reddit is widely known for their AMAs. Short for Ask Me Anything, these are reddit posts that invite questions from the community. These questions (or as many of them as possible) are then answered by the poster. Many of the AMAs that receive a lot of attention are hosted by celebrities, but plenty aren’t. To be a good subject, you really just have to be someone who people want to know more about.

A few recent examples: a retired bank robber, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, a longtime NASA engineer, scientist Bill Nye and comedian Jim Gaffigan.

All of these link to the main /r/IAmA subreddit, one of the most popular sections of reddit. However, AMAs also occur in niche sections. In fact, for many who want to host an AMA, the best bet for success is to find a subreddit that speaks more directly to what they have to share.

Live Q&A Isn’t Unique to reddit

However, even though AMAs are identified with reddit, the core idea of an AMA isn’t really something unique to the platform. The idea of a live interview, with someone of interest, has existed online for a very long time. These interviews have been conducted in communities and live chats where questions were prioritized by popularity, much like the upvoting feature in a reddit AMA.

What makes reddit AMAs compelling isn’t that the idea itself is new or different, but that the community is large, actively engaged, inquisitive and passionate.┬áThat’s why high-profile people are drawn to them. If you have a message to spread or something to promote, it’s an audience that can move the needle for you.

Each subreddit is a different community on reddit. Just like the community you manage is different from others. When you think about AMAs, especially the ones that are posted on niche subreddits, I want you to think about how they could add value and enjoyment to your community.

Host AMAs in Your Community

Any community can begin to host their own AMAs (you don’t have to call them that – you can come up with a new name) and invite people of interest into their community to answer questions from members.

You might need to scale down, as far as the people you can attract. For example, if you’re a small music community, maybe you can’t get the attention of the lead singer of a multi-platinum band. But perhaps their touring drummer would be interested and could share first hand experiences he’s had with the band.

Every niche has mini-celebrities within it. People that your members would love to ask a question.

Your Software…

There are two key components to doing this right: software and process.

Perhaps your community software is already capable of doing this correctly. The meaning of “correct” depends on exactly how you want it to work and how complex it needs to be. For a lower traffic community, a forum thread with replies might be enough. For a busier community, the ability to vote on questions and sort answers might be required, along with special highlighting for the person answering the questions.

I think it makes a lot of sense for there to be AMA-style conversation add-ons developed for popular community and forum software packages. In my searches, I was unable to find a specific example, but you might just be a well-placed request away from one being created. All good software options have a solid developer community creating extensions.

… and Process

Process refers to the actions taken by you, your community and the subject of the AMA. For instance:

You: organize the AMA, educate the subject on how it works, promote the event to your members and ensure it is safe/productive/meets with your community guidelines.

Community: asks questions, appreciates access to the participant, respects participant(s) in line with any community standards and votes on other questions they want to see answered.

Subject: understands what to expect (thanks to your education), appreciates access to the community, shows up on time, provides thoughtful answers to as many people as possible and is able to ask for help from you in case anything.

In some cases, depending on who the person is and how tech-savvy they are, you might even conduct an AMA over the phone where you ask the questions and type the answers – in their words – for the subject, which is something that happens with some high-profile reddit AMAs.

Live interviews are a great way to create really interesting conversations on your community. They add value for existing members, bring in new people and – who knows – maybe the person you invited for an interview will stick around after it’s over.