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How not to market products on social media

February 16, 2012

By Roman Verzub

The web has become a major medium for advertising products to be enjoyed and consumed completely outside of it.

Companies often use social media, for example, to learn what people think is important.
Used commonly are Facebook and Twitter, and the numerous methods—both official and third party—to help understand and study customers and their habits. A lesser-known social media site, Reddit.com, has gained mass attention and prominence after numerous celebrities have taken to the website.

Sometimes this works, and other times it backfires completely.
One such latter case involves Academy Award-nominated actor Woody Harrelson and the website Reddit.

Reddit allows users to post some content, and users can respond. The posts and responses then get rated by other users and whatever is most-highly rated gets sent to the top of the queue. Seems simple, and indeed a dedicated and growing community has developed around the website since its founding in 2005.

Television comedian Stephen Colbert hosted an “Ask Me Anything” thread on Reddit, answering questions ranging from whether or not a guest has walked out of an interview in the middle to his stance of legalizing marijuana.

NOVA Science Now host and theoretical physicist Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson hosted a similar thread, answering questions about what he thinks will be the biggest scientific discovery within 50 years to “if a taco and a burrito are traveling near the speed of light and collide, will the result be delicious?”

It all began from the account of Harrelson’s latest film.

“Big news! Woody Harrelson will do an [ask me anything thread] on @Reddit this Friday afternoon,” the tweet said. “Get your questions ready, it’s going to be a GREAT one.”

Harrelson’s thread began, “Hi Reddit, it’s Woody here. I’m in New York today doing interviews for my new film RAMPART, which opens in theaters on February 10.”
What ensued has been described by social media users as a train wreck.

Harrelson’s responses seemed disingenuous, everything tied back to his latest film.

“You said AMA. That means ‘Ask Me Anything,” said one commenter, “not ‘Ask Me Anything with regards to the movie I’m pushing’.”

In response to a question about a previous film “Zombieland,” he responded inexplicably

“Well I usually wouldn’t say fun...intense, challenging, engaging, yeah.”
Grilled again on his responses Harrelson responded “We gotta be...I consider my time valuable,” leading to the response that “this is the crappiest AMA in the history of the Internet.”

In the end, Harrelson answered only 15 questions.

Some commentators even noted the irony—Hollywood reaching out and attempting to use a website to promote one of their projects on a site that protested the controversial Hollywood-backed legislation that Reddit said would have harmed its ability to exist.