As the federal election draws closer, political candidates across the country are busy developing detailed strategies for communications and media outreach. Increasingly, politicians are turning to reddit and participating in Ask Me Anythings, better known as AMAs.
The platform makes sense. Last year alone, reddit had:
- Over 71 billion pageviews.
- 174 million monthly unique visitors
- 55 million submissions
- Over 3.5 million users logged in daily
- Canada has the second most pageviews per capita in the world (Iceland is #1)
Despite the tantalizing opportunities of reaching such a huge audience, there’s a lot more to the AMA than meets the eye. Before you jump in, here are some important things to know:
1) Pick the appropriate subreddit
While IAmA is the default subreddit for most of the big-name, high-engagement AMAs, it’s probably not the best fit for a Canadian politician. Unless you have serious gravitas (read: are one of the three leaders of the major parties), your discussion will probably be missed by the voters you are trying to reach. Instead, look at Canadian subreddits like Canada (173K subscribers) or CanadaPolitics (17K subscribers).
2) Be ready for conflict
redditors are an educated bunch and if they’re tuning into your AMA, chances are they know a thing or two about your platform. Don’t expect a bunch of softball questions – be ready to be challenged on your position, your party’s platform, and even comments you made years ago. Most importantly, don’t shy away from these questions and only respond to positive ones. Write up a Dirty Thirty (the thirty most pressing questions you expect to receive), and be ready to respond to critics.
3) Answer the tough questions
In keeping with the above, actually take time to answer tough questions. reddit runs on a democratic system of voting, meaning the questions that the community likes are pushed to the top. Don’t just skip those until you find one to your liking, take on a couple that might be considered tough. While you may not change that person’s stance, you’ll come out looking better for responding to all constituents concerns, not just your own.
4) Schedule time
One of the most infamous AMA failures came from Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, in part because over a 60-minute period she responded to ten questions. If you decide to do an AMA, treat it like a press conference. Dedicate all of your time and attention to it during that period, and answer as many questions as possible. If you’re distracted, prepare for backlash.
5) Be honest and sincere
Sure, you’re probably going to want to come up with some pre-fab messaging to help you throughout. Go for it. But don’t be so rigid that you never leave the script, and if someone asks you for a straight-up answer, give it to them. And NEVER plant questions. Users will know and your AMA will be toast.
6) Show personality
Ultimately, AMA’s are meant to be a more informal setting than a rally or all-candidates debate. Have some fun with it. Share personal stories, reveal your guilty pleasures on TV, don’t get flustered when someone asks you about fighting horse-sized ducks. Take it all in stride and roll with the punches.