The right way to initiate a discussion

July 19, 2013Comments Off on The right way to initiate a discussion

Sometimes, when we advise an organization to initiate
discussions, the community manager will make one of several mistakes. The most
common is to lack any rationale for asking the question. For example:

Subject: What does everyone think about {x}?

Hi
community,

We
know in the global age of communication that {x} is going to be of
ever-increasing importance. What do you think about {x}? What is your
organization going to do to prepare for {x}? Let us know what you think.

Humans don’t speak like this. It feels close to corporate
speak. It lacks individuality. The worst offenders will deter a lot of future
participation.

Initiating a popular discussion requires empathy. The most
popular discussions are those based around the most provocative topics and asked the right way.

To increase the number of responses your discussions
receive, things can help. First, include why the discussion is relevant to you.
How does this discussion affect your life? Second, be very specific about what you’re asking. What do you think about {x} is very broad. Far
better to ask if {x} is better than {y}? Or if {x} will affect {y}?

Let’s try a simple rewrite:

Subject: What software is best for {x}?

Does
anyone know what software is best suited for {x}? My company has tasked me with
replacing the current software with something new, given how popular we suspect
{x} might become.

Has
anyone else done this? What sort of costs are we looking at? Any problems we
should be aware of?

Once you receive a few responses, you can ask further
questions about this topic within that thread (that’s why they call it a
discussion!). Eventually, you can summarize the best advice in a short
white-paper for members to share and download.

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