This post follows up a post yesterday that explored Why Asking Questions on Twitter is a Powerful Technique.
OK – so asking questions is important – but are any questions OK on Twitter? What kind of questions work best?
Photo by Macarena C.
Here are a few tips for asking questions effectively on Twitter.
Keep Questions Relevant
The types of questions you should ask will depend upon the way you normally use Twitter. If you use it in a personal way then almost any question will work but if your use of Twitter is more focused upon exploring a topic or niche, or if you’re using it for business – you’ll want to keep your questions at least somewhat on topic.
Simply asking questions and ignoring the answers is something I’ve seen a number of Twitter users do as a strategy for building up follower numbers. The problem with this is that it can leave those who answer feeling a little ignored. Of course it is difficult to respond to every person who answers (last time I asked a question on Twitter I had 100 responses – it would have taken over my day to personally respond to each). A few ways of acknowledging answers that go beyond replying individually include:
- a general ‘thanks for your answers’ type tweet
- picking a few responses to retweet and highlight as key answers
- use answers publicly – for example you could pull the answers together and use them (or at least some of them) in a blog post (see below for an example of this)
- summarize findings – for example if you ask people a ‘yes or not’ question tweet the results – eg: ‘13 people said yes they’ve tweeted from the toilet and 16 said that they hadn’t’
These types of responses and acknowledgments show your followers that you value their replies, will help them to see how their responses fit into the overall conversation and will increase the chances that they’ll respond again to future questions.
Be willing to Answer Your own Questions
When I ask a question on Twitter I find that among the answers are usually quite a few ‘what do you think?’ replies. Sharing what you think, have experienced, or what you know is a great way to give your followers insight into who you are. Plus…. being willing to answer your own questions is just polite.
Don’t just Ask them and Run
I made this mistake a few times – a question came to mind just before I was heading to bed so I tweeted it and then signed off for the night. Doing this says to your followers that perhaps you’re not as interested in their answer as they thought. It also means that if people want to clarify your question or unpack it in some way that you’re not there to have a conversation with them.
Next time you consider asking a question on Twitter ask yourself if you have time to interact with your followers for a few minutes (or longer if you have a lot of followers). If you don’t – make a note of the question and ask it later.
Leave Space for Answers and Conversation
This relates to not asking questions and running but the strategy of asking questions to follower becomes so much more effective if you extend the questions into an ongoing conversation. One way to kill this conversation is to follow your question tweet up with another one on a completely different topic.
Some Twitter users I follow tweet so often and on so many different topics that it can be difficult to know how to respond because they’re onto a different topic before you can reply. Take your time, pause, let your followers submit their answers before you move onto a different topic.
20 tips on asking Questions from My Friends:
I asked my followers to my @ProBlogger account what tips they had on asking questions on Twitter. Their responses included a lot of great tips, many of which I’d not considered myself. Here are 20 of their responses:
- KarenRussell offered – “repeat it several times throughout the day to get different time zones”
- jpostman suggests – “I like to use hashtags and twemes to gather and display responses on my blog when I ask Twitter questions”
- incslinger advises – “Ask the question but also ask members of your Twitter circle to retweet it so it gets more exposure”
- wolfcat suggested – “make sure the answer can be done it a single tweet ”
- reedracer offered – “I notice Scoble posts a link to the convo. Another trick is to retweet some answers”
- Bradinator wrote – “offer a cash prize to winning answer.”
- tonyadam suggests – “asking questions at the right times…i’ve tested this …its similar to publishing blog posts during “prime times” ”
- BJ wrote – “Don’t be afraid to repost your own questions” – Sometimes there is so much noise, you need to build a taller signal ”
- mcawilliams wrote – “I have set a time that I do it but then again its for fun at 6pm GMT on tuesday and Thursday. People have now got used to it!” – he followed it up with – “I call it tuesday/thursday twitter question time, ttqt for short, and its amazing the response that people give, a break away!”
- JohnChowDotCom advises – “I get tons of replies to my Twitter question if I say that I’ll post their answers on my blog. ”
- styletime suggested – “Dont be pissed off in no-one answers you but retweet it a couple of times in a day!”
- simontsmall wrote – “giving options in answer’s helps, and adding some controversy or spice gets more passionate answers & debate”
- JoshAnstey tweeted – “I find if you start it with: QUESTION: it gets more attention and people respond”
- CraneFactory offered – “make it easy (ie a poll) so they don’t need to write out long answers, or offer enticements (ie a prize draw) to get answers”
- misosouper suggests – “Give and you shall receive: the more questions you answer (the more helpful the better), the more likely you get answers back.”
- BtotheEtotheN wrote – “I think it has to do w/ asking questions and then twittering back about the answer or where we can find the research and results”
- diablogue_chat wrote – “Timing of Twuestions counts. Lead up to question helps. And asking for help never hurts.”
- scottbird suggested – “consistency. If people are used to answering your questions, they’ll expect them and look for them.”
- cyberpunkdreams tweeted – “I ask questions that are direct and succinct, to get a focused answer that can be written in the twitter limit. Nothing fluffy!”
- YuliZ offered – “one great trick is asking your tweeps to finish the sentence, example: “I’m still twittering at 2am because…”"