On Wednesday August 29, 2012, from 3:30p.m. CST to 4:00p.m. CST, President Barack Obama was on Reddit.com answering questions from the general public. With his campaign lacking the funds that Romney’s campaign has received from his supporters, Obama’s campaign team has had to get creative. Consistent with his efforts from the election in 2008, Obama took to social media.
Reddit is a social news website where an estimated 39 million users share editorials, both original and “self” published text, within communities and share their opinion on said articles every month. Users can then vote on the content and decide it’s placement within the community. Reddit AMAs, “ask me anything” also known as IAmA, puts celebrities and business heads… or the President of the United States of America… in the hot seat for a set period of time to answer questions direct from the public.
Was it actually the president and not one of his many employees handling the Reddit campaign? Part of the Reddit AMA format is that there must be proof that you are who you say you are. Obama did so three times from the announcement to the end of the session: once with a link to his twitter post, once with a photo of him at the computer and then in true presidential campaign style, at the end of the AMA a link to register to vote and a link to his website to sign up as a “Redditors for Obama.” If that is not enough verification, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian verified that yes it was President Obama himself to All Things D.
Reddit users asked the President about money in politics, protecting Internet Freedom, funds for the space program, unemployment for recent grads, and other hot topics. They also asked him questions such as “What was the most difficult decision that you had to make during this term?” in which the President replied “The decision to surge our forces in Afghanistan. Any time you send our brave men and women into battle, you know that not everyone will come home safely, and that necessarily weighs heavily on you. The decision did help us blunt the Taliban’s momentum, and is allowing us to transition to afghan lead – so we will have recovered that surge at the end of this month, and will end the war at the end of 2014. But knowing of the heroes that have fallen is something you never forget.”
It was not all serious though, one Reddit user asked the president “Who’s your favourite Basketball player?” where the President Obama who is a Chicago boy simply said “I’m a Bulls guy.”
So why Reddit and not Twitter? Reddit does not have a limit on the length of posts and their responses like twitter, which allows both sides of the AMA to get everything they want to say, or need to say, out there. Reddit was founded in 2005 but its popularity has really taken off in the past few years when users were allowed to create their own groups called subreddits and Reddit meetups started taking place around the world.
Aylin Zafar is quoted on the Reddit about page “Reddit is quickly challenging Twitter’s turf as a place for real-time updates and citizen journalism.” A quote from Time’s NewsFeed where contributor Aylin Zafar talked about the Q&A a student posted during the Virginia Tech Lockdown in late 2011. It’s quite possible that this AMA with The President of the United States will give Reddit another boost in users.
Overall the reaction and comments from the Reddit users who participated and continue to leave comments have been positive. It takes some time to guide through the jokes and non-relevant jabs but overall the president answered several questions in a short period of time in a professional, straight forward and respectable way.
However, the president only had time to answer only a few questions due to the time limit and there are still tons left un-answered. Leaving unanswered questions, especially serious ones is never a good move in the public relations world but it is understandable that the President has other duties to attend to and cannot spend all day on social media. It would be a great move on the President’s PR team to answer some of the unanswered questions in his future emails to his supporters which may have been flooded by Reddit users after this AMA.
Did anyone from Chicago participate in President Obama’s AMA on Reddit? Have you considered doing an AMA for your company?