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Reddit is one of those social media platforms that many businesses tend to steer away from. The culture of Reddit is very anti-corporate, so any blatant attempts at self-promotion will have a major negative backlash on your company. That’s not to say that Reddit is an unsafe zone for businesses; they just need to approach it differently than other social media sites.

If used properly, Reddit promises a major viewership base that is largely untapped by other businesses (at the moment, anyway). Currently, one of the best ways for companies to tap into Reddit is by doing an AMA (Ask me Anything).

Here is an example of some of the most popular AMAs of all time.

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Do you need to be a celebrity to do one of these? Not necessarily. Many successful AMAs have been people who have gone through a tough experience, are suffering from a unique illness, or have an interesting job.

What exactly is an AMA?

An AMA is an interview of sorts. Generally what happens is that a celebrity, politician, or someone with a unique profession sets up an AMA for anyone to ask them questions. Once you provide proof for yourself, which is usually just a tweet from your official Twitter account, you’re ready to start. Don’t worry if you don’t quite understand it right now because there are plenty of examples further down in the article.

Other users can “upvote” questions that they like to give them more visibility and “downvote” ones they think are irrelevant, and the person running the AMA can pick and choose which questions they want to answer.

Why is an AMA useful?

The main goal of any social media effort on behalf of your company is to get people to engage with you, and an AMA will do exactly that. The AMA will connect you directly with the people who are the most interested (or at the very least, curious) about your brand.

Many businesses or celebrities use the AMA as an opportunity to promote a new show, book, movie, or whatever, and this is generally considered acceptable. The more popular your AMA becomes, the higher it will be “upvoted,” which gives it additional visibility on Reddit. Extremely popular AMAs have seen everything from media coverage to greatly increased brand awareness, and even increased sales.

What’s the catch?

As mentioned earlier, Reddit is very different from Facebook or Twitter. These people aren’t your fans or your followers, so don’t expect all the questions to be easy. Many users will take the opportunity to ask tough or hard-hitting questions, so it is important to be prepared for anything. Treat it more like a press conference than anything else.

The impact of a bad AMA can have far-reaching consequences. Particularly poor AMAs can cause severe damage to your online reputation and brand image. For example, Morgan Freeman gave an incredibly lackluster AMA where fans became convinced that he was either half asleep or the whole thing was done by a lazy marketing team. Mr. Freeman went from a beloved Internet celebrity to a bad joke almost overnight. You can see some of the disappointed fans below (warning: explicit language).

Reddit Morgan

Below are some of the biggest tips and trends for making a solid AMA:

1.    Avoid over-promotion

Remember, you’re talking to real, living human beings. You aren’t writing a commercial or an ad spot. If you reference your new product or promotion in every response, people will soon get tired of you.

2.    Be genuine

AMAs are a great way to bring attention to your product in moderation. If your new product is directly related to the question you’re answering, then you can bring it up. People want to talk to you or your business because they think it is interesting, not because they want to be sold a product.

Snoop Dogg (also known as Snoop Lion) has made several AMAs without directly promoting anything at all. His laid-back personality and friendly responses made him a huge hit on Reddit and his AMAs bring in tens of thousands of comments.

You can see Snoop’s first AMA here.

3.    Don’t just go for the easy questions

If you have a somewhat controversial job or position (like a tobacco company spokesperson or a politician), many people are going to ask you very tough questions. It is very tempting to make new accounts and send yourself lowball questions to avoid answering the difficult ones.

One notoriously poor example is Governor Johnson of the United States. This is the perfect example of someone who understands the potential of Reddit and the AMA system, but just doesn’t understand how it works. This comment sums up the entire experience very well (warning: explicit language).

Reddit Johnson

You can see the full AMA here.

4.    Answer many different questions

No one expects you to answer every single question, especially if they may be personal or sensitive in nature, but it is crucial that you make at least an effort. Some questions will be simple, some may be silly, and some will be hard-hitting, so do your best to answer a wide range of questions.

For example, Louis CK impressed many Reddit users by specifically digging out and answering the unpopular questions instead of going with the easy ones. His solid AMA performance even got him media attention, with a story in the Huffington Post.

You can read Louis CK’s full AMA here.

5.    Have fun

A serious question should have a serious answer, but you shouldn’t be boring. Generally speaking, Reddit is a crowd that enjoys a good laugh; so make sure to make your AMA entertaining and enjoyable. If you come across as boring or going through the motions, people will quickly leave. We recommend dedicating at least a  solid 2-3 hours for answering questions. There’s never a guarantee your AMA will be popular, but it’s always good to be prepared.