In this article, you’ll learn how to organize and manage an online AMA experience on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
The concept of the AMA gained popularity on Reddit and was later adopted by mainstream social networks as a way to transparently engage with an audience; promote new features, updates, and products; and connect with users in real time. Since then, platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have integrated features that make AMAs more accessible than ever.
AMAs can be a breath of fresh air from the ordinary, scripted content that your audience is used to seeing. When done successfully, AMA sessions can boost engagement and promote transparency with your audience, and allow them to get to know your brand on a more personal level.
Before you hold an AMA, you need to do some prep work. Here are some details to consider when planning your AMA.
You can keep the AMA specific to one topic (such as “Ask our CEO anything about the recent merger”) or make it broad (such as about the company or products in general). General AMA sessions are a great way to learn more about your audience’s interests and can help inform future content if you notice recurring questions or themes.
Deciding who’s going to oversee the AMA is important because that person will be front and center, representing your organization. Choose someone knowledgeable about your company who can confidently and calmly hold their own throughout the session.
Pay attention to your analytics and run the AMA during a time you know your audience is active and online. Additionally, if you’ve recently had a PR crisis or flap, it’s probably best to let significant time pass before hosting an AMA. On the flipside, holding an AMA may be a nice way to overcome negative publicity if you get the messaging right. It all depends on your audience and situation.
Decide if you want to field questions live only or allow your audience to submit questions ahead of time. Set a specific date and time for your social media AMA and answer questions that come in during that time, or field questions for a few days leading up to the event and then choose a specific time to answer those specific questions on social media.
It may seem like an AMA doesn’t require preparation because the questions will be coming in real time, but there’s a considerable risk in being unprepared for the sessions. Have answers to common questions prepared. Take some time to brainstorm what issues might come up and have a plan for how to handle them during the event.
The last thing you want in an AMA is to receive questions that catch you off guard, making you appear frazzled or unprepared, so prepare for the worst. AMAs are like the press conferences of the internet. Brands can quickly fall victim to a PR nightmare by not anticipating what questions, even negative ones, are likely to be asked.
In addition to having answers prepared, have questions ready in case of a lull or lack of engagement. You probably already have a list of frequently asked questions your company receives, so have those on hand in case of a drop in participation.
Choose a Social Media Platform to Host Your AMA
While hosting AMAs on social media is becoming extremely popular, make sure the platform you choose aligns with your overall marketing goals. If the goal is to engage your audience, promote transparency, and attract new followers, here’s how to frame your AMA session on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
You’ll find the most success with AMAs on Facebook by hosting Facebook Live sessions. Live broadcasts are a great way to connect with your audience in real time, face to face, and provide a perfect platform for fielding questions. You can even record the sessions for users to view later or to use as future marketing materials.
To gather questions ahead of an event on Facebook, you can create a post earlier in the week or a few days prior to the event, and ask users to post their questions as comments on the post. Additionally, if you want to maintain anonymity for the users, ask them to send their questions via Facebook Messenger.
Once followers submit their questions, take time to go through the questions and choose the best ones to answer during the event. Prepare a document with answers to those specific questions and answer them in depth. It can also be helpful to call in an expert to answer specific questions or have examples to show.
Because Facebook Live allows screen sharing, you can plan to do a live demonstration or use the tool to share your screen if it helps answer specific questions.
During your Facebook Live AMA, users can drop their questions in the chat of the video. But be aware that if a lot of viewers attend, these questions can move fast and become hard for the speaker to find. It’s smart to have a moderator collect and organize these questions, and feed them to the host as they come in. Otherwise, the host will have to scroll to find the questions, which can take up time and disrupt the event.
Even though you won’t know exactly what questions will come in, you can anticipate what might be asked based on common FAQs from your audience and have responses to those questions ready ahead of time. It’s also helpful to have important documentation on-hand like user guides, product info, and news bulletins that you can reference quickly should you get a question you don’t know the exact answer to.
There are two ways to host an AMA on Instagram. One option is to take a route similar to the Facebook approach and host a live video Q&A. Videos generate a lot of engagement, and you can record the event and have it available for people who want to view it later. Instagram AMAs can take the same general format as Facebook AMAs when using live video.
You can also record individual story videos with responses to questions, or create text responses and post them to your story with the corresponding questions. Again, you’ll be able to save them as Instagram story highlights and create an AMA highlight on your Instagram profile that followers can access and reference later.
To solicit questions from your followers, use Instagram’s handy Questions sticker in your stories and let followers know you’ll be answering their questions all at once.
After you’ve received questions, go through them and omit any inappropriate or duplicate questions. If you plan to do an Instagram Live broadcast, prepare in-depth answers to those questions to present while you’re live.
If you plan to create an Instagram story, take some time to rehearse (if you’re doing a video story) or write out the response in a way that looks nice on the screen and gives the reader all of the necessary information to answer the question. If you save the story in a highlight and you have more than 10K followers, you can include “swipe up” links in your stories to provide followers with even more references and information.
Similar to a Facebook Live, an Instagram Live will have an ongoing chat on the screen unless you choose to disable it. This is the perfect place to have users submit their questions during the live AMA.
It’s smart to have a few moderators collecting questions as they come in. These moderators can be viewing the event the same way as the rest of your followers and should be in the same room as the speaker.
Because questions on Instagram come in fairly quickly, one way to streamline the process is to have a Google doc open that’s shared with each moderator and the host. Moderators can add the questions to the Google doc as they see them, and the host has one cohesive document to reference throughout the session without having to scroll back through the questions on the app itself.
Twitter is a go-to platform for most companies hosting AMAs that want to reach a more mainstream audience than Reddit. The format works best when there isn’t really a format.
The easiest way to keep track of the items to address is to create a custom hashtag and ask users to tag their questions. Don’t use something generic like #AMA or #AskMeAnything because your questions will get lost in the mix.
When promoting your AMA on Twitter, let your followers know when the event will take place and whether they should ask questions ahead of time or save them for the day of the event.
If you decide to collect questions prior to the event, ask followers to submit their questions using your chosen hashtag and then compile which questions you want to answer during the event.
Twitter makes it a bit easier to provide more in-depth answers to questions that are asked before the session. When promoting the session, it’s helpful to cut off questions about a day or a few hours before the event to prepare the responses appropriately. Use this time to gather as many resources as possible to answer any questions.
Let your followers know to live-tweet their questions during the event. It’s best to have a moderator or two monitoring the hashtag with a tool like TweetDeck or Hootsuite so that all instances of the tag are easy to find in one place.
Like Instagram, it’s helpful to have all of the moderators in the same room or at least in a group chat together to stay in touch during the session. Using a shared Google Doc or spreadsheet can keep the session organized and let the moderators keep track of who’s responding to what questions to avoid confusion.
Even though you won’t be face to face, it’s still smart to be as prepared as possible to be able to answer questions quickly. Having the appropriate documents and information in front of you will alleviate some stress and allow you to answer more questions during the session when you have responses prepared.
You can use links, images, and video when appropriate to give followers more detailed answers to the questions they ask. Use the opportunity to link to blog posts or other content on your website that will help answer their questions more thoroughly than 280 characters you get on Twitter.
Regardless of how you choose to field questions, be sure to start promoting the session at least a week ahead of time to generate enough interest. Treating the session as an event is a great way to create buzz and attention to make sure people are aware of the event and ensure you get questions.
These promotions can go on even after the session has ended. Once you have all of the questions and a feel for how the AMA went, create content like a blog post or infographic summarizing the most popular questions as a reference. It’s also an excellent opportunity to gauge what your audience wants to see from you and crowdsource ideas for new content.
What do you think? Have you hosted an AMA for your business? Did you take questions ahead of time or only during the event? What tips can you offer for planning an AMA? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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