Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions offer a powerful but dangerous public relations and marketing strategy.
As the name indicates, Reddit users ask AMA hosts anything on a given topic – or anything at all. PR, marketing and product management teams can access thousands of people, gain insights into how people feel about their brands and products, and solicit suggestions from their audience. PR can later promote the sessions through different venues and possibly obtain news media coverage.
Celebrities, company executives and subject matters experts have deftly answered questions on Reddit, a social media network known for its rough and tumble nature. Most recently, Google employees answered questions about the next major Android update, version 8.0. You don’t have to be famous to host a popular AMA. A plumber’s AMA prompted more than 8,000 questions and comments about do-it-yourself plumbing.
Predictably, some Reddit AMA sessions bomb. Woody Harrelson offers the most famous example. Attempting to promote his latest movie, the actor curtly refused to answer questions not related to the film.
“The backlash was swift, with commenters deeming Harrelson as a diva who was probably letting his PR team answer questions for him,” according to Mashable. “In Reddit lore, Harrelson’s AMA goes down in history as the worst of all time.”
How to Do Reddit AMA Sessions Right
These are key steps and tips for hosting Reddit AMAs.
Learn about Reddit. Create an account and study Reddit. Learn about upvoting, downvoting and commenting, and the format and structure of past AMAs. Read Reddit’s brandiquette and pressiquette. Ask AMA moderators, if you have questions.
Prepare for the worst. Brainstorm tough questions and devise answers. It’s called “ask me anything” for a reason. If you have something to hide, don’t host an AMA. “The Reddit community is notorious for sniffing out exactly what it is you don’t want to talk about and exposing those points,” writes Brigid Gorthman, senior account manager at BIGfish PR. “Not answering a question, whether it’s pointed and difficult or silly and irrelevant, is like signaling for an attack.”
Have a playbook for answering out-of-line questions; humor often works best.
Find the right subreddit. Seek an appropriate subreddit that will post the AMA. Seek subreddits with a decent subscriber base, as well as responsive moderators. You can also cross-post AMAs to related subreddits, with permission of moderators. Email your request to host an AMA to Reddit moderators (or mods) at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your Reddit username, date, time, proof of your identity, and description for your bio. Arrange a session that lasts at least a few hours or possibly even all day to attract Redditors across different time zones.
Provide your bio. Reddit rules require proof of the AMA host’s identity. One way is to create a page on your website that shows the host’s photo and brief bio and includes the date of the upcoming Reddit AMA. Include a link to your bio when you submit the AMA
“Most Reddit mods support their subreddits on a volunteer basis, so it’s best to send your information to them well in advance to give enough time for them to receive it and answer any questions,” advises digital PR specialist Katie Wolitarsky at Workshop Digital.
Write your title and description that’s displayed during the session. Post titles typically state “I’m XX, AMA.” In the description box, provide some brief details about who’s answering questions, why you’re hosting, and links to your background information. You can also post updates in the description box during the AMA, such as if you leave your computer and take a break from answering questions.
Promote the event. Begin publicizing the upcoming AMA a few weeks in advance. Consider social media posts, emails, social media ads and promoted posts on the Reddit homepage and relevant subreddits.
“AMAs need to be genuine, engaging, transparent and have sufficient time dedicated to them,” summarizes Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman PR.
Bottom Line: Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions offer potent PR benefits. However, they are not for the fainthearted. They require extensive planning and substantial transparency. Those unwilling to answer anything should pursue other strategies.