Ask Questions

May 24, 2012

Ray and Maria Stata Center, MIT. Photo by Stephanie Hatch Content isn't just about broadcasting news and information about your department. If so, it's not social media. It's just media (see Does Your Department Take the 'Social' Out of Social Media?). There are other types of content out there and one of these types is the asking of questions. Questions are an important part of social media because they incite the viewer to be social - to engage, give feedback, discuss, debate, interact, and connect. While reading an article on your department's site is great, it is one-sided. Even if the reaction isn't verbal, a question elicits a response; it provokes a reaction even as small as taking extra time to think about the content. To read more about question-asking from a psycholinguistic point of view, read the paper Questions and question asking in verbal discourse: a cross-disciplinary review by Greg P. Kearsley (1976).

There's more than one way to ask a question.

1. Ask for opinions.

  • The School of Architecture + Planning posted an article and asked "what are your thoughts?"

2. Ask for help or collaboration.

  • When William J. Mitchell passed away (he was head of the Media Lab's Smart Cities research group and former dean of the School of Architecture + Planning), the Media Lab asked for anyone to share memories and thoughts on a page on their site called In Memory: William J. Mitchell. Everyone was able to share with each other and read the comments that were entered on the page.
  • The MIT Museum retweeted someone's photo of an exhibit and asked if anyone else has some interesting photos to contribute.

3. Present an article or news item in the form of a question.

  • The Alumni Association could have posted an article by its headline, George Eastman's Nose is Available for Rubbing. But instead, they posted the question the article answers, which is, Is the Eastman plaque nose-rub a lost tradition? By presenting the question and an easy link to the answer, people are more likely to click, especially if it's a good question.
  • Technology Review understands the value of posing a headline in the form of a question, provoking the viewer to read on for the answer. An example is ¿Cuál será el siguiente Instagram? in Technology Review en Español (in English, What will be the next Instagram?).

4. Give a challenge question.

Every week, the main MIT Facebook page posts a photo detail from somewhere on campus (from the @MITpics instagram collection) and asks, Do you know where on MIT campus this detail can be found?

5. Ask a question someone else asked.

Take a question from Quora that has a lot of buzz and post it! For example, I tweeted a link to the question What is the dorm Burton-Conner like? I didn't have to think up a question, nor did I have to write an answer. There are lots of people on Quora already asking and answering. Take advantage of people already talking about your department.

Posted By
Stephanie Hatch Leishman

Stephanie Hatch Leishman

Former MIT Social Media Strategist

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