Deep Dive: The Art Of Composing A Question

Ask the right questions if you're to find the right answers.
—Vanessa Redgrave

In last week’s blog, "8 Ways to Maximize Your Experience in the Solution Center", I provided several points related to increasing your chance of responses to questions you post. This week, I’d like to elaborate on those points.

During my years of moderation, more than a few community members have asked why their post was unanswered. Though community managers work behind the scenes to get responses to questions, the original poster has a lot of power in this respect. 

The first steps are a good subject title and background information. The more information about what you are asking, the better. Why? When community members type in key terms to the Solution Center’s search engine, discussions with those terms pop up. The more context in your post, the more likely it is to show up in a search, therefore increasing your audience. 

Here are some examples of subjects and questions, with a typical example and a better example of each:

Subject: Demo Help Needed 
Better Subject: Need Help Planning a Frozen Dessert Demonstration

The second subject title clearly reflects what is being discussed, and is therefore more likely to be clicked on—and these are excellent examples of keywords that are likely to be used in a search.

As for questions, your audience needs to know what it is you are asking. Providing details here is absolutely crucial to getting an actionable response. Here are a couple of examples:

Question: We’re just starting out and I need help with a demo this weekend. It’s the first in-store demo and I’m not sure where to start. Who can help?

This question is likely to invite more questions than answers. What is your product? Where are you located? Are you demonstrating in a major chain, or a mom-and-pop store? People will want to offer help at the present, rather than go back and forth with follow-up questions to gain clarity. You don’t want to write the Solution Center version of “War and Peace”, but members are willing to read a longer post that tells a story and gives context to what is being asked:

Better Question: Hi, everyone. I’m the president of a start-up dessert company and planning my first in-store demonstration two weeks from now in a small, neighborhood grocery in Central Texas. We have one product right now (a cheesecake in three delightful flavors!) and I’m wondering what others, especially those of you with dessert and refrigerated/frozen products, recommend we do to really stand out, other than just handing out samples. Do you cross-promote, and how is that done, exactly? Any words of wisdom about how to prepare?

Also, my partner and I are running this upcoming demo, but fingers crossed, I’d love to be able to work with a trusted demo company at some point, or at least hire someone to wear this hat. Any recommendations? Thanks in advance!

With the above question, the poster gives crucial information (the company is a start-up, they make cheesecake, they are in Central Texas, they need some tips on how to stand out from the crowd and recommendations for farming out future demonstrations). All of this helps other members better understand what is being asked and how they can help.  Plus, there is a genuine human touch here—greet your audience and say thank you. (Speaking of human touches—adding a photo to your profile is a huge boost. People like to respond to a face, rather than a generic avatar.)

Back to another point in last week’s blog, you can (and should!) go home again—make sure you revisit your question. If people are taking the time to respond to you with advice and any follow-up questions, stop back, follow-up, and at least say thank you. This will keep the discussion going and invite others to join the discussion and offer more insight. And if you took a member’s advice, come back and let the community know how things turned out.

Finally, a huge part of getting help from members is to offer help yourself.  Share your expertise, advice, and opinions with your fellow members. They, in turn, will be more likely to help in your hour of need.

Happy posting!
Posted by Andrea Meyer on Oct 7, 2015 2:25 PM America/New_York