Listen. That’s right, just listen. It sounds simple, but on this can sometimes be easier said than done. Luckily for you, below we’ll break down the mysteries of step by step to help you start understanding your audience like the savvy people we know you are. This article is written for someone who is at least a little familiar with how Reddit works. If you’re brand new to the platform, Mashable has a great introduction video for you.

Build a Target Profile of Interests (Subreddits)

There are few places besides Reddit where your audience is all on one site publically stating their honest thoughts, tastes, and opinions about every single one of their interests and then discussing them in depth. Once harnessed, it’s wildly useful for understanding who you’re trying to sell to.

Your first step is to think of all the possible interests your target might have and then scour Subreddits relevant to them. Build a target market profile…made of Subreddits!

You can even make different accounts that subscribe to Subreddits for different target profiles. This is useful because it allows you to categorize your front pages. Each account’s front page will be something similar to what those target profiles would see on their front page. This allows you to monitor the most popular things happening in each of your different targets’ interests at a glance without having delve into every single Subreddit every time (although you still should do that often). Your job just got a little bit easier!

Look at the Subreddit’s Info and Data

Before you even read a post, there’s a great deal of info available. The most obvious info is what is upvoted highest, and thus most popular with this audience, that day. It will also give you a good idea of what they dislike when you find something that has been downvoted into oblivion. Be sure to look at “top” posts for the past week, month, and maybe year. After exploring these you’re going to get a good grasp of what the users on this Subreddit, and your target, enjoy.

Be sure to check the right sidebar of the page for additional information. Data like how many subscribers there are to a page can help you understand how niche mainstream of an audience you’re looking at. Sometimes near the bottom of a side bar Subreddits also list related Subreddits, which may help you research your targets further.

Understand Their Personality

Every Subreddit has a culture and it takes a bit of digging to understand the nature of each community. This is the fun part: read the posts and the comments, especially the comments. Get to know this community like you’re speed dating. In the comments find out what topics start genuine discussion, spark outrage, or joy. You’ll always learn something surprising in this goldmine of honest conversation. Notice, of course, what gets a lot of upvotes but also what has a lot of comments and buzz around it.

Here’s how I used this data for one of my own projects. As a single, white, twenty-something male I had trouble understanding the non-Caucasian mothers target market I needed to market to for a certain toy product. I started looking in various parenting, race-focused, and motherhood-centered Subreddits. I quickly discovered that all my assumptions about how they would react to different products I was investigating were all wrong. It was an extremely insightful experience because people on Reddit tend to be very genuine. People that are inappropriately angry or rude with their opinions are downvoted, thus you are left with only the opinions the community feels are valuable. A very useful filter indeed.

One final warning: Be wary of interacting directly with your audience by posting or commenting. Redditors are notoriously good at sniffing out half-baked attempts by marketers to interact with them. Unless you’re very experienced on Reddit, leave commenting for research purposes to your audience.