Reddit has more than 36 million user accounts and receives millions of daily interactions. It may not be mainstream enough for our parents however Reddit’s specialty is creating small communities through conversation threads across a variety of topics.

We are beginning to see celebrities, authors and public figures leverage Reddit’s platform with its “Ask Me Anything” thread, aka AMA. It is a useful tool for building transparency with a brand, and an opportunity to ask well, anything.

AMAs must be approached with caution, since although you don’t have to answer all the questions posed to you, those thought starters will still be put out for all to see on the web. Reddit users (or Redditors), as explained by our very own W2O Digital Prophet Allie Lee, are not easily deterred, and are determined. “When doing an AMA, or using Reddit in general, assume your audience is tech savvy, intuitive, has common sense and is knowledgeable about your industry/topic/subject. They can track your IP address, they can spot when a media representative is talking instead of the person the AMA is focused on, and they will delve into your past if they suspect something.”

As you can imagine, this can lead to some pretty tricky situations for someone in the public eye (anonymous AMAs can be held as well, usually on a very specific topic or experience.) Allie recommends going through the “Reddiquette” before any interaction on the site

They key to a good AMA is to let the Reddit users guide the conversation. They want a genuine, interesting, fun interaction, and forcing a brand’s agenda won’t get the desired response. Let’s look at some examples of how AMAs have been used to help (or hurt) some personal brands.

The Good: Using A Reddit AMA To Build Your Personal Brand

Sir Patrick Stewart participated in an AMA, boosting both his personal and professional brands, and at the same time promoting his new show Blunt Talk. The key here is that promotion of the show was not the main goal, but rather a fringe benefit. An AMA can be incredible self-brand builders, and he knew how to cater to his audience. Instead of redirecting every question back towards Blunt Talk, he answered questions like “How did it feel to carry the Olympic Torch?” and “Do you ever ride the subway in NYC?”

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The subtle way of working in Blunt Talk showed up very minimally, in his introductory post:

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The Ugly: Woody Harrelson AMA Debacle

Trying to navigate an AMA when you are promoting something, as many public figures will do, can go one of two ways. 1) You have fun with it and answers questions like “Which would you rather fight, a horse sized duck or a duck sized horse?,” or you can be impersonal and too focused on your own project, like Woody Harrelson was with Rampart back in 2012. Harrelson brought every answer back to the movie, i.e. not the purpose of an AMA. For example, one person brought up a story of Woody allegedly crashing a prom. The response?

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Reddit users were very quick to doll out backlash and reiterate the purpose of an AMA. The lesson: be prepared to be honest and expect the unexpected. Reddit can be notoriously harsh and in this case, incited a media storm outside of just the Reddit community. They even started a meme to mock the interaction.

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So what can we learn from these? Influencers use AMAs to connect with their audience, from Elon Musk, Bill Gates, to President Obama.

Have you ever participated in an AMA? Share your engagements and ideas below! Get upvoting people!