Hughes PR, Media training, Social media

What Woody Harrelson’s Reddit disaster can teach us about social media

Today I wanted to touch on another “social media gone wrong” story – but this time it highlights personal branding, not company branding (although it could be argued that it ties into both). This social media stuff-up breaks two of the top “rules” in social media – rules which are vital to follow for social media success.

The interaction in question occurred on a website we haven’t discussed before here on the Hughes Public Relations blog, Reddit. I wasn’t quite sure how to describe Reddit, because it is a lot of different things, but Wikipedia has a nice concise description: “Reddit is a social news website where the registered users submit content, in the form of either a link or a text ‘self’ post. Other users then vote the submission ‘up’ or ‘down’, which is used to rank the post and determine its position on the site’s pages and front page.”

Woody Harrelson Rampart memeReddit’s community is passionate, loyal, funny, and they have a lot of “in” jokes.

A unique part of Reddit is “AMA” – which stands for “ask me anything”. People head to AMA to talk about their unique stories – and anyone who has registered with the site can ask a question in the hope that it will be answered by the originator of the post. The posts are varied, anything from people talking about interesting home renovations, talking about their inter-cultural relationships, users answering questions about physical disabilities they have, and everything in between.

In the past, a couple of celebrities have done an AMA. Earlier this week, in fact, actress Ali Larter did an AMA which was well received by the Reddit community.

And then you get celebrities who might have heard that Reddit is a good place to reach a lot of people, people who are likely to belong to the right target audience for their latest project, and so these celebrities decide, unsurprisingly, to use Reddit as a communications channel to promote said project.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to do this. Comedian Louis CK did it the right way. He did an AMA which promoted his new project, but he was open to whatever the Reddit community threw at him. The questions were obviously answered by him, he spent a lot of time on it, and he didn’t shy away from any questions that were upvoted by the community for him to answer.

The wrong way? Actor Woody Harrelson showed us the wrong way to do an AMA. He told people he only had an hour to answer questions, and when someone questioned him on that, he told them “my time is valuable“. From what I can see, he answered a total of 15 questions out of thousands of comments that Redditors were putting to him. Answers were brief and for the most part, referred right back to the new movie he was promoting, Rampart.

You can read about how the full disaster went down on sites like Mediaite and the New York Observer, but for me I just wanted to focus on two very important social media lessons that we can all learn from this example.

Number one is the importance of listening to a community before diving in. You’ve got to learn about how it works, the etiquette, the way people use the platform. You don’t use LinkedIn the same way you use Twitter and you don’t use Twitter the same way you use Facebook. Each community has its own set of rules and ways to communicate. Reddit’s no different. I’ve been reading Reddit for many months now and I’m still working out how the community ticks!

Number two is something people can spot from a mile away – lack of authenticity. If you don’t show the social media community your true self, they’ll soon see right through it. Pretending to be something you’re not will get you nowhere.

These rules aren’t just for people selling a project, a product or an idea – they’re for all users of social media.

If you follow rule number one, you’ll soon see that the Reddit community don’t have any tolerance for inauthentic interactions by people who just want to sell them something. Watch out, you could find yourself created into a meme* before you know it!

*Don’t know what a meme is? A whole world of Internet sub-culture is about to open up to you. Start here.

Hughes PR is a communications and public relations consultancy in Adelaide with proven and extensive experience in publicity and media relations, issues management, crisis management, digital and social media, community engagement, event management, media training, publications and strategic problem solving. Find out more.


2 thoughts on “What Woody Harrelson’s Reddit disaster can teach us about social media

  1. Pingback: Get on Board or Get Run Over | Rachel Eisenhower

  2. Pingback: Best and “Meh…” Online Communities, Groups, etc.

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