3 Content Marketing Lessons Reddit AMAs Can Teach
What's the secret behind the popularity of Reddit AMAs? Columnist Kerry Jones shares some tips on what content marketers can learn from some of the most successful AMAs about building a loyal following.
Content marketers can learn a lot about engagement and community building from Reddit’s AMAs. To date, the /iAMA (I Am A) subreddit has more than 9 million subscribers. Within this subreddit are the wildly popular AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) sessions featuring celebrities and people of note responding to questions from the Reddit community.
Udemy recently analyzed 50 of the top AMAs between May and June 2015 to uncover what made them so popular. (Disclosure: Udemy is a client of my employer, Fractl.) They found the following major themes throughout the most successful AMAs:
- Offering unique or personal information.
- Being extremely honest and sincere.
- Providing expert information.
Let’s take a look at how brands can incorporate the three elements above in their content marketing strategy to help drive engagement and build a loyal audience.
Intimacy: Share Your Secrets
A common ingredient among the most popular Reddit AMAs is spilling the beans on personal and/or professional secrets. For example, chef Gordon Ramsay’s AMA was full of interesting, never-shared-before information about his life and his TV shows, such as the question below about how much training the young contestants receive on “MasterChef Junior.”
This type of information would typically be closely guarded by a TV show, so it was surprising to see Ramsay give such an intimate look at the filming process. By giving fans access to exclusive information, he brought transparency to the show’s production. And transparency is essential to building trust.
Want to build more intimacy, and thus more trust, with your audience? Try incorporating the following into your content.
Pull Back The Curtain
Content that exclusively looks at your business practices can foster transparency and build trust. Unbounce and Buffer have blogs that give an insider’s glimpse into their work culture, company wins and recent projects.
Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles gives a transparent view of its supply chain through engaging videos with its suppliers and an interactive map. This content reinforces the brand’s commitment to environmentally responsible, ethical clothing manufacturing.
Offer “Trade Secrets”
When two people share intimate details with one another, it brings them closer. The same can happen between a brand and a consumer.
The gesture of offering up a coveted company “secret” can help engender loyalty, as it breaks down the wall between company and customer. Fans rejoiced when Chipotle released its guacamole recipe earlier this year. As Quinn Whissen said in her Marketing Land article about Chipotle’s genius marketing move:
[blockquote] What made this different is that a very large company revealed an adored recipe to its fans to make on their own and had no qualms about giving away its, almost literal, “secret sauce” to its customers and competitors. The very act of doing this made the recipe go viral.[/blockquote]
While this doesn’t necessarily mean you should make proprietary information public, you should at least consider loosening up on what inside information you share with your audience.
Create Exclusive Content
Reward your most engaged customers and audience members with exclusive content that’s not available to the public. You can make this insider information available through higher-commitment content, such as email newsletters or gated sections of your site that require logging in.
Another smart tactic: Give your most loyal audience members early access to new content. For example, entrepreneur and author James Altucher sends out his latest content to his email subscribers first and then publishes the same content days or weeks later on his site.
Authenticity: Keep It Real
One of the biggest AMA fails belongs to Woody Harrelson, who popped in for a short time and only wanted to talk about the film he was promoting. This did not go over well with the Reddit community.
Harrelson’s AMA responses felt like they were coming from a PR robot, not a real human. In other words, he was the opposite of authentic.
Authenticity requires being honest and approachable while staying true to your brand’s values, all of which can be communicated through your content. Below are a few ways to make your content more authentic.
Drop The Marketing Speak
Establishing a consistent brand voice throughout your content is crucial for authentic communication. Adopting a conversational tone that uses language familiar to your target audience helps make your brand feel relatable and human.
Include a voice and tone section within your content style guide to get your whole content team on the same page. MailChimp has a great example within its style guide.
Check Your Facts
Telling the truth goes hand in hand with being authentic, so few things can ruin a brand’s credibility more quickly than spreading false information. Using authoritative data sources and including fact-checking as part of your content production process is essential for credible content.
For more guidance on fact-checking your content, check out this helpful post from Content Marketing Institute.
Expertise: Share Your Thought Leadership
One of Bill Nye’s AMAs from several years ago is still one of the most popular of all time.
A payoff of participating in Nye’s AMA was walking away with new knowledge. He made sure to share plenty of easy-to-digest science facts, which isn’t surprising for someone who made a career out of making tough-to-grasp concepts accessible.
Creating educational content is one of the best ways to provide value to your audience. Learn how content marketing can showcase your expertise with the tips below.
Find Your Content Sweet Spot
The content marketing “sweet spot” is the intersection of what you know and what your target demographic wants/needs to know. This means resisting the urge to show off expertise that is irrelevant or uninteresting to your audience.
Instead, focus on how your unique perspective and knowledge can solve their problems.
A great example of hitting the sweet spot is L’Oreal’s microsite, Makeup.com. It draws on its team’s expertise to create beauty tutorials that are highly relevant to its target audience. And it’s all done without feeling overly promotional yet still incorporating L’Oreal products.
Be Generous With Your Knowledge
A lot of companies hesitate to publish thought leadership content out of fear competitors will steal their ideas. If you’re concerned with giving away too much information, consider this “test” from Valuable Content:
Does it hurt a bit to give away this content? Good — that’s the kind of content that will get you the best results.
Sharing some of your knowledge for free not only demonstrates your expertise to prospects but can also further establish you as an authority in your industry. At Fractl (my employer), we regularly conduct firsthand research on our industry and then share our findings.
While this research helps us improve and refine our internal processes, we also know our industry peers and prospects find it valuable — and yes, this may include our competitors. By sharing knowledge rather than keeping it to ourselves, we’ve seen a positive impact on our bottom line, in addition to growing relationships and visibility within our industry.
Using the tips above, you can incorporate some of the tried-and-true elements of successful Reddit AMAs to create your own fan following. As a final takeaway, Udemy recommends making sure your content:
- Explores topics not often covered.
- Provides the outright truth through data and factual analysis.
- Utilizes authoritative sources.
Do you have any examples of brands that use authenticity, intimacy and expertise into their content marketing? Share your favorites in the comments below.