Reddit’s AMA – All Advertisers Need Not Apply
Charlie Warzel, a digital media reporter at Adweek, just dropped a story focusing on social news site Reddit and its overly popular AMA (Ask Me Anything). AMAs are the social media equivalent of a late night talk show’s question and answer period - someone lets the community know who they are (also known as IAmA or “I am a”) and asks them to fire away with questions he or she will answer (or not answer if they go the AMAA or “Ask me almost anything” route). Moderation is performed by the community, with the “best” questions rising to the top based on the site’s voting system. The subjects fielding questions are as diverse as the users on the website - you’ll find AMAs by everyone from ordinary people who’ve overcome cancer or served in the military to state and federal politicians and video game developers. The current highlight roster of upcoming AMAs includes actor Matthew Lillard, magician David Copperfield, and comedian Michael Ian Black. Past alumni of the AMA include foodie Anthony Bourdain, nerd icon Neil deGrasse Tyson (who is frequently featured), and funny man Steven Colbert. With 1.4 million subscribers to the subreddit (their word for a topical forum), it’s not surprising to hear Warzel call the AMA the press junket of the 21st century. Numerous actors, authors and other celebrities have signed up for AMAs around product release dates.
I should probably disclose that I’m an avid redditor (not when I’m at work though – I swear). I’ve been on the site since well before the great Digg exodus of 2010 and have read through a number of AMAs (yes, even that train wreck of an AMA by Woody Harrelson). While Warzel is completely correct in his assertion that the AMA holds unending potential for advertisers looking to peddle their wares, it’s imperative to keep in mind that this is an audience that will see right through any ulterior motives you may have (look what they did to poor Woody). As Reddit user vinceredd said best, “Reddit isn’t a good venue to pitch your movie, it’s a venue to pitch yourself.” This has got to be quite the conundrum for advertisers, after all we’re talking about a site that receives 110 million daily page views, 10 million daily visitors, and has a site rank of 54 in the U.S. according to Alexa. If you’re an advertiser trying to tap into the “Reddit effect,” you’re hunting big game, but like all thrilling safaris there’s plenty of danger in going out in to the wilderness unprepared. So, what do advertisers need to know?
First off, Reddit’s not for everyone. The majority of Reddit users are males aged 18-35, have an education, are predominantly liberal, value snarky and sharp humor, and aren’t afraid to troll you if you make yourself an easy target. They’ll quickly pounce on you if they see your ultimate goal is page views, pushing brand recognition, or all-in-all see them simply as consumers. Getting through to them isn’t easy – you can’t simply throw your product up there and expect to command their interest. You need to have something of value to offer them beyond what they may receive from purchasing your goods or services. You need to be trustworthy.
Secondly, quality content is key. One of the greatest “advertising” campaigns on Reddit was undertaken by Old Spice with their AMA by TheGuyOnTheHorse. Reddit users were well aware of the fact that this was an advertising campaign given the fact that they had to tune in to the Old Spice YouTube channel to view the answers to their questions and that the @OldSpice Twitter account was used to field additional questions. Despite that, Old Spice was able to make the campaign a success because they created entertaining content that spoke to the audience’s sensibilities, opened up a dialog between the brand and consumers, and went out of their way to make the whole AMA a worthwhile, engrossing experience. Additionally, they made sure the experience was interactive, authentic and valuable – the users were ultimately allowed to direct the conversation, signaling to them that the brand holds respect for them. Old Spice didn’t just talk at them, they talked with them (more importantly they shared a good laugh with them too, something not to be ignored).
Reddit’s not an easy nut to crack, and as a vested user in the site I have to admit I don’t really want to see it cracked. Despite that, advertising is going to target the site seeing that it has endless advertising and marketing potential for brands. As long as brands who are interested in jumping into community-based social media campaigns understand the ground rules I’m sure all parties involved will be happy. Keep it interesting, keep it authentic, and keep it as a dialogue and your chances of success are much higher.