Are You Asking the Right Questions?

“Who cares?”  “How come?”

These are two little annoying questions that a three year old might ask, right? Turns out these questions, when put into the right context and with the right intentions, go from annoying to massively insightful.

In the social media space — and in business — it is critical to ask these questions before starting any project. I find that often in large organizations, and even small businesses, folks have many times stopped asking those key questions. We fail to use them because we are worried someone might be offended or hurt. It’s really too bad because I believe that just behind those questions is often times where the true insights are hiding. Let me give you some examples:

“I need a blog!”

You have a client that comes to you and says that they would like to start a blog. You ask, “How come?” They really don’t have a response other than they have heard it to be a good marketing and communications channel. Maybe they are starting one because their competitors have one. My response is of course, “Who cares?” Again, I mean this in the most loving way because what I am trying to reveal are the real reasons or insights behind the client’s need.

Having dealt with many sub-contractors, partners and collaborators over the years, I have seen too many of them skip to questions like, “What do you want your blog to look like?” or “What kind of commenting system do you prefer?” (Which they usually don’t have a qualified and educated answer for anyway.) The client is thinking, “I need a blog” and the service provider is thinking “I build blogs,” and no one is asking “Who cares?” or “How come?” It’s a real shame because these questions will not only reveal if the blog is the necessary tool for the job but will also shed light on the overall design and strategy.

“You know… there are 500 million+ people on Facebook!”

The owner of the new store down the street heard me say this as I chatted with my cronies on a Friday night (true story) and immediately asked me if I worked at Facebook. I said, “No but part of our business is to be able to understand and implement programs around emerging media sites like Facebook and Twitter.” His eyes lit up and he immediately asked me if I can build him a Facebook page for his new business. This again is where the discussion can quickly go awry if I simply answer “Yeah, send me your logo and what you want on there and we can get it done” As a professional in the industry, doing this would lead to what I would consider malpractice. How about if you headed to the doctor and said, “I’m getting headaches. Could you remove a chunk of my brain?” and he said, “Sure, just let me know what piece you need me to extract and call my secretary to get on the schedule.” As ridiculous as this sounds, it happens every day by practitioners of one sort or another in all types of industry.

So, start asking the questions no matter how tough they might seem. If you’re a client seeking services or a practitioner providing these services, it will reward you to ask them. And if those two don’t get you deep enough here are a few others you can add to the list:

  • What are your goals and how will you measure success?
  • How will we create content that fills a need?
  • How will we be entertaining or educational?
  • Will people really want to share our content with others? Why?
  • Do we have a company culture that lends itself to social sharing and engagement?

Ask the tough questions and reveal the insights that live behind them. If organizational changes are needed, make them. If you need to make changes in your product offerings, do it. Just don’t jump into the social space because you think you need to be there. Jump in because you are making a conscious effort to engage and add value to your organization and your customers.

What are some other questions that you think are important before jumping in?

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