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The future of paid social: What’s trending in media

Max Pinas
Max Pinas
Executive Creative Director
8 min read
7 September 2022

Today’s consumers are acutely attuned to when they’re being sold to, shying away from sales-focused advertising and marketing. Consumers want genuine brands and product experiences, which must be consistent across the entire customer journey. As brands concentrate on full-funnel marketing strategies to simultaneously create awareness, promote consideration, and convert customers, every customer touchpoint needs to be impactful and on brand. One way that brands can earn their audiences’ undivided attention is with paid social media advertising.

The path forward

One way to cut through the clutter is to experiment with new media. Discussion site Reddit is rapidly emerging as a valuable platform for brand authenticity. According to eMarketer, Reddit is the second-fastest-growing social media platform behind TikTok. Users are drawn to the site for genuine conversation and insights among anonymous users, often using it for research before deciding on any topic.

Reddit users, or “Redditors,” subscribe to and participate in various subreddits, which are communities centered around specific conversation topics, and rank content with an upvote or downvote, which influences the visibility of the information. Voting is what builds credibility, or “karma,” to Redditors.

Redditors often feel more comfortable engaging as strangers here than on other social media platforms largely because of the anonymity. To create an account, simply provide a username and password. Reddit doesn’t require any other personally identifiable information; contributing to the conversation-like, real engagement that takes place on the platform. Unlike other popular social media sites, Redditors value credible subject matter experts over content creators or celebrity influencers.

Anonymity can also raise concerns about spam, snark, bullying, or shameful self-promotion on Reddit, as well as most other social media platforms. Redditors are apprehensive of content that is too promotional and will roast or ban brands that overstep those boundaries. However, Reddit takes pride in preserving its integrity and credibility with platform guidelines called “Reddiquette.” While marketing on Reddit may be nuanced, the platform provides tremendous potential for brands who do it right and add value to Redditors.

The creator economy is nonexistent on Reddit, giving way to an affordable paid social advertising option for companies seeking ways to stand out. According to a 2020 Reddit and Verto Analytics study, Redditors have four times as many internet research sessions compared to other popular social media platforms, indicating Reddit users make purchase decisions nine times faster than on other social media sites.

With 52 million daily active users, brands can consider creating a company Reddit page to begin engaging in conversations with fellow Redditors in subreddits, a Reddit discussion thread on a specific topic. There’s significant focus on being an authentic and active part of the community on Reddit.

Your guide to advertising on Reddit

Once brands establish a presence on Reddit, advertising can elevate content with conversation placements, in-feed advertising, megathreads, and trending takeovers. Brands advertising on Reddit see increases in click-through rate (CTR), higher conversion rates (CVR), and lower cost per click (CPC) rate when using both Conversation placement and DEPT®. Megathreads are dedicated conversation threads on popular topics with a large number of users participating in discussion. Takeovers are a means for brands to “pay-to-trend,” with a specialized conversation feed that appears 24/7 alongside the day’s most popular content. Redditors will see these promoted posts in every community within your chosen category.

Additional engagement activities may include participating in gift exchanges, creating custom flair, and holding expert talks called “Ask Me Anything” (AMA). AMAs are live, open, and self-moderated interviews with Redditors that aid brands in featuring a subject matter expert. This is an opportunity to take questions from the Reddit community and share insights and exclusive content in a very authentic way.

Advertisers find the high number of active daily Reddit users and the genuine way they interact with one another attractive. It’s only a matter of time before Reddit becomes a more competitive ad space. It is a brand-safe, yet sensitive, environment with platform, community, and campaign moderation in place, as well as strong targeting capabilities, to reach audiences most relevant to brands. Reddit offers brands high visibility with a low barrier to entry, making this a cost-effective and unique way to reach new customers. Now is the ideal time for brands to take advantage.

Advertising to people who don’t want to see ads is an obvious challenge. Redditors are skeptical of any content that seems too sales-driven. For advertising that stands out, brands want to blend in. Native advertising offers consumers eye-catching visuals that don’t disrupt social media feed flow, integrating the ad as if it were a piece of content. A few native ad formats brands can experiment with:

  • Carousel ads
  • Outstream video ads
  • Click-to-watch video ads
  • Mobile app install ads
  • Recommendations: A referral to additional pieces of content. These tips may be tagged “Sponsored,” Suggested for you,” Recommended for you,” or Recommended by.”

The ad content must be relevant to the audience, though entertaining and informative. Top-performing ads tend to feature a behind-the-scenes look at the brand or educate audiences on a topic of interest.

Benefits in the internet of the future

Other innovations in paid social media may include the metaverse, a vision for the future of the internet where consumers move seamlessly between immersive and physical environments. This new internet includes decentralized networks that favor distributed currencies like bitcoin and cryptocurrency, or “crypto.”

The so-called “crypto winter” brought a chill to the crypto and non-fungible token (NFT) market recently, which previously experienced several months of a very hot market. Crypto prices dropped sharply and have remained low for many months and counting, depressing the value of NFTs. NFTs are digital assets, “tokenized” physical objects, such as artwork and digital consumer goods, that afford owners a presence in the metaverse. Some brands have created NFT collections of unique brand assets, though much of the current metaverse presence is B2C brands’ experimentation with extended reality (XR) activations — augmented, mixed, or virtual reality.

As exciting as all this is, many more consumers need to have both a presence in and utility for the metaverse to make marketing in the metaverse practical for most brands right now. Matters of governance, privacy, security, and other significant challenges are keeping customers and brands from going all-in on the metaverse. Yet, there’s profound potential for B2B and B2C brands to excel in the metaverse in due time.

Should you advertise in the metaverse?

Advertising opportunities in the metaverse are currently relatively limited. Select brands have established a presence, mainly in the form of brand avatars, events, games, and other virtual experiences, to encourage customers to engage with their business in the metaverse.

At DEPT®, we recommend that companies focus now on the creation of captivating content and engaging experiences outside the metaverse to establish market share and remain competitive. Brands have several options to create dynamic experiences today that will prepare them for what’s to come with the metaverse: exclusive partnerships, user-generated content tools, and robust data collection and analysis.

Brands can begin taking incremental steps towards the metaverse by identifying how their business and brand can differentiate themselves in the market. Now is the time for exploration and experimentation. We recommend observing consumer behavior and gaining insight into how the metaverse will benefit consumers’ day-to-day lives. Consider why you as a brand want to enter the metaverse and how this new environment can further overall objectives and goals.

There will be many innovative B2B and B2C ways to engage in the metaverse and transform how we shop, travel, learn, work, and play. Brands should prepare now for mass metaverse adoption by observing audience behavior, watching current brand activities, and keeping tabs on how platforms continue to evolve their presence in the metaverse.

Reddit and the metaverse will undoubtedly become important commerce channels for brands, so we recommend using your time now to watch, learn, and explore.

This is the first installment in our three-part series on The Future of Paid Social Media. Stay tuned for our next blog post on the role of content and influencer creative.

If you want to learn how we can apply innovative strategies and emerging technologies to empower your brand, check out our paid social media capabilities.

Learn more about our paid social offering


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