The Power of the Question Mark

The Power of the Question Mark

July 11, 2011 by

Someone I work with and have been helping with their church’s social media efforts, recently sent out this tweet:

“I’m realizing I’ve learned so much about social media in the last couple weeks. The more I learn, the more I love it! … I have already started to see the difference. We are getting a lot more feedback than before.”

It’s easy to get frustrated and bored when you spend time putting together posts and they are seemingly ignored. While there are many reasons for this, the easiest way to change this is to introduce social media’s star character: The question mark.

If you look at most church’s Facebook pages, you will see post after post ending in the enemy of your page: the period. This happens because you’re using social media as an information medium. You’re simply broadcasting information, not initiating a conversation. This results in a post like:

Hope to see you at service tomorrow at 9:00 as we start the new series “A Giant Life”

Instead of:

Tomorrow morning at 9:00 we will be talking about how David conquered the giants in his life. What giants has God conquered in your life? What are you trying to conquer today?

The very first rule of social media that I put in place with the churches I work with: There should be more question marks than periods on your page.

Now of course this is a rule of thumb but people come to your page to interact, i.e the “social” in “social media.” By positioning your post with a question mark it creates that interactive environment and a door for them to walk through, a door they are more than happy to walk through.

By making sure many, even most, of your posts end with a question mark you breathe new life into your page and those managing it. Try it out for a week, start adding a question to the end of your posts. What questions get the best response and interaction for you?

Photo by Ethan Lofton
Post By:

Michael Buckingham

With the goal of making the church the most creative place on the planet, Michael founded Holy Cow Creative, the church’s creativity and design studio. He is the former creative director for the Center for Church Communication and Church Marketing Sucks, and is currently the experience pastor at Victory World Church in Atlanta.
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17 Responses to “The Power of the Question Mark”

  • Darrell
    July 11, 2011

    I think this is really good. I really believe especially in church we should take the time to engage conversations. It is half the reason that community based organizations such as churches would invest time into social media in the first place.

  • Simon
    July 11, 2011

    I’ve also found that Questions receive a much better response than Telling.
    ie: We’re starting a new series tomorrow. Like and Share with your friends!

    Not only does it end with a period, but it’s also demanding.
    People don’t like being told what to do online… so like you say in the post – be gracious and ask a question – because people love to talk about themselves.

  • Michael Buckingham
    July 11, 2011

    Right on guys. And it goes beyond just talking about themselves, we desire conversation and the bible talks much about the church as community. Social media should not be about blasting information or even clicks when used within the church, it should be about developing and extending community.

    And the concept of the question mark goes beyond social media and is something to think about as we preach, teach and share Christ with others.

  • Patrick Fore
    July 11, 2011

    I think anything to promote conversation is right on. I hate the trend that all social media has turned into is advertising. Any effort towards extending community to social media is huge. Good post.

  • Michael Buckingham
    July 11, 2011

    I’m with you Patrick. I’ve seen the reports going around lately that interaction doesn’t work, meaning just because people are having conversations doesn’t mean people are clicking (at least that’s how I’ve read it) and I think it’s bad advice for the church to listen to.

    Forget counting clicks, count the number of people that have interacted with and shared your posts. Putting clicks above relationship is like focusing on how many people sat in seats vs. how many people’s lives were changed. Be social through the use of media.

    • Kelley
      July 11, 2011

      Love this! Thanks for the reminder.

  • Matt Brown
    July 12, 2011

    Love this! Thanks Michael!

  • shari_sutherlnd
    July 15, 2011

    Wow! Such a simple tip…but soooo overlooked! Starting the question mark today!

  • Chris Willard
    July 17, 2011

    “But who do you say that I am?”

  • I serve on the social media team at the organization I’m a part of and this is exaclty what we are trying to do. You are exactly right that far too oftern we just end with a period and expect people to engage. We are learning ending with a question makes all the difference as we try to build community with our readers. We are also discovering responding to posts is also critical. It demonstrates we actually care what people are responding to. Thanks for the post. Great reminder.

  • Kenny Jahng
    July 19, 2011

    Great tip. Don’t forget that this isn’t limited to FB. Two things I teach social media coaching clients early on is to do both:

    1) post questions, and it is sometimes better to ask questions that can’t be answered in a simple yes or no (i.e. “Did you enjoy Harry Potter Part 2?” vs. “How does Harry Potter Part 2 rank against the last Narnia movie you saw?”).

    And 2) diligently search for “?” on twitter and your Facebook feeds — and then go comment or answer them!

    Love the reminder that questions trigger interaction. How many consecutive questions do you think would be too much though? Thoughts?

    Kenny Jahng

  • shari sutherland
    July 19, 2011

    Really simple,but so often overlooked… engaging the receiver! Thxs!

  • jonniekiss
    August 12, 2011

    Why didn’t we think of this sooner? :-)

  • Church Furniture Partner
    August 12, 2011

    I don’t know. Do you really think more question marks work? Has this theory been tested? Is there more information on this topic?

    Just kidding. I just thought it would be fun to add some questions… Or did I?

  • Matthew Sandahl
    December 30, 2011

    THis makes a lot of sense. Just like when youre talking with someone face to face. You dont talk about yourself the whole time, you ask them to talk about themselves. Thats a mark of a good conversationalist, so it makes sense that it would work on a social networking site….um. Don’t you agree?

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