There's far too much weird stuff on Reddit. I honestly don't want to know what percentage of their traffic comes from NSFW content. But if you know where to look, Reddit can also be a goldmine.
Much better than any survey ever could, the user behavior on Reddit gives us an honest glimpse into people's mindsets, habits, interests and hobbies. Since users can sign up quickly and anonymously, there's no need for them to hide their interests.
And most importantly, there are no gatekeepers. The users alone decide what happens and what gets talked about. As a result, we can observe on Reddit almost in real-time how cultural trends emerge and niche hobbies suddenly become popular.
But the almost limitless possibilities can also be paralyzing. What exactly should you be looking for if you want to find business opportunities on Reddit?
A good way to think about Subreddits is as workarounds. Reddit can be used for many things but it isn't particularly optimized for any specific use case. Hence, oftentimes when people use Reddit to accomplish a specific goal, that's a clear sign that there's a gap in the market.
To give you a place to start, we'll talk about five well-proven playbooks.
Unbundle a community
The most obvious way to build a business around Reddit is to unbundle one of the communities. While Reddit is great at bringing people together, deeper connections rarely happen on the platform. Hence, for each large Subreddit there is an opportunity to create a dedicated community platform.
For example, SuperGreat is a much better version of r/Beauty, GrowthHackers and Designer News are optimized versions of r/GrowthHacking and /r/Design respectively, and Indie Hackers is the logical step beyond r/SideProject.
Importantly, you don't have to be one of the Subreddit's moderators to unbundle it. For example, Pat Walls noticed that case studies always got a lot of attention on r/Entrepreneur. So he started posting interesting ones regularly and always included a link to his project. Starter Story is now a thriving premium community that's generating $15k+ per month in revenue.
In a nutshell:
- Find an exploding Subreddit with a strong community.
- Observe what kind of content and interaction is most valued by its members.
- Then offer it on a dedicated platform in a way that’s much better than the Subreddit ever could.
But unbundling a community is just the most obvious and hardly the most lucrative option. So let's move on to the next playbook.
Ride an emerging hobby wave
Stefan von Imhof noticed last year that the /r/diamondpainting subreddit is exploding. He had no idea what diamond painting was but a quick Google search revealed that it's "a combination of cross-stitch and paint-by-numbers".
What's so great about new hobbies is 1.) there are lots of beginners that are hungry for information and 2.) finding this information is oftentimes too difficult.
With this in mind, there are two options. You can either start a content site that answers beginner questions from scratch or try to buy an established one and improve it. Stefan decided to buy one which is certainly a great option if you can find a suitable site and have the necessary capital at hand.
In any case, the goal is to build an authority site that answers all possible questions beginners typically have. All you have to do to find great content ideas is to read the most popular posts in the corresponding Subreddit.
Once your site starts ranking in Google, you can start monetizing, for example, using affiliate links.
This is of course a well-established playbook. But if you're able to spot trends early on Reddit and build an authority site before the rest of the world takes notice, you have an unfair advantage.
People will often just link to the first result on Google. Hence, if you manage to get there early, your position will naturally grow stronger over time.
But the real opportunities lie in leveling up from monetization via ads to selling your own products. Since you already have the traffic on your site, why not use it yourself instead of redirecting them to other people's products?
In Stefan's example, an easy way to start would be to partner with an expert to create the "Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Diamond Painting" and sell it for $49 on his site. But of course, he could also start selling diamond painting kits himself. An e-commerce store that is getting organic traffic and conversions is the holy grail of opportunities.
- Find a Subreddit that indicates that a new niche hobby is becoming rapidly more popular.
- Browse the Subreddit to find out what questions beginners commonly struggle with.
- Then write and publish article on a dedicated website that answers these questions.
Beginner questions are just one type of pain point you can focus on. So next, let's talk about more creative ways to provide value.
Pain points in emerging Subreddits
Jason Citron and Stan Vishnevskiy noticed in 2015 that the League of Legends r/LoL Subreddit was exploding. When they dug deeper, they discovered that many users weren't happy with the options that existed to communicate in-game and out-of-game. While a combination of the r/Lol Subreddit, Teamspeak, and chat apps somehow got the job done, it was obviously an awkward workaround.
So Jason and Stan decided to create a modern communication tool that solves all the problems gamers were complaining about. Discord became quickly popular in the LoL community, spread from there to other gaming Subreddits, and is now a ~$4b company with 250 million registered users.
There are also countless smaller but still highly profitable opportunities. For example, Nat Eliason saw a poll on Reddit that asked: "how long does sex normally last?" and was shocked to find how many guys answered 1-2 minutes.
He then wrote a long article that explained how he had managed to solve the problem. Given how widespread the problem is and barely anyone is talking about it, it's not too surprising that it went viral on Reddit and even reached the front page. But that's not the end of the story.
In the article, he linked to an app that he had used to exercise. When he looked at his website stats he noticed how much traffic he sent to the app and a quick calculation revealed that the app owner was making a killing. Hence, he decided to hire an iOS freelancer and develop his own app.
Once the app was ready, he linked to it in the article and that was all the marketing it needed to generate $150+ in revenue.
Nat used exactly the same strategy to launch a highly successful course. This time he noticed that there's a lot of buzz around a new note-taking app called Roam.
But while many people were excited about it, most beginners had a hard time figuring out how to use it. Hence he wrote a beginner's guide and posted it on Hacker News and in the /r/RoamResearch Subreddit. When the guide took off, he quickly created a course that has now generated more than $500k in revenue
So what exactly is the playbook here?
- First find a pain point by browsing trending Subreddits. (It makes sense to browse trending Subreddits since for pain points in more established ones there's usually a good reason why they haven't been solved yet.)
- Then build an MVP and launch it in relevant Subreddits. Sometimes, as demonstrated by Nat's examples, an article is all you need as an MVP.
- If your MVP gets traction, improve it and start monetizing. If not, rinse and repeat.
On to the next playbook.
Unbundle a marketplace or productized service
Reddit is far from optimized for any kind of transaction. So whenever people try to organize some kind of marketplace in a Subreddit, that's a clear sign that a dedicated platform is missing. For example, while posting job adverts and resumes on /r/WorkOnline/ might sometimes work, a dedicated job board like Remote OK is certainly a much better solution.
Or here's a very recent example: r/ClubhouseInvites is a Subreddit dedicated to the trading of invites to the now viral social audio platform Clubhouse. The community is growing like crazy and when someone launched a dedicated website to simplify the process, it took off like a rocket ship. The owner claims that he’s sold already more than 700+ invites at $30 a piece. And just a few days after the launch he was able to sell the website for $9,450 on Flippa.
So the framework here is to look for Subreddits that function as marketplaces and then either launch a dedicated platform or a productized service.
Target trending identities
The most common mistake among e-commerce beginners is to focus on trending products. While it's of course also possible to identify product trends on Reddit, a much more valuable opportunity is to identify trending identities and then build a tailor-made brand around it.
You might be able to make a quick buck selling fidget spinners or the latest diet supplement but you can't build a sustainable business around trendy one-off products. As soon as the flash-in-the-pan fad fizzles out, you'll be out of business.
Additionally, as long as you're just chasing what's hot right now, you’ll always be threatened by a mass of competitors and hence eventually, your profit margins will get squeezed.
Hence instead of asking “What product should I sell?”, you should start by identifying your customer, and then answering his or her need. This will allow you to build a real brand that attracts repeat buyers, generates word of mouth buzz, and is able to sell products at healthy profit margins.
And Reddit is an ideal platform to identify emerging new identities you can target with your brand.
For example, /r/keto started exploding on Reddit long before the ketogenic diet entered the mainstream. So when Justin Mares and Anthony Gustin launched with Perfect Keto a brand tailor-made for keto enthusiasts ("Doctor-developed. Backed by science"), it quickly developed a loyal following and is now a seven-figure business.
Here's a related opportunity that exists right now: r/xxketo is a thriving Subreddit "dedicated to discussing a ketogenic diet from a female-identifying perspective". Given that the Subreddit already has more than 100,000 members it seems reasonable to assume that a brand that focuses on serving the needs of female keto enthusiasts would do extremely well.
Another great example is Grailed which was launched on the back of rapidly growing Subreddits like r/MaleFashionAdvice and r/frugalmalefashion. What would a corresponding brand look like that targets members of the r/fugralfemalefashion Subreddit that is exploding right now?
And the good news is that you don't need a lot of money to validate a brand idea. Justin Mares validated Kettle & Fire (a brand he started to take advantage of the emerging bone broth trend) for just $50. Even though he had no product yet, he created a simple landing page with a purchase form that redirected to a PayPal checkout and sent traffic to it using Bing ads. He quickly learned this way that people were hungry for high-quality bone broth.
Once he'd validated that there's enough demand, he emailed all customers and offered to refund their money, explaining that they "don’t have the product in stock at the moment". As an alternative, he promised to "give a 50% discount and we’ll ship in just a few weeks". Then he started to develop a plan to produce the bone broth and Kettle & Fire is now a highly successful brand that recently raised $4.71M in seed funding.
Knowing what kind of opportunities can emerge on Reddit is of course just the first step. You also need to find concrete opportunities that exist right now and then, most importantly, take action.
While it'll always be your responsibility to execute, we're confident that we can help with the second step. We monitor all fast-growing Subreddits, analyze the conversations that's going on in them, and regularly send actionable reports discussing the most promising opportunities we found straight to your inbox
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