What went wrong with Nissan’s Reddit ‘ask me anything’

Cherry-picked answers and accusations of planted questions derailed the online Q and A session as soon as it began.

We can all learn a few valuable lessons from Nissan, whose recent Reddit AMA (ask me anything) went “horribly wrong,” according to multiple sources.

AMAs on Reddit tend to be wildly popular. For the uninitiated, it works like this: Someone famous or noteworthy goes on the site and opens up a forum saying (with some variation here and there), “Hello. My name is ______. Ask me anything.”

That person is subsequently hit with a barrage of questions, the most popular of which are “upvoted” to the top.

For marketers, this presents a potential problem, which Nissan found out the hard way. The brand had its CEO, Carlos Ghosn, sit for an AMA earlier this week.

From the onset, it didn’t go as planned.

The problem with the AMA from a brand standpoint is that you can’t control the questions. When I popped in during the AMA, the top questions were about the fact that the company does not own the domain Nissan.com, and is currently in litigation with the owner in an attempt to wrest control.

These questions went entirely ignored, and while it’s not a surprise that the CEO couldn’t comment on an ongoing court case, it is a surprise that they didn’t at least give it a “no comment” and seemed entirely unprepared to address it.

The crowd seemed to take note, including user Kinglink:

“is it just me or does 20 answers seem a little weak? What is the average amount of answers for AMA?

“There’s a lot of hard questions that he avoided. Honestly this felt more like a PR puff piece than a Ask me Anything.”

Further complicating things for Nissan, one user went back and looked into some of the accounts of the people who were asking questions and found that four of them were less than a day old. Reddit dismissed this notion, telling Mashable that it’s “fairly common for us to see a lot of new Redditors asking questions based on followers and fans recruited through Twitter or other social media platforms who haven’t used Reddit before, and Nissan tweeted quite a bit about this AMA.”

The bottom line is this: Whether or not the brand planted questions is irrelevant. If that’s the impression that users get, it’s going to stick and there’s almost nothing you can do about it. I take larger issue with the brand cherry picking the questions it wants to answer and only giving it an hour.

The focus is not on the good answers Ghosn did submit, but rather the ones he ignored and whether the brand planted questions in the audience. If Reddit has taught me anything over the last three years, it’s that this is a community that takes its rules (written and unwritten) very seriously. AMAs live on long after they’re done.

The AMA can be a huge win for a brand if it’s given proper time, done authentically and if the representative is prepared to answer even the toughest questions. If not, it’s just not worth doing.

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