Interact With Your Community Like A Human Being

March 31, 2011Comments Off

Lets banish two phrases from the branded community vocabulary. 

  1. "Tell us what you think" 
  2. "We want to hear from you" 

(or any mixture of the two).

Both phrases are usually tagged on to a piece of content that the organization wants to tell the audience. Both usually get a very poor response. 

These aren't community building questions. They're lazy and sloppy. They are fast becoming an identifier for organizations that don't know how to engage their audience. They make you seem distant and corporate.

Look at popular discussions in any community. How do members ask questions? How do they get other people's opinions on a topic? How do they engage with their users? Don't nod your head here, actually go and look.

You will probably find a cominbation of the following.

  1. Write in 1st person. People talk to people. The us is a clear sign that this is an organization that wont pay attention to your response. 
  2. Lead with the question, not the content. e.g. What do you think about {x}? I've been considering {y} or {x} for some time. I noticed recently that {x} now has {something}. Does anyone know much about this? 
  3. Engage first, tell second. If you would like convey information in this way, then ask people what they think about it first. Then when they reply you can respond with more information weave into your own thoughts.
  4. Ask specific people in the community to reply. Pick out popular community members and ask them to reply first. e.g. "I would love to hear what Mike or Joanna think about this"
  5. Phrase it as a personal question. Has anyone had any experience with ….?
  6. Use closed questions. Do you think this will be better than {y}. How many of you think this will have a big impact on {y}?
  7. State your opinion. If you want someone's opinion, it helps to give an opinion. People can then agree or disagree with you.  
  8. Tell a personal relevance story. Begin with a story. Why are you asking this? Why do you want their opinion? Not why the organization wants their opinion – but why you, personally, want their opinion.
  9. Get emotional. If you think your community might be angry with something, then tell them that they might be angry. Identify with their emotion. 

Don't default to a customer-service tone for engaging members of your community. Be youself, be genuine, interact with members the way you would interact with friends. If you don't know how to phrase a question, then say it out loud to someone else (or better, actually ask a friend – I bet you don't begin with some facts first).

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