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The Art of 6 Simple Questions

Michelle Stinson-Ross
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4-question-marksContent and conversations are everywhere. They are the linchpin of our digital marketing lives. Be that as it may, how often do you run into a road block when creating that killer content? What do you do to keep your blog, video, social streams, presentations, and more fresh and engaging?

For more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly social media marketing Twitter chat. After more than 175 conversations, I can tell you that keeping it fresh is a challenge. It is a challenge worth taking on week after week, however. Over the years of developing the discipline and skill to create an interview set that drives valuable conversation, I’ve discovered the tremendous content value of six simple questions.

Why six?

That is due specifically to the Twitter chat. We need to keep an active conversation going for a full hour. Pacing our discussion questions at 10-minute intervals worked best for our audience and guests.

Six conversational points are also right in the butter zone. There are enough points to delve into the meat of a topic without wearing out the audience interest. What I have discovered along the way is this works for blog posts, interviews, and Google+ Hangouts on Air as well. It’s enough to keep the topic interesting and valuable without overloading a reader, viewer, or interviewee with too much.

The BIG Question

The process of asking questions works well in all kinds of content situations. Even if you’re not running a formal Twitter chat, try posting a question each day to your following that entices them into conversations about the passions that you share with them. It will do amazing things for your mentions and re-tweets.

Asking questions of your community also works on Facebook, G+, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram. The trick is asking the question in the format that best fits that community. Simple status updates still work on Facebook and G+, but consider asking your question in the form of an image or video. You will be amazed at how the different channels react and interact with your creativity.

Take the insight you gain from your social conversations and carry it into your blog, presentations, and long-form video content. Depending on how well you craft your questions, you and your fellow users could generate the stuff of high-value how-to articles and video.

It Is an Art

As you start to give this concept a try, you will find that plucking six valuable questions out of thin air is not that easy. It is, however, well worth the effort to learn the interviewers craft behind it.

Although the best questions need to be kept short and simple, leaving room for respondents to provide insight, they are not easy questions. Avoid formatting questions that lead to a yes or no answer. Let how, what, and why be your guides. The yes or no is usually a given; pose questions that dig deeper into the reasons for the yes or no.

Ideally, the questions should build on one another. Take your community or interviewee on a journey deeper into the chosen topic with each question.

For a recent chat we did on social media listening, I started our guest and participants out with a fairly basic question to establish their understanding of social media listening. I then asked them about how we might be missing listening opportunities. The successive questions continued to drive us deeper into the topic to discuss how listening improves content strategy and customer service.

The art of creating the question set is in developing a roadmap for a conversation that you and your community can establish or prove expertise and still gain new valuable knowledge.

If the content grind is pouring cold water all over your creativity, try asking a few key questions. The answers you get from industry experts, colleges, or your community will help light those creative fires and bring new content for all to share.

What experience do you have with crafting conversation driving questions? How will you use this technique in your quest to create killer content? Keep the conversation going in the comments below.


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