31DBBB Day 25: Writing a question post

Ask questions on your blogThis is Day 25 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, a group project 60+ of us bloggers are doing together in an effort to help each other become better bloggers.

When I write online, I am always talking to somebody, anybody who may be passing through looking for answers. That’s because when I’m surfing the ‘net, I’m usually searching for information. I am constantly convinced I’m in Stage Five something, and Dr. Internet has both the diagnosis and the cure. With my own habits as the driver, my blog answers the unasked question in every post.

As Darren Rowse says in the book we’re following during this series: questions increase your blog’s stickiness. If you make the questions simple yet interesting enough, readers will stay to answer them, then return to check for questions and answers from other readers. Not only will this increase your blog traffic, you will create a sustainable community for the exchange of ideas, encouragement and genuine support.

Those of you with smaller blogs will go unanswered for a while. Keep asking. My father’s church began in our living room when I was three years old. My fuzzy memory puts the attendance somewhere around five people. The best part of the service was the Welch’s communion wine and listening to my dad speak to those five people as though he were teaching 500 or 5,000. Treating those first parishioners as if they were filling a concert hall grew my dad’s church much faster than if he’d held back waiting for a larger audience. I can’t remember who played the piano, but I was rocking the head usher position from the entrance foyer.

Don’t let the Q & A process overwhelm you. Ask one question at a time. Write freely, write naturally, write what you know, then ask for your readers’ thoughts. There will be days you honestly won’t care what anybody thinks about what you just wrote. Ask anyway. Your readers will surprise you. They will tell you something new. They will lift your spirits. They will keep you going.

Do you know why? Because you made them feel needed and wanted and valuable. There are more than 50 million blogs on the Internet, and yours is the one that has their attention in the moment. How awesome is that?

A few tips to get you started:

  1. Ask for comments at the end of each post. Say something simple like: comments are open. Think of it as your post’s altar call.
  2. Ask a question for the universe. Something you’ve been wondering. Like how come Chase Utley and Mark Texeira were such hot properties until they landed on my fantasy baseball team? They are a combined 0-1000 on the season with exactly one stolen base. What is up with that?
  3. Got something you’ve been dying to share? Write it up as a question post. Example: if your daughter’s special needs baseball team were invited to play an exhibition game before the 2010 Little League World Series championship game in Williamsport because they are that awesome, would you visit the funnel cake museum or the rail car historium between ESPN interviews?
  4. Invite readers to ask you questions in the comments then answer them individually in subsequent posts. This was a fun blog exercise back in the blog heyday before microblogs like Facebook and Twitter took over. Formspring is now trying its hand at it. No need to pump the water by hand if there’s a drinking fountain nearby, I guess. Your call.
  5. Follow up, follow up, follow up. Never ask without answering.

Discussion, uh, questions:

  1. Can you share with the group your current methods for starting discussions on your blog?
  2. Do you participate (outside of this series) in discussions on other blogs? What makes you stick around?
  3. Do you feel this series so far has helped you build a better blog or become a better blogger?

The extra mile…

  • Tweet, share, & bookmark this post.
  • When other bloggers include a link to a new article they’ve posted today, click, read, and comment on it.
  • Please review Larry Westfall’s blog and give him some feedback. (Edit 2 PM EST: Argh Sorry about the bad link to Larry’s blog review. It’s been fixed.)

Erica on TwitterBlogging daily about nothing in particular at freefringes.com and tweeting about even less as @hmx5, Erica Mullenix is a writer and special needs parent living in Texas with her three extraordinarily normal children and Lab mix pound puppy. Her previous 31DBBB guest post was creating a sneeze page for your blog.

41 Responses to “31DBBB Day 25: Writing a question post”

  1. Hey everyone, I have been up for quite some time. I will be unavailable most of the day. I am helping set up and decorate a banquet hall today for my mother-in-law's surprise birthday part. I will thoroughly appreciate any feedback that you can give me. I will probably not be able to respond to any of the comments until tomorrow. Here is the link to evaluate my site in case you missed it: http://larrywestfall.com/simon-cowell-is-not-invi

    Everyone have a blessed day!!!

  2. I recently tried to participate in a blog discussion but everyone in the discussion commented to each other but not in response to me. I was like being in a room where everyone know each other and you are the alien so they talk to each other around you. It wasn't fun. I helped me realize that I need to be mindful of new visitors to my blog and help them get engaged in the conversation and show them that I value their input.

    Paul, I shared a couple of days ago that I felt this process was great for me and it appeared by what I was seeing that it was helping several other. I think this process has helped me thing strategically and kept me from wondering around lost in the forest. Thank you!

    As I think about it, my post have been more contemplative. I need to rethink how I write or conclude some posts to stimulate feedback and conversation.

    • I had the same experience on the "Between the Times" blog. They were discussing some issues regarding the SBC. I made some comments and asked some questions and got ignored. They were all talking to each other, but not me. I made a decision that day to try to never make a reader feel invaluable like I did.

    • Sometimes, bloggers can fall into the exclusive club mentality, and that does indeed alienate new visitors. Other times, the new commenter or participant may accidentally turn off the existing community by being too…I don't know…too something. Get the lay of the land. Be polite, be respectful, disagree if you disagree but without negativity. I'm glad your experience there was used to create a more inviting atmosphere on your own blog.

    • I have been guilty of not responding to some comments. Sometimes the comment is so precise and relevant that I do not want to respond in fear of devaluing what has already been said.

      • I can see that. But when I ask a specific question in the comment I think it is rude to ignore it. It would even be better for them to say, "We are not discussing that issue here today, but I will let you know if we do so in the future." or "We discussed that previously in such-and-so post, see that."

    • I'm kind of the same way whether it's on other blogs or my own. I'll add an answer but it doesn't do much for a conversation. I tend to be more parallel like a young child than together. Parallel meaning you do something side by side, but you're not playing or commenting together. I have a hard time personally adding to a conversation so it's hard in blogging too, that's part of why I'm the way I am on blogs.

    • Larry, it's really meaningful to me to hear this project has helped you. That's for saying so.

      Some online communities can be just as cliquish as offline communities. Ever visited a church where everyone was standing around in their little circles and nobody ever welcomed you or introduce themself to you? The importance of valuing and engaging first-time visitors is a great lesson.

  3. Lots of great points you make, Erica.
    I'm still writing with green ink, but when I grow up I hope to become a caring and courteous blogger.

  4. I really do believe in what you're advocating and love the way you write. Its becoming more and more evident to me that relationships click when we listen and ask questions but push back when we tell. Its like magnetism – if the person you want to influence is a speaker or desires to be heard, be the opposite, listen and question and attraction will happen, but if you both speak and compete with each other, the like charges will push you apart. I far from good at doing it, but am fast realizing that, although its a tough skill, questioning and listening may be amongst the most powerful influence and leadership skills we can ever hope to acquire. What's special is that so few will get it right, that its bound to set you apart if you do. It works because it satisfies some core human needs – the need to heard, valued, appreciated, etc.

    • I completely agree, but I also think that online forums are the best place to at least practicing listening skills. If only because there is a lag there, you don't have the person right in front of you, you can take a minute or two and read over a person's comment or blog before responding to it. Now that I think about it, it might be a good leadership training exercise to get involved with an online forum of some kind.

  5. So I try to make a point to ask questions at the end of every blog even they are just like "what do you think?" which usually end up kind of lame and don't get very many comments. Today i went the complete opposite direction and asked a question to which I didn't have an answer, but to me I think that having that kind of vulnerability and openness of saying "look here's an issue, but I don't have an answer for you," could spark more conversation. If your blog is helping others and providing some kind of service to the reader, then they will be likely to jump in and help you out when you need it don't you think? Anyways, http://wp.me/pRIWc-4x

    • Vulnerability and openness are keys to the questioning post. You don't have to ask an actual question each time, just write with the openness that invites discussion. Always appear available. Even if your blog focus is fairly cut and dry, someone out there needs an answer.

    • I agree with your first observation. I've been to blogs where that is the kind of question often asked. Does nothing to stimulate the mind!

      I like that you asked a question you didn't know an answer to… isn't that more genuine anyhow?

  6. Funny, I don't think I usually ask questions (do I? ), but I did today…
    http://greeninventionscentral.blogspot.com/2010/0

  7. I try to pose a question at the end of each post that will help the reader to apply the Biblical truth I have tried to share. The question needs to be one that will draw the reader into the discussion.
    I like the idea of inviting readers to ask questions and then dealing with them in a series of posts. That might even work in my teaching ministry at church. It would give me an idea what people are struggling with and wondering about.
    Today I ask the question: What Bible Version Do You Read Most? http://junctionforjesus.blogspot.com/2010/06/what

    • Richard, in John Maxwell's latest book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect he wrote about a time when he was pastoring a church and asked his congregation to submit questions they wanted him to address in sermons. He picked 10 and did a summer series called "You asked for it!" Instead of the usual summer lull, attendance at his church actually went up.

  8. My blog normally doesn't have too much discussion going in the comments yet, but I try to ask questions whether they are to make you think or to actually answer in the beginning, sometimes middle, and at the end of the post.

    I think my way of getting people to participate currently works best through twitter, tweeting to them to get involved and then if they are involved in my life they learn more about me and come to my blog. Sometimes putting the question right out on twitter works to get readers and sometimes commenters.

    I participate in some conversations off of this blog, most I do though are because the subject is fun, I want to contribute, or just want to help the blog author feel like they are noticed so comment.

    Today's post is kind of just a thinking question but also one you could answer: "3 Ways to Make a Difference in Your Community" http://tijuanabecky.wordpress.com/2010/06/04/3-wa… I basically ask what are you doing in your community to make a difference, and which of the three steps do you need to take next?

  9. I am awful about starting discussions on my blog. I think the first time that I have truly done so is when we were asked to do an opinion blog.

    I do my best to get around to others blogs and comment. I think that what keeps each of us on any given blog is subjective. Do we like the subject, writing style, etc.

    This series has helped me tremendously. Thank you Paul and OurChurch.,com for the opportunity!

    Are you David as who he was or what he became to be? http://ronniespoon.blogspot.com/2010/06/im-only-p

  10. sorry, I have been a bit absent :(
    Not sure what question to ask, one that is not technical and scary but relevant and discussionable. cool I made up a word.
    Instead I'll try answer the questions that you guys have asked :)

  11. Sorry I missed everyone yesterday. Erica, you did a great job on today's post.

    If you want to see the cowboy reason I missed yesterday, you can read today's post where I do pose a question at the end. http://campfirecowboyministries.com/2010/06/god-t

    Hope everyone has a great weekend.

  12. I've been trying to end every post with a question to invite comments and discussion. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. I'm still asking, and as I have small discussions on some posts, I'm learning what people want to talk about!

    Today I asked about what everyone is reading this summer. http://wp.me/pG2Wu-hb

    I do think this has helped me become a better blogger, and I think I'm going to come back to these tips and tutorials time and time again as I continue this journey.

    I won't be able to comment on Monday and Tuesday but will try to catch up later next week. My younger daughter will be admitted to a leading Children's Hospital for tests on Monday. She will be discharged sometime Tuesday.

    Have a great weekend!

    ~Jennifer

  13. One tactic I use periodically is to make the title of the post a question. Then I restate the question again at the end of the post. Here are a few examples:

    Are you OK with saying you’re not OK?
    http://www.liveintentionally.org/2009/12/28/are-y

    Are You Stuck in the Future Quo?
    http://www.liveintentionally.org/2010/04/13/are-y

    Can a Leader Be Great Without Being a Mentor?
    http://www.liveintentionally.org/2009/11/25/can-a

  14. This is a really great post. I'm trying to be more purposeful about bringing my articles to a close with questions that will lead to conversation. There are some great pointers here. Thank you.

    Unfortunatley, my post today didn't really end with a conversational type quesiton. I spent yesterday in court with my young son who had been hit by a car the year before. It has been a difficult experience with the defendant's church trying to manipulate the outcome of the trial. My blog often serves as a place for me to process my own thoughts and feelings and today's post is certainly one of those. Though there isn't necessarily a question, I think there is some very valid application.

    Hit and Run Strategy- How a church tired to manipulate my son's court case http://bit.ly/aA22qE

  15. Erica,
    Great post, once again. I liked the way you threw in something about a special needs parent and what would you visit first.
    I have been posting questions at the end of my posts that are designed to instill inspiration. Which are most of them. I did forget the questions on the last couple of posts.
    Just like Jennifer pointed out, though, the questions do not seem to make the people respond to the comments as much as what the subject matter is. Does the reader relate to the subject matter?

    However, I will take the advice and try to go deeper with my questions, try to stir up more of a discussion with them, and incorporate more of a post/question idea. And, oh yes, be more vulnerable.

    Paul, this has been a great workshop. I have learned so much about how to blog effectively, and I have connected with others through this workshop. We have built a significant community. Thank you. And I like the idea of having your headlines be questions!

    In Him,
    Janis

    • Janis, thanks for the compliments. Sometimes, my comments invitation has absolutely nothing to do with the post. I think yesterday I asked readers for help finding the packed box that could be hiding my iron. They had great tips. One day, I may actually unpack from moving just to see who was right.

  16. Finally posted: I used Paul's suggestions to use a question in the headline.
    I used a YOU TUBE VIDEO!!! Big time for me. Had to have my son do it. Not sure I credited it properly.
    I also used several deep questions in the post?
    Would love your comments.

    Have a Blessed Weekend,
    Janis

  17. Would be nice if I gave you the link: http://openmyearslord.blogspot.com/2010/06/are-yo

    Janis

    • Janis, way to go experimenting with both a question post and embedding a YouTube video! I think booth are great ideas.

      If you're trying to increase engagement and comments with your readers, I think there are two things working against you with this post. First, it was posted late Friday when a large percentage of your audience has probably gone offline. Second, the questions are very deep, which means it'll take a big step for your readers to open up and answer them. You might have more success getting passive readers to comment by starting with easier questions.

  18. Hey everyone. I just got home from my mother-in-laws surprise 70th B-day party. I have been reading the comments as they have come in today on my BlackBerry but haven't had time to respond. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone that stopped by and gave me some input. Hope everyone has a great weekend.

    God Bless!

  19. I loved the analogy of your dad imagining he was preaching to 500 or 5000 andnot the 5. It's something our church strives to do in trying to remember that it isn't about us and one day we may be far bigger than we are.

    Likewise I'm not writing a blog that will overturn the workd but one day it just might and maybe I'll feel the Reddit or Digg effect and see if my hosters servers can cope with the influx! Until then though I have to remember to write as if I am writing the best blog in the world.

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