What Businesses Can Learn from Woody Harrelson’s AMA Fiasco

Posted by on February 22, 2012 in Public Relations [ 0 Comments ]

Unless you’re a frequent Reddit user, you’ve probably never heard of AMA, one of Reddit’s most popular subforums. An AMA (which stands for “Ask Me Anything”) is an open forum where users can ask questions to individuals who host an AMA thread. In general, the host has a unique story or occupation that generates interest and thoughtful questions by users. AMAs have been used by average working Joes to celebrities, all in order to give users insight into the host’s life.

Recently, Woody Harrelson decided to take advantage of the potential for marketing and host an AMA of his own. He invited users to ask him questions about Rampart, his upcoming movie. However, what he failed to note is that AMA is a forum where users are able to ask a multitude of questions, without being relegated to a single topic. After a certain amount of time, users began to get irritated by his brief, sparse answers. In addition, Harrelson would focus completely on his upcoming film, resulting in disgruntled users.

As a result, immense backlash was fired against Harrelson, his publicists, and his upcoming movie. His reputation suffered as numerous users lambasted the movie star in the form of disparaging pictures and memes. In hindsight, users noted that this move may have been made by his publicists, and not by Harrelson himself. Regardless, Woody Harrelson became infamous, going down in Reddit history as one of the worst AMA threads ever hosted.

The Takeaway Lessons

You may not be a famous movie star or a publicist responsible for a movie press junket. In fact, you or your company may never have to face the Internet fiasco that was Woody Harrelson’s AMA. However, there are still several general lessons that can be derived from this unfortunate situation:

1. The Internet is Powerful

Given the anonymity of the Internet, nearly any user is granted the power to become a faceless critic. Under the collective mind, Internet users can quickly give or take away support on a variety of issues. Reddit is a particular example in which users will quickly raise thousands of dollars for a charitable cause. Conversely, Reddit users will also turn against a topic, demonstrating outrage that is enough to ruin reputations and careers. In short, it is important to tread carefully when using the Internet and social media as a publicity platform.

2. Be Aware of Authenticity

One of the main reasons why Harrelson’s AMA failed is because of the lack of authenticity. Users were quickly able to see through the publicity and promotion moves, and retaliated against it. The important lesson is to be as honest as possible. If you show the social community your true face and intentions, they are more likely to respond in a favorable manner.

3. Understand the Purpose of Social Platforms

Another reason why the Reddit AMA failed is because of Woody Harrelson’s (or his publicists’) failure to understand what an AMA entails. An AMA allows users to ask questions on anything related to the user, rather than a single topic. Therefore, it’s vital to understand the details and purpose of the platform, regardless of whether you decide to use Reddit or another site. Before anything, make sure to understand the community and how it works.

4. Show that You Care

One particular note of the fiasco is that Harrelson gave only 15 minutes to answer questions on his AMA–an endeavor that past hosts would spend at least several hours. This quickly gave the impression that the movie star was simply hosting the AMA for publicity purposes. In any marketing or social media campaign, it is important to make sure that you spend the appropriate amount of time, in order to show the audience that you truly care about their concerns.

5. Be Respectful

No one wants to be treated as if they’re simply a number or a potential customer. One of the main lessons that businesses and companies can take away is to make sure they treat their customers with the utmost respect. With the open forums and channels provided by the Internet, businesses are especially vulnerable to bad press. However, by ensuring that they address their audience’s concerns and questions, companies can make sure that they never face the wrath of the Internet.

Photo Credit: movieline.com

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