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Grassroots Reddit Marketing: A How-To Guide for Indie Devs

Hey everyone – and welcome to my reddit marketing guide for indies! ✨

Over the past year, my colleagues and I have been hard at work promoting RoboCo – our wholesome, in-development sandbox game about designing and building robots to serve the needs of squishy, hapless humans in the world of tomorrow. We’ve started a dedicated RoboCo dev blog, shown off the game live at events like Indie MEGABOOTH @ PAX West, and are even slated to be a part of the Steam Game Festival: Summer Edition which kicks off next week! I’m going to be referencing RoboCo quite a bit in this article, so rather than rehashing all the details found on our Steam page, I’ll just drop our teaser trailer:

As you can see, RoboCo is all about building robots. It’s about serving humans (sandwiches, in this case). It features fun cosmetics and wacky human characters. And it all takes place inside a giant RoboCo warehouse.

I’ll be honest- I love our RoboCo trailer. And as I’m sure you all know, a great trailer can be a really effective form of marketing. But there are so many ways to market your game today…from community building on Discord, to having content creators on YouTube and Twitch feature your game, showing off your game at in-person events like PAX and GDC (well…maybe someday), and so much more. But today’s guide is all about promoting your game on Reddit, which I would classify as…social media.

For a quick overview, Reddit is “a social news aggregation, web content rating, and discussion website.” It’s not exactly social media, but it’s very similar. There are communities called “subreddits” which are dedicated spaces based on interests, and in total there are about 330 million monthly active users on the site. This is super useful for me in games marketing because a ton of those users are gamers. Here’s a look at some of the site’s most popular gaming communities, and this list doesn’t even cover communities for individual games like Minecraft and League of Legends which each are home to millions of active users. 

With so many gaming enthusiasts on the site, I think that Reddit can be a really powerful and effective platform for helping get the word out about your game. And this isn’t just a guess on my part, this belief is actually based on a lot of the work that I’ve been doing the past year promoting RoboCo on Reddit, in both gaming and non-gaming communities.

We’ve had a lot of success sharing RoboCo content on Reddit, and garnered a lot of new fans, email newsletter signups, and Steam wishlists for our game in the process. But that isn’t to say this is easy – in fact, we’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way about what Reddit likes, and what Reddit hates. Which brings me back to the main crux of my article.

Today, I’m going to provide a step-by-step guide to help you promote your game in relevant Reddit communities. Please note that today’s guide will have nothing to do with how to use paid Reddit ads – you know, the random annoying ads that pop up in your feed as you’re scrolling. Everything I’ll be discussing today is about how to promote your game as a user, for free.

I’m also going to be working under the assumption that you have a basic understanding of Reddit as a platform, as I won’t be covering the basics of how to make an account or make your first post.

I’ll be open and honest about everything I know about doing this Reddit promotion effectively, but please please please remember that this isn’t a guide to everything you need to do to properly market your indie game – if you remember my list of marketing tactics from before, I’m covering how to effectively use just one site from the “social media” category. So please don’t rely on this guide as your only form of marketing.

And finally, it’s worth noting that these insights are based on my experience marketing one game – so please be aware that your experiences may vary and you may learn things that I haven’t covered today in your own efforts. And that’s totally ok!

With all that out of the way, let’s move on to our first topic…

Establishing Your Reddit Presence

Which is really a fancy way to say, create your Reddit account. For RoboCo, we decided to create a brand new account using “RoboCoGame” as a handle. I think there is a lot of value in setting up a brand new account that’s solely associated with your game (if only to keep your personal account separate from your game posts), but if you’ve already used a personal Reddit account in the past to show off your work and wish to keep using it, I’m not going to tell you to stop using it.

In addition to creating a Reddit account for your game, I’d also recommend creating an official subreddit for your game, too. This process is fairly straightforward, and will allow you to designate yourself as the primary moderator in charge of managing the community.

This article isn’t so much about establishing and growing a subreddit around your game, but it’s always a good idea to create and maintain a subreddit, with at least a few posts that link to your game’s website, social media, store page, and other key links. You can also customize and style your community like we did for our RoboCo subreddit, which can be a really great way to make your community look nice and official!

Next, Reflect On Your Game

Next, I’d like you to think about your game- or alternatively, think about a game that you really love. And I want you to reflect on the game in terms of these categories: subject, genre, themes, character identities, platforms, and game engine. Ideally, you’ll want to take some time to jot down some notes for each of the categories. What I’m trying to get at is you want a list of the core elements which make up your game. Let’s take a look at my breakdown for RoboCo.

  • Subject? Robotics, engineering
  • Genre? Sandbox, indie
  • Themes? STEM, humor
  • Character traits? Silly humans
  • Platform(s)? PC, VR
  • Game engine? Unity

As just saw in our trailer, RoboCo is a wholesome sandbox game about building robots to serve squishy, hapless humans in the world of tomorrow. At its core, it’s an indie game with deep engineering and robotics tools, along with humorous elements like silly humans and funny cosmetic items. It’s coming to Steam for PC desktop and VR, and is built using the Unity game engine. Identifying these traits is the first step in effectively promoting your game on Reddit – so be sure to take the time to reflect on the defining characteristics of your game before getting started.

Identify Subreddits Based On Your Themes

Now that you have a list of the core elements that make up your game, you need to do some research. For each of these themes, your goal is to find a correspondingly relevant Reddit community. 

For instance – since RoboCo is a game all about building robots, the r/robotics community seems like a natural fit. Even though r/robotics isn’t traditionally a gaming-focused community, elements of our game speak to their interests – and therefore, it’s worth at the very least exploring the possibility of sharing our game in the community. Another good example of this, for RoboCo specifically, is the s***** robots subreddit. RoboCo isn’t *only* about making s***** robots, but players *can* make s***** robots if they’d like. Since it’s an indie game, r/indiegaming was an obvious choice. And since we support VR platforms, communities like r/virtualreality and r/oculus are perfect. I really encourage you to not limit yourself to only gaming subreddits – think outside the box!

The process of finding and identifying these communities is pretty straightforward, too – generally, I simply google each theme along with the Reddit keyword and am instantly shown a list of relevant posts and communities. It can sometimes take a little digging to find these, but many subreddits list related communities in their subreddit descriptions, so once you’ve found one it can lead to finding others pretty quickly.

Once you’ve identified a big old list of subreddits, you can move on to the next step…

Join and Participate in the Community

…and that’s becoming an active member of these communities! Think of it this way – your end goal should be to add value to these subreddits by showing off an element of your game that is relevant to the community. Your job isn’t to drop a link to your trailer and call it a day, you should really be posting unique content to each community that – again – is relevant to the group!

So please, don’t post in a subreddit without doing your research first! That’s a great way for your contribution to be ignored or worse, downvoted or banned.

I’d suggest spending a minimum of a few weeks participating in any given community as an active user – that is, engaging with others’ content and leaving meaningful comments. In my experience, it seems communities are far more likely to respond well to new posts from users with even just a little bit of history in the community, rather than a complete stranger. So don’t just walk into r/indiegaming with your content and expect it to do well without putting in a little work first.

And I really can’t emphasize this point enough – nobody likes seeing a blatant advertisement for a game in their community. Especially subreddit moderators, which are the folks who have the power to ban your account from their communities.

And honestly, the best way to not stand out as an advertisement, in my view at least, is to blend in. That is, finding out what types of content have been well-received by the community in the past, and using that info to influence what content you share about your game in the present.

And thankfully, there’s a super easy way to do this – on each subreddit, you can sort posts by “top”, then study the highest-ranking posts from the past week, past month, and all time. Obviously you don’t want to copy anything word-for-word, but doing this can be really insightful and can help you quickly identify what types of content are worth sharing, and the structure of post titles that have previously performed well in the community. You may be really surprised at what you find!

A Note About Reddit Moderators

And now, some thoughts on Reddit moderators and “mod culture”

Each Reddit community is run by a team of moderators, who are users that have volunteered to enforce subreddit rules and Reddit community standards in that space

Some subreddit mods welcome new members to their communities with open arms, while others can be a bit strict on the types of content they’ll allow on their subreddit on any given day.

So again, taking the time to review each subreddit in detail and assess its mod culture can be key to your success in that space – you can even direct message a subreddit’s mod team ahead of posting if you’re unsure if your post is appropriate for the community. Each subreddit lists their moderator team below their description, along with a dedicated button to message the team.

If moderators in a community don’t like what you’re posting, you run the risk of having your post removed or even becoming banned from that subreddit – so make sure that you’re doing everything you can to stay on their good side.

Craft Your Post and Deploy Strategically

So, now that you’ve identified your target communities and become acquainted with the types of posts that traditionally do well in the space, it’s time to do the thing – craft a post about your game!

Now I’m going to be honest, with the exception of some text-only subreddits, I really believe that video or GIF content is the best kind of content you could possibly share – and I think that’s universal across other social media sites like Twitter and Instagram! And in my experience, short videos are king – generally thirty seconds or less.

Now you might be thinking, “oh great – video! I’ve got lots of game footage on my YouTube channel to link!” And while I admire your excitement, I’m going to give a hard recommendation to NEVER post a YouTube link about your game to Reddit. Why? My reasoning is entirely due to Reddit’s autoplay feature – specifically for mobile users. The fact is, if you upload a clip directly to Reddit as your post, your clip will autoplay when users scroll past it in their mobile feeds. Whereas if you link to a youtube video, this is not the case as you can see in my example here. 

Yes, it’s sad that your Reddit direct upload video views won’t count towards your views on YouTube. But in my estimation, it is far more likely that your post will be viewed (and possibly upvoted!) if your content autoplays on their feed, rather than just having a static youtube thumbnail. Again, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to directly upload your video content if your goal is to be seen.

Equally important as your content, in my view, is your post title! While it’s important to craft a clever title, I think it’s also a totally sound strategy to study past popular posts from each community and base your titles around theirs. A quick example- when researching top posts on the indie gaming community, I found three key themes across all the top performers: many of them used language like “I’m making” or “we’re working on,” each title included a little info on the project’s genre and mechanics, and all titles were generally short and to the point. I used these findings to influence my writing when creating this post for RoboCo, and I’m happy to report that our post was well-received by the community. But again, each community has different standards and expectations, so it’s key to spend a little time researching each community prior to creating your post.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of some past posts we’ve done for RoboCo.

Here, we have one of our most successful posts in r/Oculus. We decided to share a short clip of our game in VR mode, specifically one which really emphasizes the hands-on, tactile elements of building robots in VR. Through our research, we found that r/oculus users responded well to posts submitted by developers who are working on exciting and unique VR projects, so we used language like, “we’re making” in the post to help appear authentic and wholesome. We also included the name of our game at the end of the post – this can be a great way to help folks quickly identify and better-remember your game, though I suggest only including this if previous successful posts also feature the name of the game in their post title.

Next, a post from the r/s*****robots community. This is a huge community with over half a million users, and while the subreddit really has nothing to do with games, they were a perfect fit for OUR silly robot game. Here, we featured a humorous clip of a robot fetching coffee for a human character. Since this isn’t a gaming community, we were less concerned with showing off gameplay footage and features – rather, we specifically recorded a ridiculous clip of a rather ineffective robot failing at a simple task, along with the post title, “No humans were harmed in the making of this coffee.” Simple, yet effective – this post garnered more than 2,500 upvotes, and was the most popular post in the community that week.

One more example- for the r/Unity3D subreddit, we wanted to highlight a more technically-impressive aspect of RoboCo – namely, how users can swap between desktop mode and VR mode on-the-fly. We recorded a clip which specifically highlights this feature, and made sure to keep the Unity developer UI on-screen for maximum authenticity.

As you can see from these examples, it often is best to record unique clips relevant to the specific interest of subreddits – in my experience, you’re far more likely to stand out and get noticed on Reddit when your content is tailor-fit for a community, rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach.

Don’t Forget About the Comments Section!

So, you’ve crafted your post and recorded your tailor-made clip. But as the late Billy Mays would say, “but that’s not all!” It’s also crucial that you include a comment alongside your post that introduces yourself, your game, and key links to stuff like your store page, website, and social media.

In our experience, a message from the dev team can be a really powerful way to quickly establish credibility and goodwill among community members – Reddit really seems to hate posts from marketing lackeys like me, but conversely, when you frame a post as “from the devs,” Reddit becomes really excited. This ties into our frequent use of language like “I’m making” and “we’re creating” in post titles – framing your Reddit presence around your status as an indie dev who just wants to share their hard work with the world is far more appealing to most Redditors than someone simply trying to sell their game. The fact that you’re taking time out of your busy development schedule to seek out, interact, and share insights into your work will make a lot of Reddit users feel special – so be sure to capitalize on that as much as you can. And to that end, always invite folks to ask questions about your game – this can be a good opportunity to connect with potential fans, and perhaps earn some preorders or sales!

Tips and Tricks for Post Timing and Cadence

When it comes to choosing when to post, I (regretfully) must admit that I’ve had the most success posting at 6 or 7AM CST. There’s quite a bit of research out there which supports this, so feel free to look that up if you don’t believe me. But essentially, posting in the early hours of the morning will maximize the chances that your post is served to US Redditors throughout the day as they check in on the site. 

Another thing to keep in mind: post cadence – ultimately, the rate in which you can make new posts in a subreddit should be relative to the level of overall activity in that community. For instance, if you’re posting to a popular community like r/indiegaming that gets tons of new activity every day, you can try posting new content every two to four weeks. Whereas with a smaller community that generates less new posts, you’ll probably want to stick to posting a maximum of once a month.

Just because you’re only posting in a community once a month, though, doesn’t mean that you’re limited to posting to Reddit once a month! I find it really helpful to rotate through subreddits, posting in a new community each week and rotating to a different subreddit the following week. This strategy allows you to post a constant stream of new content to a variety of subreddits, without spamming any specific community.

On a similar note, though, I would suggest cross-posting relevant content to multiple subreddits in one fell swoop – for instance, a VR clip to multiple VR subreddits. It’s best practices to not post old content in new communities, so maximizing the reach of your initial wave of a new clip is key.

And I really want to emphasize that last point, as diminishing returns on content over time is a real thing. It’s best to avoid reposting old content in new communities, as there are likely to be folks who belong to both subreddits who will call you out for reposting content they’ve already seen. And worse, this could convey a lack of development progress to users, and cause them to get less excited about your game.

Engage With Users Who Interact With Your Post

And finally, do NOT post and ghost! It’s super important to the success of your content that you stick around and engage with users who comment on your post – so make sure to plan ahead and set aside time for yourself and your fellow developers to be available to answer questions after posting. This is important for so many reasons:

  • If you make a post then disappear without a trace, users might assume you don’t really care about the community and are simply posting to advertise your game.
  • Users often love being able to talk and interact with a dev (yes, you’re that popular!!).
  • Additional engagement (comments) make it more likely that Reddit will show your post on others’ feeds…and your own comment replies contribute to this algorithm too.
  • Your reply could influence someone’s decision to wishlist/pre-order/buy your game.

What to Do When Everything Goes Wrong

Ok, so imagine this – you’ve followed this guide step-by-step and made your first post….and it bombs. What do you do now? Honestly, don’t panic – it happens to all of us! Maybe your post was overshadowed by something else posted to the community that day, or perhaps your content wasn’t well-suited to the wants of that specific community. It could be that there was a huge AAA gaming announcement that buried all other gaming news that day, or even a big event like an election or national news story.

No matter what, you’re welcome to try posting the same content in other subreddits in the short-term, and I’d recommend returning to the subreddit with new content after waiting a bit. Just don’t give up after one failed post – if we had done that, we never would’ve eventually had the successes we did!

Annnnnnd…that’s all I’ve got! Got questions or comments? I’d love to hear them…feel free to reach out to us here! I hope this guide proves helpful to folks out there seeking to gain new fans and followers on Reddit…I wish you all the best of luck, and let me know if you need an upvote!

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