The Anatomy of a Viral Reddit Post

Sah Kilic

How I designed a post that got 100,000+ views

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=3u1K7b_0XpZVXJ600Photo by Anders Jildén on Unsplash

My very first post on Medium was my most viral post on Reddit. It got 100K+ views with 8K+ upvotes in a day, and I was blown away.

It skyrocketed my freshly created Medium account, pushed my article to the front page on both sites, and got me my first few hundred followers.

And yes, it felt good. I was up all night replying to comments and going through publications that wanted to house my article.

Going viral wasn’t a new experience for me, on Reddit at least. I’d gone viral before, but this post was a catalyst. A catalyst for what? A realization.

There’s a science to this.

“This” was Reddit, and the science was an art — the art of crafting a perfect post.

Any successful internet person will tell you that going viral is about luck, and they’re 100% right. But it’s not just luck.

Since then, I’ve structured all self-promotion on Reddit in the same way.

What I have now is a tried and true structure that regularly pours rocket fuel on a lot of promotion through Reddit, and even if many posts don’t go viral, most will do very very well.

I’m sharing this structure and these principles with you today.

What Makes a Successful Reddit Post?

A successful Reddit post is no different from a successful marketing campaign. You’re not trying to trick people or peddle something sub-par. You’re doing the exact opposite.

  1. Create a quality product.
  2. Find the people that will derive the most value from it.
  3. Offer this product to these people and show them the value.

Let’s say you already created the product. It’s your new app, article, video, service, whatever it may be, it has undeniable quality.

You’re proud of it, you’ve spent countless hours on it, and you want the world to see.

The fact that you’re proud of it is crucial.

If you don’t like your work, it’s going to be difficult for you to convince other people that they should. Lucky for you, you don’t like what you’re sharing, you love it.

And this means you’re already ahead of the competition.

We’ll come back to find the right people, but for now, let’s jump ahead to the third step: offer the product and value to the people.

How to Talk to People

Reddit is a bunch of real people having a conversation. If you interrupt that flow or want to add to it, you need to make sure you’re not talking like a marketing chatbot.

Avoid the vague and disingenuous enthusiasm: Hi there! We at [Random Company] have the best product for our customers!

The marketers reading this did a collective facepalm.

If it reads like an ad, people will treat it as an ad.

Whether it’s text or spoken words, it should always sound like there’s a human on the other side, for no other reason than that it’s true — because the human is you.

  • Your post can’t be a carbon copy of the product you’re offering. Don’t just post a link to your article or service.
  • You need to address them directly. You can’t post without a story or explanation behind it.
  • Write as you talk. Keep it conversational because it is a conversation.
  • Don’t post and leave. Stay in the comments and continue the discussion

It’s a conversation

You need to imagine that this whole post is a conversation with a group, so saying something and leaving is like that friend who tries to get their word in and talks over everyone in the process — people stop caring.

Be present in the thread.

  • Answer questions.
  • Elaborate on things.
  • Thank people for reading.

The opportunity to promote more of your work will arise as well, so if not for the conversation, stay for the conversions.

And look, it won’t all be nice either. You’ll get some negatives in there too.

“This isn’t useful,” or “What a waste of time.”

You need to be there wondering, “Why?” Because you’re 100% behind this thing, and you care. You’ll defend it because it’s worthy, and criticism is a natural part of that.

You take the criticism seriously. You agree, disagree, or do a bit of both. You respond positively and thank the commenter for checking out your thing.

You might know there’re real people on the other side, but the rest overlook that fact — you roll with it anyway.

When that happens, everyone witnesses the exchange. Your reply gets shot up into the sky with upvotes; theirs gets buried into the pits of hell.

We live in a society, and being kind is appreciated and rewarded — more on Reddit than anywhere else.

Follow the rules

Each Reddit community has its own rules, and if you don’t want to get banned, you have to follow them.

In our original conversation example, imagine going up to a group of strangers and immediately dropping f- and c-bombs all over the place and making politically incorrect jokes.

There’s a community out there that will laugh and join in, but there are communities that won’t.

Know your audience.

  • Some communities will flat out ban any self-promotion.
  • Some will be text only, no links.
  • Some have specific days or threads where you’re allowed to do things.

If you jump in without knowing what’s what, moderators, or helper bots will slam down the hammer of ‘GTFO’ on your account. The worst part, this ban is virtually undoable.

The rules are in the sidebar of every subreddit; we’ll get into these soon.

How to Structure Your Post

Now you know to talk to Reddit like a human, the question becomes “how”?

Here are some examples of my viral posts over the past couple of years. And oh yes, guy, I’m sharing my Reddit username, big-time trust right here.

Examples

On Procrastination — This one was popular, but the moderator deleted the structure and left the introduction with the link.

On Productivity Tools — This one’s a great example of killer structure.

On Traveling Solo — This one’s a great conversational post with lots of practical value.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=0vb05h_0XpZVXJ600Example Reddit Post Structure — My Travel Post

This post, much like all of my self-promotion on Reddit, is structured, so it holds a user’s attention, gives out a lot of value, and is formatted so someone can read it as easy as biting into a sandwich.

You’ll immediately notice the enormous title, dot points, formating, and link placement. Here’re the details.

The title

The most important thing.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=46pE15_0XpZVXJ600Annotated Title from My Post in r/Productivity

As someone who’s got multiple viral posts under there belt, here’s my secret sauce for a spicy title.

  • Screw title case. Regardless of whether it’s an article or not, first and foremost, it’s a conversation. Write the title in sentence case.
  • Make it long. Again, this is a conversation, so delve in straight away. Tell em’ why you’re here.
  • Add read time. Medium got this one right — let people know how long it’s going to take, and they’ll be more inclined to read it.
  • Directly address people as yourself. I did [insert exciting thing] a while ago and learned a lot, I thought it’d help you with [insert specific thing], so I wrote this, hope it helps you out :)”

The intro

You got their attention in the title, and now you need to hold it.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=3YMcqh_0XpZVXJ600Annotated Intro from My Post in r/Productivity

Address the people.

The first sentence can be as simple as “hey [Insert Community], I’m new here, but I love what I’ve been seeing and wanted to give back.”

Let them know that you’re in the loop; you know what this community’s about.

Tell them who you are and why you’re here.

Your name is this, you’ve done that, and you’re here because you’ve got a piece of the collective puzzle they’re all trying to solve.

Make it short, sweet, and skippable.

If someone wants to press the “skip intro” button, make that possible. Formating is your friend. Put in a break-line, a title, or dot points straight after the intro so people can get to the value immediately if they want.

That’s it.

The body: basics

No name or introduction here. Just the whole burrito, with the rice, chicken, beans, and guac — all of it.

Don’t wrap that thing, no plastic bags, no knife, and fork, just the burrito on a silver platter ready to eat. In other words:

  • Give up the value straight away. Attention spans aren’t incredible, especially with written content, so holding that attention is all about delivering value with every keystroke.
  • Dot points and formatting are cocaine. If they can see the essential information at a glance, in bold, they’re going to love you and what you’re offering.
  • Lots of short paragraphs, over fewer long ones. There’s a reason why people send four texts back to back over 1. They’re all one connected thought, but it’s easier to digest (and write).

The body: Link placement

Here’s a not-so-obvious one.

Reddit users hate leaving Reddit. So imagine that you want people to come to your blog, for instance. How do you give that extra bit of value, and gain that extra bit of trust?

Instead of writing an intro and linking out, post the entire write-up in text format natively. And you might be thinking: “I get no traffic that way, ya doofus.”

Here’s the philosophy.

If you give extraordinary value to people with no strings attached, your call to action will be that much more powerful.

If you’re new to this, give out everything, then ask if they want a little something extra and put out a link to your email list. It’s the most natural thing you could do and will be super useful in the long run — but it’s not everything.

Scatter valuable links throughout your content as the punch line. Emphasis on “valuable” and “punch line.” You’re not tricking people, you’re directing them to a resource.

The punch line needs to have powerful words, some intrigue, a little spice.

What’s more effective?

Example 1: A link with no punch line or value, purely to drive traffic to your latest thing, ex:

  • Click here for my latest article.

Example 2: A link that’s valuable and has a punch line, ex:

If your original post has little golden nuggets that are formatted to be casual and intriguing like the second example, they’ll be less invasive and have a higher click through.

Finding the Right People

You’ve got the quality and the format down. Now you need to walk into the right room.

Reddit splits into multiple sub-communities called subreddits — and there’s a subreddit for everything.

There are massive subreddits with 20 million or more followers, and there are smaller niche ones that are sub 20K. Your job is to find the ones that:

  1. Care enough about your thing.
  2. Are big enough to make your post go viral or do very well.
  3. Are small enough to give you a chance to be seen.

These points don’t mean you need to pull a rabbit out of a hat, but rather become the rabbit and go down the Reddit rabbit hole.

Here’s how I discovered the niche subs back in the day.

Reddit search

Much like a Google search, Reddit search should be your first point of discovery in the quest to track down the perfect sub.

https://www.reddit.com/search/?q=[Search Keyword]

  1. Search a broad keyword.
  2. Click on the “Communities and users” tab.
  3. Scroll through and join subreddits that match your topic.

Sidebar: Related subreddits

In the sidebar or “About” sections of most subreddits, you’ll find a “Related” or “Other Subreddits” list.

These are treasure troves of active communities that are either directly related to your niche or are a worthwhile alternative to explore.

For example, with the topic of self-improvement, if you were to go to r/getdisciplined, which is already a great sized sub for balancing reach and visibility, you’ll find even more related subs in the “About” tab.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=2OkUCt_0XpZVXJ600About Tab Screenshots from Reddit iOS App

Popular posts

When you find a sub where people might value what you have to share, you check if people have shared similar things before.

Go to the sub’s front page and start to sort posts:

Posts > Top > All Time

If what you’re sharing has similarities to what’s worked previously, you can bet that the adage of “history repeats itself” will come in handy when you post there.

Post when people are there

At the top of every sub below the title, there’ll be the number to tell you how big the sub is, and how many people are online.

The more people that are online, the higher the chance that your post will be seen and upvoted in the crucial first hour.

See the peak times for users of your particular niche sub and post during or right before that time.

Summary & Tools

Summary

If you’re going to take away only a few points from this article, let it be the ones below.

  • Minimalism. Assume the default attention span sucks, so only include the essentials in your post.
  • Keep it conversational. Off the back of the last point, and I believe this is a fact, zero out of the 330 million Reddit users like essays.
  • Share an experience or story with Reddit. No matter what it is, you’re sharing, “story-fy” it.
  • Give everything first, and ask a favor second. No “if you want the rest go here.” This isn’t a shady “half now, half later drug deal.”
  • The Subreddit choice can make or break your post. Do your research, and don’t shy away from posting in multiple subreddits.

Tools

  • Whatever your niche is, there’s a subreddit for that, and it’s easy enough to find them too. The top 5,000 Subreddits get updated all the time.
  • There’s a chrome extension called Reddit Enhancement Suite that’ll improve your experience on the platform if you want to give it a go.
  • While you’re in the chrome extensions, you might as well download Grammarly too, so you can mask your horrible typing skills when arguing with people on Reddit.

That’s all folks, enjoy all those extra clicks I’ve gifted to you 😘

Best of luck,

Sah

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If you want a tour guide to everything mindset and digital, I'm your guy. I cover self-improvement, travel, entrepreneurship, startups, marketing, technology, and media. Find more of my stuff at https://sah.substack.com/

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