Tales from my first Reddit AMA

Yesterday we did our first Reddit AMA with The World’s host, Marco Werman.

Before the AMA
AMAs are a rite-of-passage on Reddit, which is the #2 social referrer to pri.org, behind Facebook. We did our homework and wanted to make sure our AMA was known and scheduled by the AMA moderators, so we contacted Victoria Taylor, Director of Communications at Reddit and AMA queen (read her own AMA on her experiences here). It was thrilling to see Marco’s name on the “official Reddit” schedule on the main subreddit page, with its 6.2 million subscribers!

We also set Marco up with a Reddit account, and asked him to play around in the platform to get comfortable. He had been on Reddit.com previously to find stories and sources, but never engaged in any way.

Starting the AMA

When 4:30 p.m. rolled along, we set up Marco in the business office and with Victoria talking us through it on the phone he created his AMA post. It is important to write a strong title to the post, as that is what will make people click. We decided that a simple appeal to Marco’s job hosting a national radio broadcast was pretty cool, and left the discussion open to questions about Marco himself as well as our show.
Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 2.04.00 PM

In the body of the post, Marco went into more detail about his background and how he got to where he is today, plus a few links to his favorite stories.

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 2.04.47 PM

Finally, you have to include your proof! We tweeted a photo of Marco in the studio:

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 2.05.00 PM

Once the post was up, we sent around the unique URL to our fans and listeners on social networks and on pri.org.

During the AMA
I was expecting to be hands-on, helping Marco select which questions to answer and deal with potential trolls. I was surprised: As soon as questions started rolling in, Marco hunkered down and furiously typed out his responses without needing any help at all.

He approached the AMA in exactly the right way: Humbly, and honestly. The Reddit crowd (and the PRI’s The World crowd) are a smart bunch, and they didn’t disappoint. Dozens of smart, creative, and unexpected questions came in and Marco tackled them with enthusiasm.

Marco’s concise and direct answers were perfect for a Reddit audience. He was able to show his personality right away with a question about music and his passion when he talked about his most memorable story. He answered questions about his interests in surfing and travel and his journey to where he is today. He also had a lot of questions about his name. I loved that he was not afraid to go off in unexpected directions, as he showed when asked his favorite restaurant in Boston.
He also avoided the Reddit AMA pitfalls that so many have fallen into, never dodging questions (Rachel Maddow is infamous on Reddit for refusing to answer political questions) or over-promoting an agenda (the classic example of this is Woody Harrelson pushing his movie, and the Reddit backlash).

After the AMA

Eventually the number of questions coming in died down (and Marco needed dinner), so he hit the “edit” button to the original post and updated it to read:

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 2.08.06 PM

Even though the AMA was officially over, we’ll be keeping an eye on the post for at least a few days. In our case, over 60 questions came in overnight. It’s not required, but Marco wants to continue to answer questions between his many interviews today and after the show tonight.

Takeaways.
For all the hype and excitement, it was super easy to hold an AMA and I would recommend that people try it. While it works with high profile hosts and talent, try as well to think of unique opportunities with an unexpected person. I was excited to read The Guardian’s AMA yesterday with Matt Wells, who is covering Scottish independence. That was a smart move because it had a relevant news peg, and it framed the conversation in a really interesting way.

I would also recommend getting the AMA iPhone app. It’s a new offering by Reddit and a great way to explore AMAs by category. I always check in to the “Journalism” AMA section in the mornings to see what people are talking about.
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