How can we create more engaging conversations via social media? How can we develop more helpful content for our online community? These are both common questions for brands of all shapes and sizes. In fact, you can answer these frequently-asked questions with questions. That’s because questions are currency when it comes to social media and content marketing. 

Whether you’re trying to encourage conversations on your brand’s Facebook page or create blog posts and videos that help your audience solve problems, the best fuel for your digital marketing lies in the questions you ask and the questions your community asks. As marketers, it’s important to train yourself to see the value in questions and leverage them as part of your digital marketing activities.

Let’s take a look at how you can use the power of questions to create content and conversations as you work to build your brand’s online community.

How Questions Fuel Content

Most marketers have an idea or two that gets them started in various forms of content. That initial spark that gets the initiative rolling is great, however, many are stumped when it comes to sustaining these efforts. How can we create more posts that generate traffic and stand out in the crowd? Authors and content marketing experts like Ann Handley and Jay Baer have been effective in illustrating that the best content helps but how does one get started with all of this helping?

As River Pools and Spa owner Marcus Sheridan has detailed numerous times, including in The New York Times and at Social Brand Forum 2013, answering all of the questions was critical as he pulled his small business through the recent recession. Along the way, he transformed River Pools from a broadcast advertiser to a savvy inbound content marketer.

In taking a step back and realizing that the first questions every potential pool customer asked were about price and quality — questions none of their competitors were addressing — Sheridan set about to do just that. Answer all of the questions.

What questions do your customers have? How can you turn these potential pain points into useful content? You might be able to list these questions right off the top of your head, however, if you can’t don’t worry. A quick discussion with your frontline team members in customer service or the sales floor can usually yield a supply of several questions ready to be answered in your next blog post, podcast episode, or video series. For example, the Social Brand Chat podcast I host each week is 100% based on real questions people ask me about social media.

Treat these questions as the currency they are by banking them in Evernote or a shared Google Doc. I carry a small Field Notes pad in my backpocket for capturing questions from clients and audience members at speaking events. You should also continue being proactive and ask your team members to keep track of common customer questions as well. More often than not, they’ll gladly be part of your content development process. They just need to know what you need from them.

Answering questions helps you build the content that powers your online community. But it can also lead to more engaging conversations as well.

How Questions Create Conversations

So, how can you make your next Facebook update or tweet more engaging? How can you post something that ensures a like, comment, or retweet is inevitable? The answer lies in the question itself. Rather, it lies in remembering to ask questions of your community as a means of getting them off the bench and involved in your brand’s conversations online.

As Dave Kerpen notes in his book Likeable Social Media, posts that ask questions are nearly six times more engaging than those that don’t. The reasoning is simple. We are a polite society that follows a social contract. What do you think someone is more likely to respond to, a post that merely states, “Happy Thanksgiving,” or one that instead asks, “We’re ready for the turkey! What’s your favorite Thanksgiving food?”

This isn’t that new of a concept when you think about it. As marketers, we are constantly reminding ourselves to ask for the desired behavior with a clear call-to-action. If we want responses online we need to remember to ask for them. Questions can come in the basic form such as the examples above or you can prompt engagement with other forms of questions including true/false posts or fill-in-the-blank updates. These questions provide hot triggers making it easy for users to fill the blank or vote true or false.

Asking questions can help get the ball rolling and start conversations between your brand and your online community members. Rather than capturing customer questions as discussed with content, here we need to remember to position the topics we have plotted on our social media editorial calendar as questions.

Questions also bring us full circle as they can serve as great conclusions to your blog posts and other forms of content. If you want what you created to start conversations, why don’t you get the ball rolling with a question?

Respecting Questions As Currency

In better understanding how content and conversations create stronger communities around our brands online, we need to accept the important role that questions play. They have value as they provide tools for creating helpful content and starting conversations that further cement your relationship with your community. We need to treat questions as the digital currency that they are.

As marketers, we’re in the idea capture business as much of what we do depends on being able to retain the great ideas we have. We need to further charge ourselves with being in the “question capture business” as well in order to effectively capitalize on these digital idea starters.

How do you use questions in your content and conversations? How can you be using them better today? (See what I did there? I asked a couple of questions.)

Photo via Flickr user Guian Bolisay