How to Host a Successful Reddit AMA

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How to Host a Successful Reddit AMA

Brent Csutoras
How to Host a Successful Reddit AMA

You probably know what an AMA is and maybe you have even thought of doing one yourself. Well, you are in the right place to really learn what it takes to host a successful Reddit AMA.

What You Gain from Hosting a Reddit AMA

Since Reddit gets 14 billion page views a month and is ranked the fourth most popular site in the U.S. by Alexa, brands that earn a moment in the Reddit spotlight report up to four times the impressions of other social channels.

An e-commerce startup credits $120,000 in sales a month to its Reddit marketing.

The engagement levels on Reddit are unlike any other site on the web. See how it compares to the other sites in the top 5 in time on site and pageviews per visitor.

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Along with 15 minutes a day and nearly 10 page views a day per visitor, Reddit sees 58 million daily votes, 2.8 million comments a day, and 370,000 daily submissions, making it the site with hands-down the highest engagement.

So about that AMA? Have you taken the time to understand what makes a successful AMA, how to prepare for it, and make a plan to do it right?

It is not as straightforward as you think.

There is actually a subreddit community devoted to calling out Reddit AMA disasters.

Name brands like REI and Pilot Pens have found themselves on the wrong side of Reddit and in the nightmares of their PR crews.

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You can avoid their mistakes by taking note of the dos and don'ts and by defining your strategy as you prepare to enter the world of the AMA.

The Keys to a Successful Reddit AMA

The strategies and steps outlined here are everything you need to know about how to host a Reddit AMA. This guide is intended to help you achieve your marketing objectives on the web's massively interactive news and discussion site.

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Image source

Contents

  • Reddit AMA: What Is It?

  • Setting the Topic

  • Selecting the Right Subreddit

  • Scheduling the AMA

  • Choosing the Best Person to Answer Questions

  • 6 Ways to Measure the ROI of an AMA

  • Reddit Etiquette: AMA Dos and Don'ts

Like anything, start with a clear understanding of the medium. Here is a quick primer with some definitions on Reddit and AMAs.

Reddit AMA: What Is It?

Reddit is a platform of themed community forums called subreddits. Users can subscribe to and participate in more than 138,000 subreddits.

Subreddits can be referred to by the convention r/SubredditNameHere, like r/todayilearned. Reddit's official Ask Me Anything subreddit is r/IAmA.

What is an AMA?

Short for "Ask Me Anything", AMA is a Q&A format popular on Reddit where open, democratic conversation happens between redditors and people with interesting lives or experiences to share.

On r/IAmA, the moderators suggest that AMAs have at least one of the following in the premise:

  • Something uncommon that plays a central role in your life, or

  • A truly interesting and unique event.

Of course, you can never really know what will take off as a successful AMA as the range of all-time top posts of r/IAmA show.

Setting the Topic for an AMA

A key part of your AMA strategy is knowing what you want to talk about.

Ask me anything sounds like a really open-ended concept, and yet the successful AMAs set up a pretext for the topics they want to field questions on.

Take this AMA invitation by Bill Gates for example:

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Gates is a veteran AMA host who has done six AMAs to date. He casually sets philanthropy and technology as the topics for discussion.

Selecting the Right Subreddit for the Conversation

The next decision to make is where you will carry on this conversation.

The r/IaMA subreddit is huge with over 17 million subscribers. This is where the big AMAs happen with politicians, famous scientists, celebrities, and other all-time faves.

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In order to host an AMA here, you need to have an angle or notoriety that makes the admins at the r/IAmA channel say, "We want to hear about this, this sounds interesting."

The r/IAmA subreddit is the biggest stage on which to do an AMA, but it is not the only community, and it may not be the best for you.

Many subreddits are open to AMAs (every sub has its own rules). It is pretty typical to see a community rule requesting that AMAs be submitted to the moderators for approval beforehand.

Take this community rule on r/SkincareAddiction:

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When you find a community where your AMA topic is a good fit, you have found a qualified and interested audience for your public discussion.

Here are a couple ways to find the right subreddit for your AMA.

1. You can search Reddit for AMA requests.

If you can line your AMA up with what someone has requested, you are in a good position for a successful AMA.

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Doing an AMA in response to a request is the easiest way to launch one, largely because your motivations won't be questioned.

Otherwise, as you can see in the r/SkincareAddiction rules (above), your motivations may be questioned and could be deemed more self-promotional than for the good of the community.

If you are there in service of the community's request, you have leverage in helpful intentions.

2. You can search for a community related to your topic.

These are a few ways to find subreddits:

  • Google "Reddit" plus the topic you are interested in.

  • Look for related subs listed in the sidebar of subreddits.

  • Find related subreddits mentioned in comments of posts.

Tip: Be sure to consider whether or not AMAs are hosted there.

When you find a potential community, you can read through the community for self-posts (text posts as opposed to link posts) where people have asked questions. This gives you a sense of what topic to set or if the topic is a good fit for the community.

It is critical to understand the widespread opinions of the community. It might be a mistake to propose an AMA on Lamborghini to the community of r/cars; don't be surprised when they show you the door.

Do your research to avoid going into the right arena with the wrong product.

Scheduling the AMA

Next, reach out to the moderators of that sub and tell them that you are thinking of doing an AMA here and wanted to get feedback and approval.

When you have the mods supporting you, you won't run the risk of the AMA being removed half-way through.

Adding to that, starting the conversation with mods is an opportunity to engage and get the support of the most influential members of the community. It always helps to be on the good side of the influential.

With the blessing of the mods, you can schedule a time. Use the tool Reddit for Later to see what time of day gets the post voting activity on individual subreddits.

Check out the results for r/dataisbeautiful.

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It is helpful to know what time to post on a sub for things to go popular. Look at activity times and figure out the best time to launch. You will generally find that the best time is 9 am Eastern time.

Ask the mods to sticky a post to the top of the sub announcing the AMA, time and day, about a week before the event is scheduled. The big benefit here is that questions will come in early and you can start formulating your answers and getting early signs of how popular it will be.

Who Is Answering the Questions

Along the way, you get to determine the person who will be fielding the AMA.

You want someone effective at communicating and someone who brings something to the table. For businesses, this is probably the CEO or CTO.

And you need someone who understands Reddit. You might want the AMA to be a team effort where someone is there to balance you -- a good personality person or someone that is familiar with the community.

Posting Proof

Part of the AMA process is posting verification that you are who you say you are.

This can be done by posting a photo to a photo hosting site (imgur.com is common) or to Twitter. The pic should be of you holding a sign along the lines of "Hey there, Reddit". You include a link to that photo within the AMA post.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Join Guillermo del Toro for his AMA now: <a href="http://t.co/AvolOJfbsk">http://t.co/AvolOJfbsk</a> <a href="http://t.co/P9Wszn0Rff">pic.twitter.com/P9Wszn0Rff</a></p>&mdash; reddit AMA (@reddit_AMA) <a href="https://twitter.com/reddit_AMA/status/487706280258453504?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 11, 2014</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

6 Ways to Measure the ROI of an AMA

Not to be overlooked in your AMA strategy is how you will evaluate its value in the final analysis.

From topic planning to community selection, have in mind what you plan to measure and what warrants success.

Here are 6 things many use AMAs for:

1. Get Brand Exposure

With Reddit's 4 billion monthly page views, there are more than a few eyeballs drifting your way during an AMA.

One of the top AMAs of all-time was hosted by a member of a 78-year-old family-owned beef jerky company that offered redditors a discount price on jerky. Want to see how that worked out?

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Image source: https://i.imgur.com/8eBmx.jpg

2. Improve Brand Sentiment

Do you have an image problem or flagging brand strength? Your AMA can give you a stage for publicizing company accomplishments, charity work or other good news.  

Be prepared for the Reddit community to take the conversation in unexpected directions. How you answer can set the stage for how people feel about you in the end.

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When REI's AMA took a turn for the critical, CEO Jerry Strizke, kept on the positive path, accepted feedback, stayed upbeat, and thanked participants for keeping him and his company accountable.

3. Collect Feedback

Have a new product or feature? Whether you are in beta testing or it is new, and you are looking for some early feedback, an AMA will get you in front of an honest and willing crowd.

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On r/Windows10, a member of the Microsoft Windows Feedback Hub developer team hosted an AMA to get feedback and feature suggestions.

With 160 comments flying around in an hour, there was, no doubt, lots of ideas to take back to the team.

4. Gain New Users

Get your new product in front of the first adopter crowd, or even drum up business for a long-standing brand with a fresh new take.

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One of most famous AMAs of all-time was hosted by a vacuum-cleaner repairman. His referrals crashed the websites of the vacuum brands he recommended.

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Image source

5. Interact With Your Audience

Sometimes you just need a public forum to address a mass audience. Enter the AMA.

In a well-known AMA, Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey addressed a pricing snafu head-on. It helped relieve a bad taste in the mouths of put-off potential customers.

It is no small thing either that more interactions and engagement are precursors to more conversions.

6. Get Media Coverage

When you are looking to generate media buzz, keep in mind that AMAs are essentially interviews.

Announce your news to redditors first. If your CEO is hosting an AMA or you are announcing news of note, let journalists, writers, and PR contacts who typically cover you know about the AMA.

All your usual news outlets will cover it, and you could get the extra coverage from the Reddit community. Now you have got a massive amplification effect, and your AMA becomes newsworthy itself.

Whatever your goal is, scope your conversation to accomplish that goal.

Reddit Etiquette: AMA Dos and Don'ts

Finally, here are some dos and don'ts to help you navigate an AMA and keep the crowd on your side.

Don't ...

Don't be defensive.

Don't make it a spammy environment.

Don't come off as dry.

Don't ignore negative comments. Hard or easy, answer the questions thrown there.

Don't fake the experience.

Don't have an assistant do it.

Don't respond to people with stupid replies like curt "yes" or "no" answers. People will rip you apart if you are not participating or are being disingenuous.

Don't abandon the AMA. Answer all questions asked.

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One of the biggest Reddit AMA disasters of all time was hosted by Woody Harrelson to promote his film Rampart.

He was burned by the ruthless crowd when he made some questions off-limits and answered questions like a clown, basically signaling a purely self-promotional motivation.

Do ...

Do be positive.

Do talk with authority.

Do keep your cool. Be careful of being argumentative.

Do edit your original post. Add links to the post to make resources permanently available. Add info that will benefit everyone.

Do joke, be friendly and show good humor, but don't make light of issues or be offensive.

Do encourage more people from your organization to participate. If you need to get an answer from someone else, let the AMA know that you will come back with an answer.

Do reward good questions. You might give out some memberships, coupons or Reddit gold to people who ask good questions and engage, good and bad.

Do set the expectation for how long you will be answering questions. I suggest you be available for 24 hours because that is the typical lifespan of a post. Time decay makes posts drop off a subreddit's first page after about 30 hours max.

Do feel free to answer questions in spurts. Edit the post when you are going offline for a little while, with something like "Edit - I'll back in 2 hours, going to lunch."

Do edit the post to sign off and thank Reddit when you are ending the AMA.

Do edit your post with ways for people to connect with you if they have more questions.

Do come back the next morning, and also check on the thread a week later. If someone has asked or said something, then you can speak to them directly.

Do advertise in advance by telling all your communities, sharing on all channels, and doing PR.

Do have your team blog about it after.

Did I miss something? Want to know more? Well...Ask Me Anything ;)

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Chief Marketing Officer at PeakActivity and Managing Partner at Search Engine Journal. Brent has over 10 years experience in Social Media Marketing and SEO, and is an avid Futurist, focusing on the implications of future technology on society and societal growth.
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Melanie Nathan
As a 15 year SEO and digital marketer, I can tell you that Reddit still scares me lol. I love the AMAs though. One particular AMA that stands out as awesome would be Tommy Chong (yes of Cheech and Chong). He really connected with the Reddit audience and I'm sure he made some new fans that day. Myself included :)
Brent Csutoras
Melanie Nathan
What is it about Reddit that actually scares you? Worry that something will spiral out of control? The sometimes direct nature in which people can interact?
George
I never thought about it as a brand exposure possibility. I thought it was for popular folks. :) Brent, I would love to see what else you had to say about using Reddit for business purposes. Reddit always seems difficult to me, so would love a guide on ways to use it.
Brent Csutoras
George
Thank you for the comment :)..

Here are some resources to review:

- This is an article talking about the new Reddit profiles and how they are very much like Facebook Pages - https://www.searchenginejournal.com/goodbye-facebook-pages-hello-reddit/234923/
- This is a presentation built of the article I just linked as well - https://www.slideshare.net/BrentCsutoras/reddit-20-the-new-reddit-you-should-care-about
- This might be helpful, as it is me doing a webinar on Reddit as a whole and has some good stuff in there - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYofk_hkiQM

Hope that helps a little :)
James Daily
That's a very interesting subject to think about. We've got more and more issues with Facebook, and millennials are the new major audience, so I think Reddit can become a new black of the social media.
Brent Csutoras
James Daily
Over 1/3 of all Americans are on Reddit every month. It is definitely the place I recommend everyone spend a lot more time on!
C. Alex Velazquez
Excellent topic. We did AMA's at my last job which were fitness, weight loss, and digital detox oriented, but we had to be really careful not to self promote. People on Reddit will eat you alive for that. BUT... the traffic we did get to our Reddit page ( a special page we made for Redditors on our site) was very 'sticky' and stayed on page much longer than any other social media source., and explored the rest of our site much deeper. Totally worth it! The only think I would add here is to make a value add page on your website geared exclusively towards Redditors, with something special (like a downloadable) just for them covering some of the top 10 questions people ask in your topic. They will go to that page, they WILL download it, and in most cases they will opt in to your email list to get it (if you put it behind a quick content locker right on page). Awesome sauce man!
Brent Csutoras
C. Alex Velazquez
Awesome and glad to hear you are giving Reddit its chance and making it work for you. I agree you want to really cater to Reddit users, in all ways, when trying to interact and market to them.

Are you planning to continue marketing on Reddit?

Thanks for reading and for the comment!
C. Alex Velazquez
Brent Csutoras
Oh for sure. Sometimes it's a waiting game to see when the convergence of topics, trends and commercially useful content can intersect in a way that makes good marketing sense (internally for our marketing team, and also for our C suite stakeholders), but for sure we will be doing it. I think Reddit is way under-utilized and I think it's simply because most people don't understand the Redditor mentality versus other social media platforms,... and that lack of understanding sometimes translates to not wanting to commit resources or marketing budget towards it.
Brent Csutoras
C. Alex Velazquez
I always say that Facebook and Twitter users are less likely to stand against your message, but rather just ignore it. They are there to connect with friends and family, so conflict or disagreement is not as regular. On Reddit, people are there to learn, debate, and discuss, so they call you on your crap a lot more than any other social site, but that is the way it should be!

If you are failing on Reddit, you are probably failing on other social sites and just don't know it, because they are just ignoring you instead of telling you what they think.

If you want to reach influencers, English speaking audiences that are educated, employed, and spending money online, then Reddit is THE social network for you.

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