At SpeakEasy we get asked time and time again how to build an online audience for a low cost or even no cost. The short answer is that, in most cases, you usually can’t. Building a broad audience on social media almost always requires significant investments in time, effort, and digital advertising dollars. But if you are ready, willing, and able to answer just about any question from voters, there is one powerful option to consider for low-cost online voter contact – and that is the fast-growing Reddit community.
Briefly explained, 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 has quickly become the fifth most visited site in the US and many of the most visited Reddit communities care deeply about progressive politics.
The most popular Reddit post type used by influential politicians, like President Barack Obama and Senator 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. However, 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 is 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. The SpeakEasy team has put together a guide and some tips on how to host a successful AMA:
- Create a Reddit Username
- Create an account
- Edit your profile to include a bio and a link to your campaign’s website
- Familiarize yourself with the subreddit:
- Find the best subreddit for your post and read 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 Reddit Moderators
- You can let them know weeks in advance that you plan to host an AMA along with your:
- Reddit username
- Date & Time
- Description for your bio
- 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
- Verify Your Identity
- Subreddits often have their own community guidelines or require the moderator’s approval upon hosting an AMA
- 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
- 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
- Creating your post:
- AMA Headlines:
- Introduce the name of the host and their position. It is important to be brief and engaging here to provoke maximum participation
- AMA Descriptions:
- 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, etc.
- 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
- Use a service like Laterpost to schedule your post ahead of the event
- Talking Points
- 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 user’s questions on AMAs.
- Answering AMA Questions:
- Answer a wide 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
- Do not 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 front page of tomorrow’s paper
- Make sure to not get stuck on one topic for too long. With limited time, it is important to cover a variety of topics
- If a question is repeated, you can Reply “Answered that above” with a link to the comment
- 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 is not able to accomplish the goal of connecting with the audience on a more personal level
- Successful responses and audience engagement take time so it is crucial that the candidate dedicates the majority of their day to the AMA
- Reply as much as you can:
- 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
- Always be personable and genuine!
- Wrap the AMA:
- 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. However, it’s important to remember that organic content can only travel so far and that you will always need a paid supplement.
If you’re interested in learning more about low cost easy to use digital ads, we implore you to check out our site. We’ve made both digital and mail easy to produce and low cost.
Last, Follow us for more resources on how to elevate your online presence throughout your campaign, and make sure to take a look at our digital playbook for more tips on how to win! SpeakEasy is here to help!
This post was originally published on Campaigns and Elections.