20 Conversation Starters That Will Get Your Community Talking

Are you struggling to stimulate activity in your online community? Do you have lots of members but little participation? Try asking the sorts of questions that stimulate discussion in every online community.

Here are 20 to get you started:

Roosevelt and Churchill in conversation

  1. What is your favourite ………. ? Asking members about their favourite anything will stimulate a response. Try it.
  2. What is your average day like? People love to talk about themselves. Ask them what their average day is like and they’ll tell you. They’ll also compare it with anyone else that answers.
  3. What do you think about ……….? Giving opinions is human nature. When you ask for opinions you’ll get a lot.
  4. What advice would you give to the person above you? Careful about these. Can stimulate a lot of activity, can also get way out of hand. Useful for a light-hearted touch to your community efforts.
  5. Can anyone recommend ……….? People like to be helpful and show off knowledge. Asking for recommendations will solicit knowledge and engagement from users.
  6. What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you whilst ……… ? Self explanatory. Let members share their stories. It’ll almost certainly boost activity and return visits. Members will slowly get to know and like each other.
  7. Can anyone fix ………. ? Present a difficult problem, let members try to suggest ways to fix it.
  8. What is the best/worst ………. ? Opinions, opinions, opinions. Solicit them in as many different ways as possible. Pick a sub-category and ask people for their best/worst suggestions.
  9. Who do you most admire? Pick someone in your niche you most admire and tell others why.
  10.  Is {x} really better than {y}? Make it controversial. Pick an issue members will be split on – but not divisively so. Ask questions about it. Let people take sides.A question and exclamation mark of jigsaw puzzle pieces
  11. If you weren’t ……… would you ………. ? Create a hypothetical situation in which all members can give their opinion on something radical.
  12. Who/What are your top 5 ………. ? Ranking is addictive. Ask people to rank their top 5 anything and then try to create an overall ranking based upon the community.
  13. How would you handle {topical issue}? If your members in charge, how would they handle a topical issue in your sector?
  14. What ………. do you use? Relevant in almost all online communities, ask people to compare what relevant products/services they use. Companies love this information too.
  15. Does anyone know how to ………. ? Does anyone know provokes interest, the how to can be broad or specific. People are likely to participate.
  16. Has anyone tried………. ? Again, has anyone is all-encompassing and people are likely to share their experiences.
  17. Is ………. right about ………. ? Take someone’s stance on a topical issue and throw it open to comment by the entire community.
  18. What would you do if ………. ? Create a hypothetical situation, perhaps a problem lots of people face, and ask members what they would do. Life problems work well here.
  19. What should every newcomer know about ……….Well, what should every newcomer know about something relevant in your sector? It’s great advice – perfect for a sticky-thread.
  20. Share your pictures/top tips here. Sharing advice and pictures can be an easy win for stimulating activity. Try it. I suspect you will find it easy to gain lots of valuable insights.

Your mileage with any of these questions will vary depending upon the topic sector and the progress of your community. However, if you’re looking to generate some activity, you can try a few of these basic conversation starters to get going.

The more open-ended the question, the more everyone can participate. When you post a question, try prodding a few members to reply and get the activity started.

Images courtesy of Zorba the Geek and Horia Varlan

About the Author:

Richard Millington is the founder and managing director of FeverBee, an online community consultancy, and FeverBee: Online Community Management Course, an exclusive course in Professional Community Management. Richard's clients have included the United NationsThe Global FundNovartisOracleOECDBAE SystemsAMD and several youth & entertainment brands. Richard is also the the author of the Online Community Manifesto. Check out his newest book, "Buzzing Communities: How To Build Bigger, Better, And More Active Online Communities."

Richard Millington – who has written posts on Ning's Official Blog on Social Networking Sites.