7 Steps to Create a Successful Subreddit
For a long time, Reddit was considered to be one of the many “weird places” on the internet that most people shied away from. Nowadays, though, it has found its way into one of the most social media sites on the internet.
What makes Reddit so appealing is how easily users can tailor and organize their feed. A Reddit user can always find a niche, no matter how odd it might be. Reddit operates a bit like an old school forums website, dividing the discussion into different “subreddits.”
A subreddit is a forum devoted to a specific topic, so users can be reasonably confident that they will only find the specific content they are looking for when they go to a subreddit. If you are looking for book recommendations, need advice for a crafts project, read about news updates, or just look at funny memes, you can probably find a subreddit that is the perfect place to go.
Though, maybe you went looking for a specific topic and found there was no subreddit dedicated to it. Maybe you found something close but would like to see it ran differently. Or maybe you are interested in creating a community for a topic you are passionate about and seeing it grow.
If any of these sounds like you, you might be interested in making your own subreddit, and to find out how to best do that, here is a simple guide:
1. Meet The Bare Bones Requirements
You need to have a Reddit account to be able to make a subreddit, as obvious as that might seem. Luckily, Reddit accounts are free and quick to make, but you can only have one account bound to one valid email. For the most part, that won’t be a relevant issue with making a new subreddit unless you don’t want your primary Reddit account related to a particular topic.
If that’s the case, or if you are just completely new to Reddit.com in general, here is a bit of bad news. You can’t make a new subreddit right away with a brand new account. Reddit does this to keep people from making spam accounts to make new subreddits. There are two basic requirements you have to meet before your account is allowed to make a subreddit:
An account must be at least 30 days old before it is allowed to make a subreddit.
Before you can start making subreddits, your account must meet a minimum amount of positive Karma. Only Reddit admins know the exact amount needed.
A Sidebar on Karma
Karma is a nebulous and unique feature to Reddit that doesn’t have a great analog to other social media platforms. It mostly serves as an indicator of how well-liked a Reddit account is. Precisely how Karma is calculated is a bit of a mystery, but it seems to correlate to how many downvotes and upvotes your account gets.
For Reddit, upvotes are an upward-pointing arrow and a downward-pointing arrow, more or less representing a like and dislike respectively. You can upvote or downvote both comments and posts. All Reddit content gets a “score” that starts at 1 and gets +1 for every upvote and -1 for every downvote; content with higher scores get promoted to the top of the feed.
The fact that you have to reach a specific yet unspecified amount of positive Karma sounds like a pain in the butt at first, but it can help you out in the long run. For one, the only way you can accumulate Karma is by participating in the subreddit communities, which you should want to do in the first place. Gaining Karma is easier if you are helpful, nice, or funny, which encourages people to want to be liked rather than just being nuisances. And, since you are likely to go to similar communities to participate and gain Karma, you can get an overall feel of how Reddit works and what sort of things helps some subreddits be more popular than others. These things create a foundation for you to become a better manager for the subreddit communities you wish to make.
2. Decide on Your Theme
Odds are if you are reading this, you already know what you want your subreddit to be about. Still, you should take some time to consider the subject carefully. Having a bad main theme for your subreddit can doom it before it even starts.
Some of the main things to consider when deciding what you want your subreddit to be about:
Original: Make sure you aren’t trying to create a subreddit that already exists. Not only is that in poor taste, but it can also make it hard for you to attract Redditors if they can go to a pre-established community to find the same content.
Niche: “There’s a subreddit for that” is rapidly approaching the status of a meme, but it isn’t far off. You’ll probably be able to find plenty of Redditors with similar interests, but the more weirdly specific a subreddit is, the harder it will be to draw people in. Though, if reddit.com/r/BreadStapledToTrees can be a thing, then there might not be too specific a niche.
Deep: No not like emotionally deep. This is similar to the issue of the niche, you don’t want to be too specific in your community identity because it can quickly burn out due to lack of topic depth. This is a common phenomenon that creates “dead subreddits” — the community members just stop finding ways to talk about the theme.
3. Creating the Subreddit
Once you have all the setup take care of, you can start making the subreddit page. Previously, you could only have done this from a web browser, but now you can do it from the convenience of the Reddit mobile app available for both iOS and Android. Where you do decide to create the community will make the process look a little different.
For computer users, you’ll want to go to your Reddit listings. This is a sort of hub where you can view all the subreddits you are a part of and view some of their information. In the top right corner of this screen, if you are logged in, you should see a sidebar with a button that reads “create your own subreddit.” Tap that to get started, and it is mostly self-explanatory from there.
As for mobile phone users, there are multiple different viewing apps for Reddit that are optimized to a specific user’s tastes, but this tutorial will be used on the base Reddit app. Worry about the optimizers later, just focus on getting this set up.
Start by opening Reddit, and if you don’t go there automatically, navigate to the homepage. In the top left corner, you will see a little icon with your avatar. Click it to open up the profile sidebar, and at the bottom of the list will be a “create community” button. Like the desktop version, it all should be straightforward after there.
Be Careful When Creating Your Subreddit!
Once you get through the initial creation of your subreddit, all the information will be set in stone. More than anything, that means you will want to get the name of the subreddit right because you won’t be able to change it ever. That means making sure you are spelling it the way you want to and any capitalization is where it needs to be.
And if you are thinking “no big deal, I’ll just delete it and start over again,” then you are sorely mistaken. Subreddits can’t be deleted. Hypothetically, if you mess up in the creation and end up being a bit off, you could just try again and make the new, correct version. Although, having an incredibly similar subreddit to the one you are trying to grow is only going to cause you more problems.
Again, be certain you make the name of your subreddit exactly what you want it to be.
4. Setting Up the Subreddit
Before you dive into promoting your subreddit, you want to ensure that it looks inviting. That does not necessarily mean you have to go through all the trouble of having an impressive banner and icon; a unique color scheme; custom upvotes, downvotes, and rewards. Most subreddits don’t go all-in on the level of customization you can do, and many of the biggest subreddits work well on a minimalist look. Of course, a bit of decoration certainly helps, and a default subreddit page certainly won’t be too attractive.
One thing you want to be sure you get set up before inviting too many people are the informational parts of your subreddit. Every subreddit has a little “About” blurb that is one of the first things that people see. Let that give Reddit users an accurate idea of what they can expect from your community, and, when appropriate, make it fun to read. A clever joke always snags people’s attention and makes them feel welcome.
Another element in your subreddit’s main page that helps make it look that extra bit impressive is the sidebar. Most, if not all, subreddits have a sidebar where you can find things like the rules for the subreddit, the names of the moderators, and so on.
A common thing subreddits will do to make the user experience better is the use of flairs. These are a bit like genre tags for threads and posts, to help people navigate the kind of content they are looking for. Subreddits that use flairs often require posts to include them and will have a section of the sidebar where all the types of flairs can be found.
You will also sometimes see subreddits have a section of their sidebar dedicated to linking similar subreddits. Some users will also have thematically unrelated subreddits in their sidebars that they also created. This is also done to promote newer subreddits, but more on that in a bit.
5. Building Up from Scratch
Unless you already have an established community that plans to make this subreddit your home, you will almost assuredly be responsible for the majority of the early posts. Realistically, you’ll have to spend a fair bit of time keeping the subreddit alive by yourself in the early stages. This might feel like an unpleasant grind, but if you don’t take care of the community you created, how can you expect anyone else to?
It is beneficial to make sure your subreddit has a fair amount of content on it before you even start promoting it. You don’t have to worry about a bad first impression as much on Reddit — people on that platform aren’t likely to not subscribe to a currently strong community just because they saw it was weak in the past. Still, you’ll draw more people right away and be less subjected to grief if you promote a subreddit that has a bit of meat on its bones instead of a barren one.
Ensuring the quality of the posts is important too. That can mean that you are posting relevant things, but also that the length of the posts isn’t overwhelming. This guide may help you figure out an appropriate length for the content you are looking to put on your subreddit.
Avoid making a ton of posts all at once. It is better to put out content at a steady pace rather than in huge spikes and then go quiet for a week or more. Just try making a single post a day. In the early stages, it might end up feeling like screaming into the void, but if you keep at it, you’ll be in charge of an active community in no time.
A tip some Reddit users recommend is offering to make early subscribers into moderators if they make regular posts. This can be tricky — you don’t want to end up giving moderator privileges to someone that turns out to be unpleasant. On the other hand, it’s a great way to bump up the content flow and find people who are want to be invested in the community in the long-term.
6. Promoting Your Subreddit
This is where most of the grind-work comes in. It will feel like trying to climb a waterfall sometimes, but there is a tipping point where you won’t have to work so hard to get your subreddit’s name circulating through the internet.
First thing you should do, post on reddit.com/r/newreddits/. You can get lost in the slush a bit, but it is a fairly high-traffic subreddit specifically created for this.
Remember how some subreddits link similar subreddits in their sidebars? Here is where this can come in handy for new communities. You can search for similar forums and message the mods for them, asking if they would like to link your subreddit in their sidebar of related communities. If they do, it’s a nice gesture to also put a link to that community in the sidebar of your subreddit. Similarly, if you mod for an already established community, you can take out the middle-man and make the sidebar adjustments yourself.
You can make posts in related subreddits announcing your new community and encouraging others to join, but make sure you don’t do this in a subreddit that has rules against those kinds of posts. It’s also a good rule of thumb to do this no more than once. The spamming of these requests is frowned upon by Reddit users and will land you in a worse place than where you started.
A better way to go about it is to respond to other posts or comments when people seem interested in the kind of content your community offers. You can do this naturally, by browsing similar subreddits and jumping in whenever possible. Or, if you are a fiend for efficiency, some third-party Reddit tools can scour a ton of subreddits to look for people mentioning specific things. So, for example, if there is a Reddit user that for some reason mentions an interest in rock climbing in an NSFW subreddit, you’ll be able to find it, jump over there, drop the link to your new rock climbing themed community, and leave without having to pan through all the other stuff you don’t care to see.
7. Manage Your Subreddit
This is meant more for after you already have a somewhat successful subreddit. Usually, you won’t have to moderate a ton when your community gets small. The bigger it gets though, the more likely you are to be subject to trolls and discourse among your subscribers.
There isn’t a hard and fast guide to this kind of thing. Essentially, just remain active and vigilant. Don’t just sit back and ignore your subreddit once it gets going. Make sure the rules are being enforced, take care of problems when they arise, and be willing to listen to your community members. You’d be surprised how quickly and easily a successful subreddit can burn to the ground if the moderators become passive.