Building a broad audience on social media almost always requires significant investments in time, effort, and digital advertising dollars. But if you’re ready, willing, and able to answer just about any question from voters, there’s one powerful option to consider for low-cost online voter contact – the fast-growing Reddit community.
For those who don’t know, Reddit is composed of thousands of different communities or subreddits where users share content in the form of posts and media. Each subreddit is a smaller community of the whole Reddit universe that feeds back into the larger site.
Smaller community posts are elevated to the larger community based on the voting system that all users have access to. The ratio of “Up Votes” vs. “Down-Votes” increases or decreases the visibility of the post depending on how the community feels about the post or comment. Reddit is one of the most visited sites in the United States, and many of the most popular Reddit communities care deeply about progressive politics.
In fact, the most popular Reddit post type used by influential politicians, like President Barack Obama and Sen. Bernie Sanders, is the “Ask Me Anything”, or AMA for short. This is an interactive question-and-answer that creates an opportunity for candidates to connect with constituents, based on real-time questions they ask.
AMAs have become a popular feature of /r/politics, which has 6.1 million members and consists of news about current events in American politics. But don’t discount smaller subreddits. Depending on your campaign size, both /r/politics and location-specific subreddits can help ensure you reach your local constituents and broader audience.
In order to host an effective and successful AMA event, it’s important to be aware of what works and what doesn’t. AMAs should be relevant and engaging to people in the subreddit community. This is a chance for candidates to speak out about themselves and for the audience to ask questions that are important to them. We’ve put together a guide and some tips on how to host a successful AMA:
Create a Reddit username
Start by creating an account. Edit your profile to include a bio and a link to your campaign’s website. Once that’s done, familiarize yourself with subreddits by reading the posts and comments to understand the community.
Make sure you know the in’s and out’s of the subreddit that the AMA will be hosted in. This will help candidates to better understand the community they are speaking to.
Submit your request to the Subreddit moderators.
You can let them know weeks in advance that you plan to host an AMA along with your:
Reddit username, date and time, description for your bio. You’ll verify your identity on the site during the AMA set up.
Ask the moderators of the subreddit to highlight the post and sticky it to the front page so users can begin asking questions before the AMA begins. This will help the candidate make the most of their time set aside for the AMA.
Schedule AMA’s strategically.
Take a look at this blog to choose the best time to post. Subreddit moderators will then ask for you to create a page on your website, or a post on social, that shows your photo and contains one sentence saying that you are X and you will be hosting a Reddit AMA on X date. Then, include this link when you submit the AMA. You can find guidelines for appropriate forms of proof, here.
Promote your AMA like it’s an in-person event.
Make sure you afford at least a week before hosting your AMA to perform outreach and let others know you will answer any and all questions. Some outreach opportunities include, but are not limited to:
- Email Listservs and posting on social media platforms
- Sharing with organizations or community groups that have an interest in your topic
- Once your AMA is live, send all your contacts your live AMA link. If you use Twitter, post it on your account and tag @reddit_AMA for them to share your AMA details to their followers
Introduce the host and their position in the headline for the post.
It’s important to be brief and engaging here to provoke maximum participation. Explain who you are, the timeframe of your AMA and make sure to have open-ended discussion points. This will help start the conversation and increase engagement.
Throughout the time of the AMA, posting updates is important to make the audience aware of updates from the host such as breaks, ending times, et cetera.
An example of a successful headline and description can be found here. Make sure to add a link to your campaign website and that the page is able to collect donations.
Finally, use a service like Laterpost to schedule your post ahead of the event. The post should go live before the campaign joins so that some questions are waiting to be answered.
Get your message nailed down.
Before the AMA begins, prepare responses to commonly asked questions. Plan how the host will tackle the more difficult questions that may be asked as well. This will be crucial to optimizing the platform. Make sure to have a few team members with you to create responses to users' questions on AMAs.
Respond to a variety of questions.
The goal here is to engage with the audience as much as possible and cover an array of topics in the available window. Don’t stick to one topic or easy questions. Create thoughtful answers to tough questions as well.
Due to the nature of the platform, the audience may challenge the host. A willingness to step outside your comfort zone and engage the audience on these issues honestly and openly will make for a more successful event. But don’t fall into the trap of saying something you wouldn’t want to be repeated on the landing page of a news site.
Make sure to not get stuck on one topic for too long. With limited time, it’s important to cover a variety of topics.
If a question is repeated, you can reply “Answered that above with a link to the comment.” Still, reply as much as you can and be genuine.
Set aside sufficient time.
A successful AMA should be at least three hours.
Short AMAs can result in insufficient answers and the host isn’t able to accomplish the goal of connecting with the audience on a more personal level. Successful responses and audience engagement take time so it’s crucial that the candidate dedicates the majority of their day to the AMA.
AMA’s are the opportunity for a candidate to connect one on one with their audience. Responding to questions or comments in a thoughtful and thorough way will ensure that candidates can make the most of their platform.
Multiple people can be logged on to the same Reddit account simultaneously so use staffers to answer questions and have the candidate add some personality to maintain authenticity.
Conclude your AMA with a thank you.
When you’re done, edit the main post with a “thank you” and “goodbye.” Make sure to add a comment that asks users to check out your website for more information about your campaign.
Reddit AMAs are a little bit of work, but they’re becoming a mainstay of candidates looking to engage voters and increase their exposure. Still, it’s important to remember that organic content can only travel so far and that you will always need a paid supplement.
Anam Khan joined the SpeakEasy team as an intern in 2019 and is a recent graduate of the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in Political Science. Anam is focused on leveraging new media to elevate the voices of marginalized communities and influence inclusive policy.
Sierra Barrow is an intern with SpeakEasy and a third-year student at the University of San Francisco. Sierra is pursuing a degree in Communication Studies and minors in Legal Studies and Sociology. She is focusing on the intersection of politics, social justice, civic engagement, and digital media campaigns.