Creating and driving engagement for your members is an integral part of building a successful community, and hosting an AMA with someone relevant to your community can be a great engagement generator.
An AMA (abbreviation of Ask Me Anything) is a Q&A session where community members can ask the AMA host 'any' question. Typically the host is someone with relevant experience and/or skills to the communities niche, and by answering members questions they provide learning and value to them
A successful AMA session can drive your community engagement through the roof! In one community we're working with, we've seen more than 30% of the members engage and participate in the past two AMAs they hosted!
Prepping for an AMA
If this is your first AMA, then it's recommended that you create a #ama channel specifically to host these events, assuming your community platform supports this functionality.
First thing you have to do is find a suitable guest for your AMA. This should be someone with relevant experiences to your community niche, someone that your community members can learn from. For example, if your community is for hobbyist photographers, then bringing in a professional photographer would likely provide a huge amount of value.
You'll want to collect a short bio for your guest, invite them to your community and decide on a duration for the event. We've found that 30 minutes works really well, but you may want to increase to an hour if your community is large and will be asking a lot of questions.
Once you've lined a host up, you'll want to schedule the event at least a week in advance. This will give you time to announce to your members, and give them time to think of good questions to ask. The scheduled AMA can also be used as an extremely effective way to bring new members in. Tweet about it, share it on Facebook, tell your friends. People will join your community , especially if the guest is relatively well known, and likely stay afterwards.
It can also often be a good idea to come up with 2 or 3 questions yourself which you can use to either kick the AMA off or fill a lull in questions from your members.
During the AMA
Start the AMA off by introducing your guest (the bio from earlier comes in handy here!). This will let your members know they can start asking questions, and also serve as a reminder of the guests background. Knowing who the guest is will help generate better questions!
During the event you can use some of your prepared questions to help kick off conversation, or give members examples of the types of questions they could be asking.
If your community platform (Slack for example) supports threading, then it can be super beneficial to have your guest respond to each question in a thread. This will help keep the chat more readable, and allows multiple questions to stack up without confusion over which question is being replied to
As the AMA comes to a close, remember to thank your guest for taking time out of their day to interact with your community. Its always awesome to see a wall of appreciation for someone who just spent 30+ minutes out of a likely busy day to engage with community members!
Post AMA Session
The benefit of hosting an AMA isn't necessarily over once the event itself ends! The transcript from the post can often be turned into a great blog post, which in turn can help create content for your website, potentially driving new members to your community!
You can also use snippets (best questions, answers, etc) as marketing material on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, etc to draw new members in. Make sure to get permission from your AMA guest before using their name and answers as public marketing material!
You can even use the promise of after-the-fact promotion as a great way to land a high-profile AMA guest! Here's an example of an AMA transcript in a Slack community called Denver Dev's.
In summary, AMAs can be an amazing tool to drive engagement in your community. They don't require a whole lot of work to set up and community members tend to love them.