How Long To Wait To Allow Members To Respond?

If you answer the question, others are less likely to answer it.

If you don’t answer the question, the poster has to wait longer for the answer.

In communities with up to 150 questions or less per day, a single community manager can probably answer every question personally.

If you’re seeing trend lines suggesting you will go beyond that, you need a different solution. But you probably don’t have the giffgaff mass to allow members to answer every question within 10 minutes.

There are plenty of solutions to this problem.

1) Answer the most difficult questions and leave the easier ones for community members to show their expertise.

2) Reply quicky but tag in others members to share their experience and answers. This is the most common. The poster isn’t left feeling ignored, yet others are encouraged to participate. This requires @mentions.

3) List unanswered questions with [important]. [urgent], [v,urgent] tags the longer it remains unanswered. Or try [beginner], [advanced], [expert] tags…people gravitate to answering expert questions first.

4) Introduce a points system where the points granted by answering questions decreases the longer it doesn’t get a response (e.g. incentivize answering questions quickly).

5) Introduce a points system where the points granted by answering questions increases the longer it goes unanswered (e.g. incentivize answering difficult questions).

6) Have new questions sent to an ambassador group who compete to answer first. If the question isn’t answered within {x} hours it gets sent to the community manager to answer urgently.

Your mileage with each will vary, so feel free to explore.


  1. Nick Emmett says:

    Some great suggestions here @richard_millington , thanks!

    My typical MO is that I try to bring others in to the conversation where possible.We’re certainly below the 150 threshold at the minute so answering is totally manageable but the nature of our business means that most questions are technical and I wouldn’t be the best person to answer anyway, however, I do like members to know we’re there and listening. I tend to work within some guidelines I read somewhere on this site some time ago.

    If it’s a member’s first post I like to reply as quick as possible (the article suggested 15 minutes - this isn’t always possible for me with a global community but I do as well as I can. For those that have posted before, I tend to leave around a day to avoid the Nick show and allow other members to answer. If there’s been no response for a day then I’ll jump in and do what I can to connect them to someone or something.

  2. Richard Millington says:

    @Nick_Emmett that seems smart. The part of this I didn’t say was this applies largely to customer support communities.

    Other communities are important too, but not answering a question in a customer support channel probably won’t end well.

  3. Alessio Fattorini says:

    I trained my community to answer very quickly and having a huge support from my devs is great for very technical discussions.
    Periodically I check all new support topics and be sure that every question is answered.
    When I see some topics without an answer I call upon specific people to help other specific people or reply by myself if I know the matter (I’m also a sysamin so It’s my niche)
    Generally I make sure to solve the issue not merely give the first answer, at least I don’t permit the user to have the last post :slight_smile:

    My ambassadors play a big role here, some of them have that specific task: they have to ensure that the issue is resolved, check periodically all the unsolved topics and follow-up asking for a confirm from the poster. It will show interest in him and make the discussion useful for the whole community.

  4. Suzi Nelson says:

    Great post and fabulous suggestions.

    To echo your suggestions, one strategy I’ve tried with success is periodic “SOS” posts when we have a larger number of answered posts than usual (typically when the facebook group is busier than usual, and posts just get missed). It looks like this:

    ^^ The image is a gif that moves, so it’s eye-catching and makes people pause. Organization is a huge pain point for our group, so our members love any effort to categorize things.

    Just saying great article, awesome suggestions, that stuff really works! :smiley:

  5. Richard Millington says:

    This is pretty smart. I quite like it.

    Does it have a law of diminishing returns though? i.e. how often can you do
    this before activity drops?

    • Rich
  6. Suzi Nelson says:

    Absolutely. Back when I first started the SOS posts, I would do it every day, for every lonely post. It was generally a bad move - people got “blind” to it.

    Now I only post when I absolutely need to - that is, when the group is busier than usual and there are a more posts that were ignored, or when my day is just swamped and I literally have zero minutes to research and answer people. That being said, I usually only have to post them once or twice a month at most.

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