Dear Cleveland...

Acknowledging My Audience

Introduction

David Thomas

David Thomas

As someone who is strongly against self-centered biographies and talking about oneself as if they were in the third-person, David has yet to figure out how to market himself in 200 characters or less


technology politics

Acknowledging My Audience

Posted by David Thomas on .
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technology politics

Acknowledging My Audience

Posted by David Thomas on .

Or, Why You Shouldn't Dive Headfirst Into Reddit With A Pocket Full Of Bull****.


Before we begin, there's no real point to this blog post. I don't know what point I'm trying to convey. Maybe I'm even breaking some unwritten blogger rule about writing from the reader's prospective or blah blah blah and a nice cool glass of OJ. Maybe I don't care. Segue.

AMA stands for "Ask Me Anything". It's a chance for anyone, regardless of fame or status, to answer questions for a few hours on Reddit. According to the rules, AMAs should be about something uncommon that plays a central role in your life, or a truly interesting and unique event. It's not uncommon to see anyone from the POTUS, to a man who was fired over 300 times in 10 years, and even someone who quit his job to drink a beer in all 50 states to raise money for cancer research.

Most of the more well-known names usually do an AMA to promote a new book, movie, show, charity, etc. In other words, they usually have something to gain by showing up, so they have to tread a lot more carefully than someone who was born without a hand. You have to realize that the questions you're about to get bombarded with aren't all going to be related to your new album, or possibly even about your music career at all. And that's the beauty of it.

What you answer or ignore is all up to you, but to embrace the randomness is an unwritten part of the deal which you've entered into. You might get asked about what your favorite childhood super hero is. Someone might remind you about some embarrassing long lost audition tape that's floating around on YouTube. If you're in a controversial position such as a celebrity who said something stupid, you may get asked only about that thing, despite being against what you want to talk about. AMAs can definitely make for some interesting discussions, but it largely depends on how you answer the questions.

"How" Matters

November 21st, 2014, Mignon Clyburn, Commissioner of the FCC, did an AMA on Reddit. With Net Neutrality and Title II reclassification being hot topics at the time, it's not hard to imagine why she decided to do one. Coupled with the fact that there's an entire subreddit dedicated to American ISP horror stories, this should have been filled with lots of conversation about the state of the nation's lagging (pun intended) internet situation, and what the FCC intends to do to fix it. But that's not what happened.

Take a gander at the following question, asked by a user named "mypackage":

Why do I only have one option for high speed internet and television at my house?

A pretty fair question, if you ask me, and one that is sloshing around many Americans' heads. Ms. Clyburn's answer, however, didn't do much good:

Our goal is to create incentives for more competitive options, particularly as technologies transition. For example, some electric utilities have started to offer broadband service. Wireless and satellite companies are offering alternatives, and their services continue to improve. We hope that over time, sound policies will lead to more choices.

That sounds great if I'm a braindead idiot who believes everything the talking box tells me because it sounds like it should make sense. But I'm not, and an answer like that is an insult to my intelligence. I can count at least four buzzphrases in her answer. Here's another example from the same AMA:

Buzzword Bingo!

Of the words in that entire answer, one phrase sounded like it belonged ("affordable broadband for all"), and even that sounds extremely vague. What's affordable? What's your definition of broadband? At least she decided to answer the questions, though, even the ones unrelated to the FCC. I will admit that a lot of the responses to her answers were pretty rude. There's no reason to be a douchebag when replying, even if you disagree with the answer or how it's worded. But that's for another day. Moving on...

"Why" Is Also Kind Of Important

"Lets focus on the film people."

- Woody Harrelson

That's not how this works. That's not how any of this works! When you go to a place like Reddit, you're entering a vast wonderland where any random person can post any random thought that stumbles into their head. That means your agenda for this little hoedown may not be the same as theirs. You'll probably get asked some dumb question about 100 horse-sized ducks or something equally dumbfounding. Answer it anyway.

You have to come across as being genuinely you, and "you" can't be all about some mediocre movie you're promoting. Gone are the days of one-way talks via TV or radio. Now it has become a 6-way intersection where everyone can say anything to anyone else and accidents somehow rarely happen. By attempting to force people to only talk about a specific subject, you lose a lot of trust because now you've hacked into the traffic signals and tried to send everyone down Northfield Road to visit your awesome business but instead you've created a 50-vehicle pile-up and now anytime anyone sees your name they remember that one time you did that one thing. You monster.

This is your AMA thread.

If they naturally ask a bunch of questions related to whatever it is you're pushing, great! However, if they don't, avoid talk-funelling. You get plenty of space to promote it in the introduction area, and just about everyone who visits the page will read that first, so get the business stuff out the way then just go with the flow. If you treat it less like an interview and more like a town hall or open forum, then all parties involved will enjoy the experience more.

For the entire example of what not to do, here's a brief list of some answers from the rest of the AMA. Bask in the virtual battering that Woody Harrelson (or, as most suspected, his PR team) endured. There's really not much else to be said here.

I'm Done Vomiting Words Now

In conclusion, learn about the medium and its participants before engaging in a conversation. Never use canned generic responses, marketing speak, or anything else that may come across as PR team blab when dealing directly with your audience on Reddit. Being the bright and apprehensive minds that they are, they'll see right through it and call you out on it faster than a local news station's investigation team outting a car dealership scamming homeless retired military vets.

PS: The acrynom of the title is AMA. I did it because I was talking about Reddit AMAs. Get it?

David Thomas

David Thomas

As someone who is strongly against self-centered biographies and talking about oneself as if they were in the third-person, David has yet to figure out how to market himself in 200 characters or less

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