Why You Shouldn’t Answer Every Question in Your Community

Help me, help you, help each other.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Here’s a mistake I make all the time…

When building a community, our natural inclination is to respond to every question a member posts immediately with an amazingly awesome answer.

You want to give your members value and get them an answer quickly right?

Well, yes but speed isn’t the only factor. It might be helping that individual member, but is it helping build the fabric of community?

In order for a community to form, discussions need to occur and relationships have to form.

If you immediately go in and answer every question that a member posts, you may be shutting down all further conversations. Other members will see that you responded and now they don’t need to also respond.

And as the community leader, you’re probably an expert in the field, so your responses tend to be comprehensive, leaving little room for others to chime in.

Instead of immediately answering the question, here are a few things you can do:

  • Ask some clarifying questions that will help other members provide better answers
  • Ask expanding questions that will open up the conversation to more perspectives and solutions
  • Tag a few other members that have expertise in the topic and encourage them to share their thoughts
  • Share the link to the thread out to other channels (social, email, etc) to drive others to respond
  • Just wait…sometimes people just need a minute to respond and if there still isn’t a response after 15 mins, then jump in

After others have responded, then if you want you can add your 2c, go ahead. Now you’re contributing to an ongoing conversation rather than squashing the discussion up front.

I do this all the time in our group now and it’s SO much more effective. Here’s an example. I just tagged a few others and asked “have any ideas”?

The only way community is valuable is by giving up control and empowering members to create value for each other.

A response from you is better than no response. But a response from other community members is the real goal.