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Online Community Management: How to Ask Questions that Will Get People Engaged

Written by Nick Davis on January 19, 2016 at 8:59 AM

Questions You Can Ask to Keep Customers Engaged

Why does an organization choose to build an online community? Reduce support costs? Product feedback and update suggestions? Drive sales? Well, all of these business outcomes aren't possible if your community members aren't engaging with each other.

However, according to the fabled 90-9-1 rule, only 1% of community members actively participate. The vast majority only view content and discussions without adding any themselves.

Don't worry, there are some simple tactics that we can use to drive community member engagement. One of the easiest to implement is just to ask our members the right questions.

Here we will outline the 4 drivers of engagement, and how to formulate questions around these drivers to boost your community engagement.

What Not to Do When Developing Your Engagement Strategy

When developing a member engagement strategy, you have to be sure that you're asking your customers or members to do the right things. For instance, when members first join a community, you could ask them to post an introduction to the community. But does this work? Not really.

Often it can seem like a good idea to ask your members to post an introduction or even force your members to complete their profile before they are able to interact and engage with the community. Both research and common sense tell us that these types of activities actually decrease a person's willingness to engage within the community.

This is because our profiles are a way of impressing the other members of the community. But how can we post information about ourselves to impress the other community members if we don't know what is valued within that community? This is the same reason why asking new members to post an introduction doesn't really work all that well either.

Keep in mind that whatever content or information you are asking your new community members to post is also of interest to your current membership as well.

Four Types of Questions That Drive Online Community Participation

Now that we have an idea of what doesn't work, we'll go over four drivers that you can use to get your customers or member engaged effectively in your online community.

A while back Higher Logic spoke with Rich Millington, founder of Feverbee, on member engagement. Rich suggests that rather than asking your membership broad questions, you can use these four drivers to be laser-focused on what you want your membership to do.

In addition, we'll also provide suggestions for turning these drivers into questions that you can use to get new community members involved as well.

Driver #1) What Are People Doing?

Here, we are interested in what our community members are currently working on. It's pretty straightforward.

Questions you can ask people around actions include:

  • What are you working on now?
  • Do you have any upcoming events?
  • What are you spending your time on?

Driver #2) What Are People Thinking?

This driver is concerned with information our members are seeking out. We want to understand what they know, and even what they predict will happen in the future.

Questions you can ask your community members around knowledge include:

  • What books have you read?
  • What have you learned recently?
  • What are your predictions for the future?

Driver #3) What Are People Feeling?

With questions related to feelings, we want to understand what drives our members emotionally. This includes how they feel about their industry, or what they spend their time thinking about.

Questions you can ask your customer or members around feeling include:

  • What do you like/dislike about_________?
  • What do you think about________?

Driver #4) What are People Fearing?

Last, you should begin to understand what your members fear and what they struggle with. Here, you can figure out if your organization offers, or can develop, a solution to their problem or fear. These questions will also give members the opportunity to help and solve each other's problems.

Questions you can ask your community members around their difficulties include:

  • What are you worried about?
  • What are you struggling with?
  • What is your biggest challenge?

How Community Managers Can Leverage Your Member's Answers

As a community manger, you can then use the answers to these questions to determine which community members are experts on certain subjects. Then, if a discussion comes up around said subject, the community manager can reach out to that member and ask them for their insight. This is a great way to boost engagement in your community by recognizing members and making them feel important within the community.

These questions will help you gain a better understanding of your membership. Once you understand your community's membership, you are in a better position to develop goals for your community and offer them solution to their problems, or that align with their current and/or future priorities.

Online Community Management Takeaway:

Online community members are people too (duh), and as people, they really want to be understood and recognized. The best way to do this isn't to ask them to fill out generic personal information or just say “hi†to the class. No, the best way to do this is to ask them questions that will help both the community manager and the other members of the community gain greater insight into the new members. Some common approaches end up being too broad and actually discourage new members from joining in and engaging.

Instead, trying developing questions around the 4 drivers listed above to get your new community members to open up. However, don't forget about your existing members. If you haven't asked them these questions, this will be a great opportunity to get everyone engaged. The answers to the questions will give you a greater insight into what your members care about and what their challenges are. From there, you can develop a community engagement strategy that is tailored to your members.

Nine low-cost member engagement strategies for associations.

Topics: Online Community Management, Engagement

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