Reddit, The Ultimate Focus Group?

Observations February 7, 2013 9:57 am

After reading an article on CNET about a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) with the head of the Microsoft Surface team, it dawned on me… could Reddit be the ultimate focus group? The forum-style post allowed the Microsoft Surface team to answer questions from anonymous Reddit users, and even if all of the responders on Reddit weren’t Surface users, Microsoft can use the information from the AMA to guide future improvements. What topics continually popped? What did people seem most concerned about? What are people confused about? –> How can we improve. And beyond the use of the AMA as a focus group, the forum could help Microsoft Surface craft current and future messaging- now that they know what common concerns/opinions are, they can also adjust marketing material to speak to the biggest concerns.

Looking through the top 25 AMAs, a few other brands that could benefit pop out. Discovery Channel could gain viewer insight from reading comments from discussions with Bear Grylls (well, could have, with that one), Adam Savage, and Jamie Hyneman, both of Mythbusters– all three of these discussions rank in the top 25 AMAs of all time, and could give insight on what to feature on future shows based on interest from the community. The AMAs are also, innately, ‘advertisements’ for these shows. And as much as the Reddit Community is against all things advertising, many of the other top AMAs also benefit other media properties and brands– Nick Offerman talks about his character Ron Swanson on Parks and Rec, Terry Crews talks about his favorite Old Spice commercials, and Louis C.K. blatantly promotes his $5 special.

So while the AMAs are a great example of how people and brands can connect with their community of fans, I can’t help but think that the smart ones are the ones who are mining these conversations for data and using these seemingly altruistic ‘meeting points’ as native promotional opportunities. Hopefully, more brands will follow Microsoft’s lead and host AMAs to get honest feedback- good or bad- on products. Redditors are notorious for not holding anything back, but if a brand can stomach some criticism, it could actually do them a lot of good.

And oh yeah– Obama’s AMA is the top AMA of all time.  Not saying there’s a 1:1 connection with his reelection, but Obama’s data analytics team has been praised for their role in the election with their savvy targeting– and in an interview with TIME, they admit to the promotional opportunity: ‘Why did we put Barack Obama on Reddit?” an official asked rhetorically. “Because a whole bunch of our turnout targets were on Reddit.’

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