of transparency for its users.

“We try very hard to go above and beyond in terms of explaining our terms of service, and in terms of explaining how our ads work and how they target people,” Taylor says. “Redditors really appreciate that transparency and very often times they’ll say, ‘You know, I’m not going to use AdBlock, [or another] proxy that typically I would use with other sites, because I really appreciate you guys being so honest in spelling things out.”

Educating Users On Geo-Targeting

Pretty much everything you’d want to know about how Reddit geo-targets is declared on the site by the site. Lucid explanations of how Reddit handles the practice are important not just for those being targeted, but for prospective advertisers.

“We’re trying to educate companies, because we are aware that companies need to understand that Reddit advertising is a little bit different than other advertising [offered by other sites].”

Reddit’s ad platform is powered by Adzerk, but Taylor says its location-based technology was designed in house. The self-serve ads operate much like Facebook Ads or Google AdWords, Taylor adds. They start at $5.00 per campaign, at a $0.75 CPM.

“If you would like to target a metro city, it’s a $5 CPM,” Taylor says, adding that Reddit currently has the ability to target over 210 metro areas at that price range.

Come One, Come All…SMBS, That Means You

Reddit has some big names like the New York Times and its erstwhile Condé Nast sibling leveraging its location-based ad platform, but it has designed its offering to be equally desirable to small businesses. Taylor and Adriana Gadala-Maria, Reddit’s Ad Sales marketing manager, say that so far, companies using the new service vary greatly in size.

“It really depends on what type of ad campaign you’re looking to launch,” says Gadala-Maria. “Because the platform is designed for anyone to launch an ad within 24 hours, we get so many advertisers — hundreds coming in every single day. Among our advertisers within the platform, we have events organizers that are simply looking for event attendance in specific cities. We have gaming companies that only offer their product in specific countries and people promoting movies in specific countries.”

Desktop Only

Reddit doesn’t have an official mobile app, and the brand doesn’t sell mobile ads.

“We’re currently only selling desktop ads,” Gadala-Maria says. “However, if you visit from your mobile device, the ads look the same, just obviously smaller.”

To keep those interested in promoted posts up-to-date, the brand offers a newsletter that provides info on new features, best practices, and workshops. And then there’s the vast world of conversations within Reddit itself, where all types of business owners and consumers are chatting up a storm about anything and everything ­– including the pros and cons of Reddit’s location-targeted ads.