When it comes to user-generated content, Reddit is unlike the other well-known social platforms on the market.

For one – there’s no functionality to “follow” people. On Reddit, users follow different pages, or “subreddits,” that pique their interests. Secondly, you won’t find ads or branded content blended in among UGC on Reddit. The platform is dominated by consumers.

That brings me to my third point: It’s quite rare to open the Reddit “front page” and find the type of UGC commonly seen on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Standard photos of toddlers? Not so much. Generic images of an everyday breakfast? Eh, probably not. Instead, people visit the site to find the most upvoted posts from the subreddits they follow.

Reddit 2

Redditors are known for being incredibly honest and widely skeptical of other users’ experiences. So, to have a piece of content upvoted to the front page or receive “gold” (Reddit’s premium membership program) are solid forms of validation. These are indicators that the content is relevant, unique, well-produced, thought-provoking or truly funny.

Introducing Sponsored Content

Reddit’s community dynamics coupled with its popularity (it’s the 9th most popular site in the U.S. and the 25th most popular in the world, according to Alexa), is a great recipe for brand monetization. But, most Reddit users wouldn’t necessarily be receptive to advertising on the platform.

“A lot of traditional advertising feels like we’re being taken advantage of and nobody likes that,” Steve Huffman, CEO of Reddit said to AdAge. “But when advertisers come with honest intentions we see a much higher level of engagement with the brand. We don’t see hostility and we have valuable connections.”

Reddit finally announced that they had discovered the perfect solution that would allow marketers to organically get in on the UGC action. As of August 4, companies can officially sponsor posts created by users, provided that the user gives consent. If the user does not respond or they refuse, the company cannot sponsor the post. If the user says yes, however, they will be granted a lifetime subscription of Reddit “gold.”

Reddit will have a team in place that will monitor the site for interesting pieces of UGC that brands could monetize. These staff members will flag the posts, and send them to brand marketers to gauge their interest in sponsoring them.

Then, it’s entirely up to the consumer whether or not they’d like to grant the brand permission to sponsor the content.

How Can Brands Get Started? Look No Further Than Taco Bell

The prime example of how a brand could monetize UGC on Reddit involves Taco Bell. Two years ago, a Redditor created a large painting of a Taco Bell hot sauce packet for a friend. They posted it to Reddit, and sure enough, it went viral. To make the situation even more amusing, the president of Taco Bell commented in thread in a nonchalant manner asking where he could buy a hot sauce packet painting, which users still find amusing to this day. If Sponsored Posts had been introduced in 2014, Taco Bell could have very well monetized this piece of content.

taco bell hot sauce

Will Redditors Opt In?

Redditors might be a bit reluctant to participate in the commercialization of a platform that has been devoid of advertising for so long.

A quick search for Redditors’ reactions to the platform supplying a lifetime of gold to users who allow their posts to be sponsored didn’t scream enthusiasm. “It’s time to stop gold,” one Redditor posted.

Still, there’s a significant chance that this could be a great opportunity for brands. Curalate reported last year that four out of five users on Instagram give brands permission to share their photos when asked — and more often than not, they’re thrilled to be asked. Sure, Reddit is a different audience, but at the end of the day, nearly every consumer likes receiving a “thumbs up” for their work.

Mastering Authenticity in Ads

To win over the highly visual consumers of today, it’s imperative that marketers must think beyond the scope of traditional advertising. In today’s marketplace, authenticity is everything. Reddit is taking a huge step in the right direction with its new sponsored advertising model. To get a grasp on how to master authentic advertising on Instagram and Facebook, read “Winning Strategies for Facebook and Instagram Ads.”

Looking for ways to discover influencers who have an authentic voice? Check out Curalate Explore, which can help you find influencers to work with, form relationships with micro-influencers and find high-quality content piece-by-piece.