When it comes to driving engagement and providing real, tangible value to community members, few things hit the sweet spot in quite the way an AMA does.
Another perk: AMAs usually don’t require a huge time or energy investment by your members. Still, that doesn’t mean this tried-and-tested community tactic is immune to the occasional flop — and there is nothing quite as disheartening for Community Managers as setting up a killer AMA and getting… crickets. Particularly as this impacts not just you, but your AMA guest too.
But when done the right, AMAs can serve to highlight your most engaged members, build many-to-many relationships, facilitate knowledge sharing, and spark valuable conversations.
Here’s our expert guide to setting up and hosting an engagement-driving (cricket-free) Ask Me Anything.
An AMA (Ask Me Anything) is a Q&A format where one person — usually an expert in their field or topic — opens up the floor to others to ask them questions on, well, anything. Members can come with relevant questions, and experts can share insight that draws from their knowledge and experience. While the crux of an AMA is the Q&A, it can take place in different shapes and forms:
There are lots of different reasons to host an AMA, and the expert guest you choose will depend on the purpose of the AMA.
In a previous role at online course provider Udemy, Jocelyn Hsu (now Director, Creator Community at Picsart) and the team hosted Q&As around major product launches and strategy shifts to provide context in the Instructor Community. “For example, when Udemy changed how they paid instructors who were part of their Udemy Business offering, we brought in the President of Udemy Business to do a Q&A session with the instructors,” says Jocelyn.
At Slack, the team has hosted monthly AMAs in its community since 2021 with one or more Slack employees — anyone from an executive to an individual contributor — as guests, say Elizabeth Kinsey, Director of Community at Slack. These AMAs are among the Slack community’s most successful engagement initiatives ever.
“They create so much great dialogue between the humans at Slack and the humans in the Slack Community! This event series consistently does well for NPS [net promoter score], and we get great feedback about the way that folks are able to directly connect with a wide variety of humans at Slack,” says Elizabeth.
You can even let your community guide you while planning your upcoming AMAs — just tune in to what people are talking about. Naya Joseph, Community Events Manager at Commsor and The Community Club, says she keeps a ear out for conversations and topics frequently coming up in the community and wider industry. She then selects guests from the community itself based on that topic. It’s a great way to amplify and elevate your members, too.
Your community platform (think Slack, Discord, or a forum) is the perfect place to host your AMA — your community members are already in there! These platforms are designed for conversation, and threaded replies are a great way for your guest to respond to members’ questions.
You can still host an AMA if your community doesn’t use a forum — you just need to get creative. “The biggest key is having a way for people to submit the questions and view the answers,” says Elizabeth. “You could use a Google form to collect questions and answer them in a virtual event on something like Zoom, kick off a thread in a discussion group, etc.”
If you’re hosting it on a platform like Slack, use a channel such as #ama or #events and let folks know where the AMA will take place. This will also keep the discussion in one channel and make it easy for members to go in and catch up on the answers if they missed it live.
Make sure your guests know what to expect from your community and your team during the AMA. “A lot of people have never done something like this before, so it's helpful to walk them through the logistics of what to expect, whether it's a live Q&A, over video, or text-based,” says Jocelyn.
“It's also helpful to give them a sense of the type of questions to expect based on what you've been seeing community members say related to the topic. This is especially helpful if you're expecting controversial or tough-to-answer questions. I would set up a pre-planning meeting to make sure we're all on the same page.
“I also asked if they'd like to include other people on the team in the room to help answer questions. For example, when we did a Q&A around a specific product or feature, we would include the lead Product Manager and Product Marketing Manager.”
Naya recommends sending a friendly reminder email with logistical details the day before the AMA. “I send sample questions that the guest can use to prepare, and some general tips and guidelines for keeping questions and answers organized in Slack, such as answering questions in the order that they’re received and replying in threads,” she says.
Let your guests know how long the AMA will last so they can carve out that time in their calendars. Depending on the size of your community and how active it is, you can keep it at between 30 minutes to an hour.
Drum up excitement in your community before the AMA to get members on board and ready to learn. You can use your community platform, social media channels, blog, and newsletter to spread the word.
Create a promotion plan that gives members plenty of notice to mark their calendars “We announce AMA topics at the top of each month, but I do my best to re-introduce the guest and the topic at least one week in advance so that members have a chance to start thinking of some questions,” says Naya.
Promote the speaker as well to give members some direction for their questions. Kirsti Lang, Content Lead at Commsor and The Community Club, included notes on the guest’s expertise and areas of interest in the announcements for the Creator Guild’s AMAs at The Community Club.
“We also published profiles one or two days ahead of the event and shared the link when we promoted their session, to give folks a better idea of the types of questions they’d be able to ask,” says Kirsti.
To streamline your workflow for creating the guest profile, send your guests some specific questions you’d like them to answer. You can ask them to share some information on their experience, some facts, and things that you think might pique members’ interests, says Kirsti. Don’t forget to ask them to share a photo to use for promotional images.
Post a message in your community platform reminding members it’s AMA Day — if you like, you can ask members who can’t attend live to drop their questions in early so your guest has questions to answer from the get go.
When the AMA begins, introduce your guest to kick things off. If all goes well, your members will be raring to get the AMA off the ground. It’s OK if it takes a while — just have a plan to help folks feel comfortable asking their questions instead of observing.
Both Naya and Kirsti recommend being prepared with questions of your own to kick-start the conversation, as well as roping in teammates to help. “I’d tap colleagues or community members I had strong relationships with and ask them to jump into the fray first. Then, once other members saw these great conversations happening, they’d want a piece of the action,” says Kirsti.
To make it as easy as possible for teammates to take part, share some questions with them beforehand, says Kirsti. This way, they can jump in and keep the conversation going without taking much time out of their day to contribute.
Keep up a steady momentum and give yourself time to plan your next AMA. “We host monthly for The Community Club, and this cadence works because it gives us time to reflect on which topics are most relevant to our community, source a guest, and for community members to think of and prepare questions,” says Naya.
In between AMAs, power your content calendar with insight from your expert in your newsletter, on social media, or as a blog post to reach a wider audience.
You can even use these as a reference when reaching out to experts for future AMAs. Add a link to your AMA roundups — whether that’s a dedicated page like The Community Club’s, or a series of blog posts — in your outreach to show potential guests the company they’ll keep and the quality of conversations.