Simon Terry

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What questions build your community?

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Why do we focus on Push communication?

Push communication is deeply ingrained in our way of thinking. We live surrounded by push messages. The triumph of push is so great in business that push functions, like marketing or PR, are simply called communications. We are used to models that tell us to “Always be closing”, “Get your message out”, “Build awareness” and ‘Be proactive’.  Networking has a bad name for many people because it is seen as the equivalent of cold-call sales.

Social tools are sold as media, driven by advertising revenues and promoted as a new method of advertising yourself. We obsess about follower size or measures of influence like Klout and Kred that are heavily influenced by the ability to push. The ‘Number One Mistake Everybody Makes on Twitter‘ is not to turn a reply into an message to their whole follower base. Do we need more messages when we are living in a period of ‘information obesity’?

Organizations worry about compliance in their employee base in the use of social communication because non-compliance might adversely impact the desired push media & reputation effects. The assumption that push messages must be preserved leads many organisations to ban their employees from sharing or tightly restrict their engagement. Even where social is encouraged many employees struggle with pushing their views forward. A reluctance to push and a reticence about the quality of their messages holds back adoption & use.

John Hagel, among others, has argued eloquently that it is time to move from Push to Pull.  We need to move from communication to community to get full value of the networks that we have built.

What’s your most valuable communication?

Ask any business which conversations are the most valuable and the answers are usually consistent.  The best conversations are where they get a chance to sit around the table with customers or key stakeholders, to let them talk to each other, to listen, to question and to learn. From these conversations come new product ideas, insights into customer drivers and customers taking on the challenge of explaining and even selling your business to others. The insights can be revelatory and the business value outweighs any speech, status update or advertisement.

For conversations to have this value, they must be authentic, reciprocal, valuable to all involved and intensely personal. The conversations aren’t driven by a message the business wants to share. They are driven by questions that bring out what customers want to share. The questions don’t always come from one source. They come from anyone in the conversation.  For that to occur it needs to be underpinned by the relationships, personal connections and trust.

What question is your push communication trying to answer?

When you unpick the next message you want to share as push communication, you will find at its heart a question. Your communication is trying to close off a question that belongs to the customer, an employee or another stakeholder. You are trying to supply an answer to your guess of a question that your push communication won’t let them ask.

Why won’t you let your stakeholder ask their question?  

Closing off a question may seem safe, but control is a false & costly form of safety. Control does not build trust, connection or value. It doesn’t stop the customer forming their own view by thinking of other questions. It simply denies them a way to share any connection with you.

How do you build your community with questions?

Community is the ultimate pull. Community is when your stakeholder choose to connect deeply with you, to work together to create value and to share of themselves for a common goal. Community is a layer of trust and connection that enriches the value of networks.

Community is built by questions, not statements. Asking someone’s name is the first step. Then we ask how they are going. We ask why they are here and what they are trying to achieve. We ask about their hopes and their concerns. We ask what they know and believe. In time, having learned enough, we ask if we can help.

What would happen if everyone asked a question?

Everyone in your business is connected. They have connections at work and in the rich world outside. Hopefully those networks grow each day. They won’t grow more valuable if they are just names and contact details. They grow richer with deep interaction and growing community.

It is hard work getting everyone in your business to master push communication. Many don’t want to use push communication and aren’t confident in their skills to do it well. This challenge of push affects the senior manager as much as the frontline employee. That’s why there are specialists in communication and convoluted communication policies.

Everyone in your business can ask a question. Practised consistently, that questioning develops into an ability to seek and make sense of their environment. Every stakeholder can answer that question if the connection is strong enough. Great questions get shared as people in the network become interested in the discussing the answers generating new questions and learning together.

Use your networks to share questions and you will find every part of your network is contributing to building a rich and valuable community for your business.

What great questions build your community?

Please share your answers.


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