There is one big secret to getting people to talk in an online community, ask them about themselves – not about your products.
If you scan a few active communities, you will notice most conversations are similar. People talking about the same things, just in different topics. You should copy the best types of conversations for your own community.
If you are struggling to get people to talk, try one of these approaches.
- Ask them generically about themselves. By far the best way to get people to talk is to ask them a question about themselves. People are inherently self-interested. We love to talk about ourselves. e.g. What’s your average day like?
- Ask about likes/dislikes. Ask people to name things they like or dislike. e.g. What is your favourite single-origin coffee bean?. Asking for top 10 or worst 10 always works well too. We enjoy talking about things we like/dislike – it helps us identify friends in a group.
- Get people to agree/re-affirmation their beliefs. Start a topic about what people already believe. What brings your group together and re-affirm it. Give people good opportunities to reaffirm their self beliefs. e.g. The best thing about the Mac is…
- Discuss seasonal stories. Try to keep the news story remotely connected to your industry. e.g. What do you think Obama’s banking regulations mean for our company/industry/town?
- Anxieties. We like to talk about things we’re afraid of. These are often the best source of invaluable content. Many are scared to ask dumb questions, so you ask them. e.g. First handgun purchase or What advice would you give to a newcomer…?
- Ask for advice. Ask people for advice about a topic many will have a good level of expertise in. Advice that will benefit the entire community. e.g. What do you look for in a model’s portfolio? You can also ask super-technical questions here too.
- BREAKING News/Gossip. Like seasonal but related to your industry. Break the latest news in a discussable manner. e.g. I just heard….
- Reminisce. Everyone loves the nostalgia of reminiscing. Old timers will especially love it. Don’t you miss….?
- Aspirations. People talk about their aspirations a lot. e.g. What do you hope will happen to…
If you’re a brand, then it’s possible to slip your products in to this framework. But don’t rush it. Take your time and ensure your community members are talking to each other before bringing any of your own products.