It is possible to make exactly the same idea engaging or boring just by the way you present it. More importantly, you can motivate people to contribute, comment, and share by making their contribution a source of pride.
An insightful comment on Reddit today provided a nice example of this in action.
Imagine someone posts in a forum and asks “How do I get laid?”
At first glance, you’re not particularly interested in helping and they might seem a bit pathetic, unless you fancy yourself an artist with this sort of thing and would like to demonstrate your prowess.
More realistically, my first temptation would be to ignore the question and keep scrolling.
This is the way a lot of corporations approach their social media activities; direct questions and factual posts, and self-centered content.
Instead of directly asking, what if it was phrased more like:
“What is the fastest you have ever had sex with someone after meeting them? How did it happen?”
Suddenly the reader has been challenged to tell a story that makes them look good, or at least makes them interesting. There is no obvious benefit for the person asking the question, but that doesn’t mean there is no benefit for them.
It is now a lot harder to walk away from the question if you have something to contribute, and it is phrased in a way that all people could answer it, even if your answer isn’t particularly great.
It’s more fun to have a crappy or funny answer than not to answer, and that’s the whole objective here. (One person answered “17 years.”)
This version of the question was on the front page of Reddit today, with over 700 comments (and growing).
Another common example of this idea is when someone gets laughs for doing something embarrassing. They will, paradoxically, be encouraged to do something more embarrassing again to get more laughs and more attention.
The same effect would be achieved if you asked people “what is the worst rejection you have ever received?” This type of question on Reddit often includes the original person (the one who is asking) giving their own example first. Now the rewards have been set so the worst story wins, so embarrassing yourself gains status, and everybody wants to be the worst!
Much more effective than “Is it normal to be rejected like this?”
But we can’t just walk around telling our best (or worst) stories without being provoked.
Instead of asking for help or examples directly, ask for examples of greatness. Or create an environment where horrible failure is desired by all. You will create a way to get people to reveal useful details about themselves and ideally a way to bond with them (which creates loyalty!).
If you’re a brand on social media, you will create a reason for a lot of people to spend a lot of time with you, building good feelings about your brand all the while.