April 8, 2014

3 Tips on Hosting a Successful Reddit AMA

All press is good press, sure, but nobody wants to be the face that launched a thousand down-votes.

Reddit’s ever-popular Ask Me Anything (AMA) format is one way that the site has been leveraged to promote products. Multiple movie and TV stars, astronauts, athletes, entrepreneurs, and even the President of the Unites States have hosted AMAs over the years.

AMAs can be a quick, easy way to get the word out on a new product or project. It’s hard to find a bigger audience than Reddit, with over 731 thousand unique visitors in 2013. And the site is still growing, securing its place as a major online hub for news and memes. To leverage that audience via your own AMA, follow these three simple tips.

1. Expect questions not relating to your product

When they say “ask me anything,” they do mean anything–people will not hold back from questions. Woody Harrelson found that out during his ignominious AMA attempt while promoting the film Rampart. One Reddit user accused Harrelson of crashing a high school prom and having relations with a student. Harrelson’s infamous response was not well-received.

Don’t be Woody Harrelson or Woody Harrelson’s PR agent, who mistook the AMA as an opportunity to answer softball questions about the promotion. For example, if you’re Neil Patrick Harris and have a movie coming out, be prepared to also see plenty of questions about How I Met Your Mother and personal life.

2. Know your audience.

Take a lesson from Ann Coulter’s failed AMA and realize that you must know your audience. Reddit is enormous – the 60th most visited website in the world and 24th in the United States according to Alexa. However, the site does skew younger and liberal, favoring things like gay marriage and the legalization of marijuana.

So Coulter, a right-wing political commentator, did not receive as hearty of a welcome on Reddit as she may have wanted. She was critiqued for her views, tone, and everything in between.

Instead, take a lesson from someone who reaches the pro-marijuana, younger demographic. For example, Taco Bell president Brian Niccol did a recent AMA that was wildly popular. He was able to give updates on products people enjoyed, show bewilderment at what 4/20 is, and make fun of Justin Bieber all while promoting Taco Bell’s new breakfast menu. As always, know who you are marketing to if you want to make an impression.

3. Engage with users.

Showing that you understand the platform and are not just there for a day is another great way to maximize your goodwill on the site. Some, like Niccol above, have opted for short, quick responses. However, the most successful AMAs will feature in-depth and well thought-out replies with new information. Some AMA hosts will even respond to comments further down in the thread to demonstrate a willingness to engage. Arnold Schwarzenegger has remained on the website since his first AMA, often posting in the fitness subreddit. He even came back for a second AMA.

People on Reddit don’t want to be talked to like they are being sold a product. They want to have a conversation with the host, a person who decided he/she was interesting enough to conduct an online interview. Talk to people on Reddit like they are real people and just have a genuine conversation. Even if your answers aren’t that interesting, being personable can go a long way. Take Jerry Seinfeld as an example of the right way to do this: this is an example from the promotion of his web series, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”

To sum up: Reddit AMAs can be an outstanding marketing tool. You have the potential to reach millions of eyes by just answering questions for a few hours. But be prepared and know your audience. Don’t be another Coulter or Harrelson.

Tags: Best Practices, Community Management, Niche Networks, Real-Time, Reddit, Strategy

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