One of the best advantages of social media is that it gives everyone a voice. People everywhere want their opinions to be heard and that is especially important in local government. Yesterday, the mayor of Pittsburgh and his staff hosted a Reddit AMA session. It’s one of the best executed AMAs I’ve seen in quite some time. Why? Read on.
Mayor’s Night On(line) AMA
Starting this year, Bill Peduto, the Mayor of Pittsburgh, has been holding several “Mayor’s Night Out/In” events where he speaks directly to the public. Yesterday, he hosted “the first… AMA with government leaders… in reddit history” in an online version of his public forum. It was incredibly well-executed for several reasons.
The mayor could have easily done a generic AMA and fielded questions from all Reddit users about what it’s like being the mayor and his stance on a variety of political issues. But that would’ve entirely missed the point of what Mayor Peduto is trying to get out of these forums. He wants to interact with the residents of his city and talk about issues that are affecting them and ones that he potentially has the power to change. Hosting the AMA within the /r/Pittsburgh subreddit might not seem like a big deal, but it’s a simple characteristic of this program that changes it from an interesting Q&A to democracy in action.
The staff was clearly prepared for this AMA. Each member of the government had their own Reddit account and all were verified by the Pittsburgh subreddit moderators. This made it very easy for people asking questions to know who their answers were coming from and that the answers originated from a legitimate, knowledgeable source. Based on the staff members’ answers, they were also properly educated in how to interact with Redditors.
When it comes to AMAs, one of my biggest pet peeves is the host giving either short or canned PR answers (cough cough Woody Harrelson cough cough). The mayor and his staff took time to actually read the questions and give thoughtful answers. Often several staff members would answer the same question, all giving unique information and insight. Some of the answers also indicated the issues were being addressed immediately.
As one Redditor pointed out, “There were even some questions/suggestions posed that resulted in immediate/direct action (recycling, intersection issues, parking meter issues).” It’s one thing to know you have a voice. It’s another to know that someone is listening.
Keys to Success in a Reddit AMA
The next time you’re thinking about doing an AMA, remember to target the correct demographic, be prepared, and provide thoughtful answers. As part of his sign off, Mayor Peduto wrote, “They say democracy is an experiment – thanks for experimenting with us tonight.” As different types of social media grow and change, we all have to experiment with them so that we can learn how to use these networks effectively. We can also look at case studies like this one to see how to do it well.
If you have the time, please read as much of the AMA as you can. I’m sure you’ll learn something pretty incredible from it.