What's the best way to manage an AMA in Vanilla?
Hi all - we are interested in planning an AMA event within our community which would only be open to a select group of super-users. I was wondering if anyone had some best practices on how best to manage this in Vanilla, as I can imagine the lack of threaded comments (as in Reddit) could quickly make things complicated. Does anyone have experience managing an AMA who could give insight as to some best practices here?
Edit: One element we've considered is that our AMA would be hosted in its own category — we imagined that this could potentially allow users to simply post their questions anywhere within the category, and discussions/responses could be threaded into each of these individual question posts. Just a thought!
Hey @AndrewLapidus this is a great topic as I think folks are always looking for different ways to engage their community and certainly Reddit has made the AMA format popular. I would agree that threaded comments certainly make that sort of Q&A experience a little easier to follow.
A few things I've seen some of our customers do over the years:
Qualtrics used to post the thread ahead of time so that individuals could pose their questions and then the individual answering the questions would come on the day of the event to answer the questions rather than do it sort of 'live'.
Example (though it's about 5 years old now):
Nanit also does something similar, I am actually a Nanit customer myself so I can see a little bit more. They use the events module to promote the events in the community but also because it is a mobile app that's connected to our baby monitor, I notice some smart 'calls to actions' to let people know about the event:
I know you said it was a smaller group but it's always good to think about how you can make your community and its content as discoverable as possible.
Maybe @Mackenzie can share some insights on what's worked and what hasn't.
Another option I believe I've seen somewhere but I can't specifically recall where is capturing the questions ahead of time and then hosting a live Zoom meeting to go over them and afterward posting a written out recap to the community to share with those that couldn't attend.2
Thanks a ton @BrendanP for the extremely thoughtful and helpful answer!
I really appreciate the example from Qualtrics — the fact that the Q&A guest answers all the questions after the initial wave of questions actually makes it much more manageable to read than I had first assumed. I think we'll first try to use this sort of "partly live" format to keep our product team as comfortable as possible.
Also really like the idea of promoting the AMA through the events widget!
Your point about the discoverability of the content is very well taken — we're always trying to strike a balance between providing "VIP" incentives to our most engaged users and high-value customers, but I think you're right that it's worth considering whether we're actually shutting other users out from what's may in the end be some of our most engaging content.
I'd also be happy to here Mackenzie's insight, but in any case, I'll keep the thread updated with our experience!
Best wishes and thanks again,
Hey @AndrewLapidus! We've been hosting AMA's in our community since launch in 2021. As Brendan mentioned, we promote upcoming events via the events widget - we encourage users to RSVP to the event for a few weeks in advance, then when we open up the thread we email all RSVPs' to let them know it's time to ask their questions! We also get a lot of traffic from our in-app messages, emails, and IG stories, which we send out once the thread is open to ask questions.
Once an AMA is open, we allow users to ask questions for 2-4 days (usually Monday-Wednesday or Thursday). During this time, our community team actually takes all questions and compiles them into a Google Sheet for the expert to answer, grouping the questions by category/topic. We ask experts to spend ~1-2 hours answering questions on their own time on a designated day. Once questions are answered, we then impersonate the expert in the community and reply to users' questions with the 'quote' feature. It would be amazing to have threaded comments to make it easier to view the Q's and A's, but I don't think that's something Vanilla ever plans to add.
Although it is a manual process to use the spreadsheet, we've found that it's easier for the expert to answer questions in this format (particularly if they aren't familiar with the community platform). It benefits our brand/content and social teams because we have all the content organized by category/topic so it can be easily searched and repurposed.
Note that for all AMA's, we also add the disclaimer "The expert(s) will attempt to answer as many questions as possible, but may not be able to answer each question individually." in case there are more questions than is manageable. We've stopped guaranteeing an end date of the AMA (as some experts want to take a few days to finish answering questions), but we do post a closing message when all questions that will be answered have been, such as "Hi all, thank you so much for joining our Ask Me Anything with [insert expert]. Stay tuned for our next events - [list out/link to upcoming events]!"
Finally - to help users find the content in the future, we tag all our AMA threads (seen here).
Let me know if you have any questions!9
Hi @Mackenzie! Thanks so much for taking the time to share such valuable insight — you've covered so many of the little preparatory details which had so far escaped our brainstorms!
We're also very highly motivated to ensure that the event is a positive experience for both our users and our "experts," so your advice on the proper compilation and organization of questions into Google Docs great to hear.
Thanks again so much - I'll be sure to reach out in this thread again with any questions or updates on our experience!
I want to toss in a quick note about generating the spreadsheet with the questions!
It would be a relatively simple matter to set up a Zap on Zapier to capture questions asked within a particular category and output the necessary information (such as Title, Link, and Body) into a Google Sheet.
You could also do a one-time API call when you were done accepting questions to export all the questions into a CSV file! The call would look something like this:
If you have more than 100 questions, you'll need to run that multiple times, incrementing the page=X each time.2
@Branwyn T thanks for sharing! This would save us a lot of time, at least on the export side. Would this work to pull all questions from a specific thread, versus a category? We host our AMA's in a designated AMA thread. Thanks!1
Thanks for sharing, @Branwyn T! We sometimes create discussion threads asking for beta testers, so this tip will also be very handy for us to quickly pull the usernames/e-mails of users who comment on a discussion.1
Hey there! Just following up with an update - we currently have an AMA in our community, so I created a zap to pull comments from a specific discussion thread. It was super easy, but I realized that it only works with new comments coming in and there were a number of questions already on the thread that I wanted to pull. I was able to use the api to pull existing comments using a link similar to the one Branwyn shared for exporting discussions.
https://community.yoursite.com/api/v2/comments.csv?page=1&limit=100&categoryID=[insert category id]&discussionID=[insert discussion id]
Hope this is helpful!5
That's very insightful! Thanks for sharing @Mackenzie. You mentioned in your previous comment that you email the members that have RSVP'd. Is this a manual process or is there built-in functionality?1
@Bee unfortunately it's manual! We create an event in community and have members RSVP by clicking going. If it's a small number of RSVPs, I manually copy and paste their emails and send them a message through our [email protected] address.
For bigger events, we worked with a developer to write a script that will export the email addresses of all attendees which we can then email or upload to the Zoom webinar registration list. It cost us ~$200 to get set up, but is definitely a bandaid as we wait for the Vanilla/Zoom integration to be a bit stronger. Here's an idea I've been pushing for to support the automation via Zapier if you want to upvote it! :)1
Hello! Thanks again for all the excellent insight in this thread! I wanted to follow up and ask about creating a zap to pull comments from a specific discussion — I saw the option in Zapier to pull comments within a specific category, but didn't see where to select a specific thread. Was this done via customization?
@AndrewLapidus I actually used vanilla's api for this since Zapier wasn't able to pull comments on a thread. Here's the format I used. Just make sure you're logged in as an admin and paste that into your browser (with the site, category id, and discusison id inputted) - you'll get a CSV export of the comments on a thread. If there are more than 100, you'lll have to do it twice and change page=1 to page =2 the second time.
[insert category id]&discussionID=
[insert discussion id]1
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