Because no-one remembers a faceless brand
As a community mangers, I’m sure you all wonder the same thing at some point. Why aren’t my community engaging?
You’ve done everything right. You’ve selected your online community platform, you’ve welcomed your members, and you’ve introduced yourself. But there are still periods of little to no engagement.
And you can’t help wondering what you’ve done wrong. The answer is nothing. You’ve just found yourself in a challenging situation. But the good news is, it’s only short-term. Engagement can and will improve.
I bet every community manager can relate to this image:
In this article I suggest 25 examples of conversation starters you can use to ensure you have an engaged community.
But first… (or just skip to conversation starters...)
I come across this question a lot. There are so many online communities out there, and so many community platforms to choose from. So how can your community be different?
I’ll tell you in one word…video!
And the reason is simple, according to Emma Rose, video content is effective because “videos don’t only grab attention, they keep it. Plus, videos are really good at storytelling. And the human brain loves stories.”
So in order to stand out, you have to go against the grain. While most communities are text based – you can use video, or audio. That way your community members get to know you, and each other. Conversations will flow better because of the human connection.
Remember that time when you read a post that might have been sarcastic, or not meant to cause offence, but it did? That’s because it’s difficult to always interpret the text. This wouldn’t happen with a video because you can see facial expressions, hear the speaker’s voice, and notice body language.
I would suggest selecting a video-based community platform like StoryPrompt. StoryPrompt allows you to engage with your community through video. You can also embed buttons, like websites or calendar links, into your prompts to make them interactive.
A negative of hosting your community somewhere like Facebook is that you have no control over your data. The algorithm decides who sees your posts, thereby determining their reach, not you. And your group won’t show up on Google searches.
So my best advice is to own your community. By owning your community, you control who views the content, and not hope the algorithm works in your favor.
Video is also significantly better for SEO because the viewer stays on the platform for longer than they would if they were simply skimming some text. This impact on SEO will help your community to rank higher and benefit from further reach.
Below are some examples of conversation starters you can use to get your community talking and engaging.
It's important to remember that first and foremost people love talking about themselves. Tap in that and use that as a way to encourage engagement. Talking about themselves and learning from others is the basis of an engaged community.
Also I think it’s important when you ask a question to give the first answer, if appropriate. This immediately puts other community members at-ease but also gives them an idea of the type of response you’re expecting. However, keep an eye on this because you definitely don't want to dominate conversations.
This is when you welcome your community members and introduce yourself. It's very important to have a featured welcome message or video from the community manager. In this message you can introduce yourself and explain how the community works, the rules etc.
It's a really pleasant experience for each community member to introduce themselves to the community. This helps break the ice and allows members to find other like-minded people. Ensure this continues even if members join at different stages. Each member should be welcomed and given the opportunity to introduce themself and feel welcome.
This question can be completed by you to suit the type of community you have created. Some examples include a productivity tool, books read etc. Your community members have joined a like-minded community so feel free to include something relevant.
You can however, also complete the sentence with something random or humorous, just to get the conversation flowing.
This is a great question that your members will love answering. Everyone has their own routines that help them feel productive and other members might be able to learn some tips from other members. As I mentioned before, people love talking about themselves, so I am sure they will be willing to share their routines.
Similar to number 2, you can complete this sentence to suit the type of community you have created. The remainder of this sentence can also be relevant or something random or humorous.
Asking members their opinions on relevant topics really encourages conversation and also encourages not only conversation, but learning and teaching opportunities.
This question allows your community members to be the hero and help each other out with advice. This is obviously beneficial for the actual advice but it also strengthens the bond between community members who feel they are being supported.
You can complete this sentence to suit the type of community you have created. It can be considered quite a controversial question and encourage some great debates. Your members will enjoy not only giving the advice, but also learning and debating each other. This can be a very interesting question depending on the options you choose to complete the question. Like above, these can also be random or humorous.
This question is similar to some of the options above and can be completed to suit the type of community you have created. You can create a hypothetical scenario or use a scenario one of the members is experiencing to get some advice and recommendations from other members.
This is a great example of an open-ended question. Every community member has made at least one big decision this year and this question will help them to select the one they consider to be the biggest one.
It’s also important for members to reflect on their decision and to share the outcome, especially if lessons were learned from the outcome. Remember that just because a decision was considered big, it doesn’t mean it was necessarily a good decision, so this could be a great opportunity to reflect and teach others.
This question like many here, allow each member to speak from personal experience. Members might find that they had a similar journey to someone else, or recognize familiar obstacles. A member's journey might serve as inspiration to other community members to continue along their own journey.
This is a different version of that typical interview question “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” This question helps members to focus on their goals and reflect on how they can plan in order to achieve those goals. Like so many questions here, someone else's response might serve as inspiration or advice for a community member to reflect on.
This is a fun question because it allows members to mention their bug-bears. Also most questions here are about positive experiences so this is a nice alteration to the norm. Also this can be quite a humorous question as people can connect over annoyances.
It’s a great way to learn about someone and maybe even things you didn't realize about yourself.
This question really encourages members to be vulnerable and honest and is a great way to give and receive community support. Not everyone wants to share negative feedback they have received, but it is very important for growth. A quieter community member, who might not want to share their response, might read your answer and the feedback could resonate with them.
If a community member is currently receiving negative feedback, your growth and resilience might help them to recover from the feedback.
This question allows members to consider the person who was instrumental in their personal journey. They can then share not only who the person was but the attributes that helped them. Another community member might then recognize those attributes in their own community too. There also might be a book written by that person and a recommendation might help inspire community members.
I love this question because we have such different priorities and values as we go through different stages of life. Something that might have been of the utmost importance in our teenage years, might seem so insignificant later in life. It’s very healthy to reflect on these stages and be able to reflect on things you might have done differently.
Another version of this question is “what do you know now that you wish you had known earlier?”
This is a great way to be inspired by others and to learn about the force that drives people to succeed. Community members might have the same values or principles, so someone else's journey might inspire them.
This question can give rise to some humorous responses because you’re likely to name an unpopular opinion. However you might find that in a like-minded community, there is someone who agrees with you and might even feel the same way as you.
This is a great question and might not necessarily indicate success, the answer might actually be about the journey or mistakes made and lessons learned as a result.
This question allows community members to reflect on concerns they have. This is a great question for an engaged community because it allows members to connect over mutual concerns. One member might have a solution or advice to a concern that might be worrying a different member. Sometimes a different perspective, or sharing a concern can be sufficient in helping to address it.
This question allows people to think about their virtues that truly make them unique. Some might find this egotistical, but it’s the complete opposite. This isn’t a case of bragging about beauty or a bubbly personality, but more about deep values that make you a valuable member of the community. It can really encourage there to be strengthened bond between community members.
I see this one often and it always gets a great response. There’s also the more modern version, “Which show on Netflix influenced your life?” This not only allows the responding member to share the book or show that influenced their lives, but serves as a recommendation to other members who might receive the same positive experience.
It's a very easy and simple ice-breaker that's guaranteed to get the conversation flowing.
This is an interesting question and allows community members to gauge what they value and what they would buy if there were no limitations. It always allows you to think about your priorities and what you consider to be of value.
I love this question as it can be great advice or bad advice. Either way I think this will encourage great conversation.
This question can be completed to suit the type of community you have created, but it’s a great way to think about your priorities and the things you value most. You can make this question funny by adding in animals, or unlikeable items, or you can say something like, “Would you rather age forwards or backwards?” This will definitely encourage conversation because members will have to consider the options and come up with an opinion.
This is another question that shows a member’s values and allows them to reflect and ascertain how they define success. Success can be personal (like a sense of accomplishment or pride) or something concrete like creating a product, or making money. It would be great to discuss this and engage in conversation about different tiers of success.
This question can serve as inspiration for other community members. Firstly some of your bucket list items might be added to someone else’s bucket list. But also if someone else has achieved something that was on your bucket list, it might inspire you to try it for yourself. It might not seem so unachievable. If it’s a bucket-list item with a journey, for example launching a new product, the community might be able to advise you and support you along the way.
It's important to remember that people have joined your community because they want to be around like-minded people. And that could be enough and the conversation could flow naturally. But in the event that it doesn't, even momentarily, then I hope you find these 25 conversation starters useful.