Challenge: Create a Discussion Starter

This is 6th challenge in ProBlogger’s 7 Days to Getting Your Blogging Groove Back Challenge that we kicked off back in episode 138. You can listen to it in the player above or here on iTunes.

If you’re new to the challenge – this week I’m nominating a different style of content for you to create each day over the week and the challenge is to create a post within 24 hours of hearing about it and then sharing it with us in our ProBlogger Challenge Group on Facebook in this thread.

It’s Sunday for most of us as this goes live and so I’ve decided to make it a challenge that is potentially a bit more bite sized for most of us!

Before I tell you about today’s challenge….

I also quickly want to tell you about something that is happening in a couple of days time – we’re putting virtual tickets on sale for this year’s ProBlogger event.

We hold an annual event for bloggers here in Australia each year and this year – by popular demand – we’re bringing back our virtual ticket so that those of you unable to get out to Australia can come along virtually and get all the amazing teaching we offer live attendees.

The virtual ticket will be available early next week at where you can now sign up to be alerted when they go on sale.

My challenge for you today is to start a discussion and to create a piece of content that attempt to get your readers engaging in some way.

Now this might be a bit daunting for some of you just starting out who might not have much of a readership yet – but it’s something that I used to do in the very early days of my blogs that I’m glad that I persisted with.

You might only have 2 readers – but when you show them that you’re interested in engaging it can have a big impact.

And remember – this challenge isn’t just about writing blog posts. You might choose today to create content in another format.

  • Live stream
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Twitter

5 Quick reasons why asking your readers questions and starting discussions can be good:

  • It gives readers a sense of Community and Participation – if you follow up when you do get an interaction it could be the beginning of a long term reader!
  • It increases Blog Stickiness – people are more likely to come back once they’ve interacted
  • These posts don’t take a whole lot of effort to write (although can take some moderation)
  • They are great for helping you to gauge where your readers are at on certain topics and can even give you ideas for future posts.
  • They open up opportunities for followup posts as you summarize the answers, pick up conversations and even answer the question yourself etc.

What question should you ask?

  • Keep it relevant to your blog’s topic
  • Ask a question that builds on a previous post
  • Ask questions that are answerable
  • Ask questions that readers will want to know the answer to
  • Suggest some possible answers
  • Either or questions can be great for starting a debate
  • You can use a poll plugin to give your readers a way to vote on options
  • Controversial questions can be great for starting a debate
  • Be willing to share your own answer
    • Do this in the content itself
    • Hold off and let your readers respond first
  • Do you have a frequently asked question that you don’t know the answer to
  • Sometimes more personal questions can be worth asking
  • Answer your own question in comments, specifically ask people to answer (friends, influencers, regular commenters), promote the discussion

The Challenge:

  • Create your discussion starter – publish it
  • Share the link in this thread in our ProBlogger Challenge Group on Facebook – please look for day 6’s thread to do it in
  • Check out what others are doing – please engage with as many as you’re able to – help each other get some discussions going

Update: Here are the rest of the Challenges in the Blogging Groove Series

Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view

Hey there, it’s Darren here from ProBlogger and welcome to the sixth challenge in our Seven Days to Getting Your Blogging Groove Back, a week where I’m nominating a different style of post everyday for you to complete within 24 hours. The challenge really is to create seven pieces of content over a week.

Today, we’re going to do one that’s a little bit easier, I hope, because it is Sunday for most of you when this is going live. It’s a challenge to create a piece of content that is a discussion starter. I know some of you are going to freak out about this because you’ve got no one to start a discussion with so I’ve got some suggestions for you in this particular podcast. The challenge is to create that piece of content and then to let us know over in the Facebook group, the ProBlogger Challenge Group on Facebook and share the piece of content that you create. Whether it’s a big piece of content or a small one, we want to see it and we want to be able to visit it.

That’s the third part of today’s challenge, to visit as many of the other discussion starters as you can. Because they’re discussion starters, I would really challenge you to interact with them, to leave comments, to like them, to share them if possible.

Before I get into some tips for today’s particular challenge, I want to just briefly mention as I did yesterday the virtual ticket for the ProBlogger event that’s coming up in September. If you head over to, you’ll find a little bit more information and the opportunity to sign up to hear about the virtual ticket when it is launched. We’ve got two full days of content, three streams of content running all day over the two days here in Australia at an event which we’ve been holding for years now. This event delivers a lot of actionable, practical content for bloggers and people who want to improve in their social media.

This year, we’re opening it up to everyone around the world to be able to come to that particular event through a virtual ticket where you’ll get access to all the recordings and slides from all of our sessions. We will release a little bit more information about the virtual ticket in the coming episodes but for now you can head to to sign up to be notified when those tickets do go on sale. We’ll have an offer for you in a few days time.

Today, my challenge for you is to start a discussion and to create a piece of content that attempts to get your readers engaging in some way. As I said before, this may be a little bit daunting for some of you who are just starting out and who might feel like you don’t have much of a readership yet. It’s something that I want to say I used to do even right in the first week of my first blog when I had no readers except for my mum and my wife who really didn’t read that much at all. Right from the start, I tried to create content that invited engagement and invited answers to my questions and invited discussion.

Looking back, I think it’s probably one of the best things I did. There’s a whole heap of really good reasons why you might want to do that. Even if you’ve got only a couple of readers, maybe just one, when you do this type of content you’re going to show them that you’re interested in engaging with them and it can have a big impact. Some of the people that I first engaged with in this type of content still read my blogs today 13, 14 years later. Whilst you might not have many readers, you may today do something that hooks them in for a long term relationship with you.

Remember, this challenge today isn’t just about writing blog posts. You might choose to do that, you might want to do something on your blog or you might choose to do something else. You might choose to create a piece of content that goes into a social stream, you might want to do a live video, you might want to do some content that is on Instagram, you might want to use Instagram’s new stories feature to invite discussion, you might want to do a post on Facebook or Twitter where people are perhaps a little bit more used to getting interactive. Or, you may choose to do it on your blog and then promote that piece of content in those interactive spaces.

Five really quick reasons why asking your readers questions and starting discussions can be good.

Firstly, it gives your reasons a sense of community and participation. If you follow up with any comment you get today, it could just be the beginning of a long term reader. I’ve told this story before on this podcast but in the early days of my very first blog, anytime I got a comment from anyone for the first time that I didn’t recognize the name of, I would email them. I would send them a personal email saying thanks for the comment, just want to let you know I’ve responded to your comment. I would give them the link to the post that they had commented on and invite them to go back and have another look. It was amazing how much of an impact that technique had. What you do today could be the beginning of a long term relationship, I’ve said it a few times now.

Second reason for doing this type of content, it increases stickiness for your blog. It might sound a little bit icky but people are much more likely to stick, to become hooked on your blog, and are much more likely to come back again for a second visit once they’ve interacted with you. They’re much more likely to come back and see whether you’ve responded to their comment, to see what other people have said. It will leave on in their memory if they’ve gone through the effort of interacting with you in some way. This type of content is really important for getting the repeat visitor.

Third reason that this type of content works really well is that they don’t usually take a whole heap of effort to write or to create. They do sometimes take a little bit of time to moderate and to interact with and they can be a bit intensive that way particularly once you’ve got some readers but they don’t take a lot of effort to create and that’s one of the reasons I put it on Sunday today.

Number four reason why this type of content works really well is that they help you to gauge where your readers are at and can be really useful to give you an understanding of who your readers are and what type of content they want in the future. If you ask your readers a question today that reveals some of their needs, then you might just be able to follow today’s post up next week or next month with a piece of content that really solves a problem for them and that builds upon what you discover from your readers today. This is going to give you a sense of who is reading your blog and hopefully what they want from you.

The last thing I love about this type of content is that they open up opportunities for follow-up posts. Again, I’ve already mentioned it, you can follow up today’s post with an answer to a question that someone answers or responding to a need that they said. But, you could also take some of the responses that you get today and put those responses into a blog post. If you ask a good question today and get a really good discussion going, you may find that your readers know a whole lot about a particular topic and then you could repurpose those answers into a blog post and pick up there and do a follow up post.

If you ask a question today in the form of a poll which is something that I’m going to suggest in a moment that you do, you could follow up today’s post with another post that shares the results of that poll. People really like that type of content, the results of a study or some research or a poll that you’ve run. We do that quite semi-regularly over on Digital Photography School.

The polls do really well but also the results of the poll post do really well as well. Often as results poll posts, you actually get linked to from other parts of the web as well. We are fortunate that we do have a large readership so we get quite a bit of data from those polls. But even a smaller poll may present some interesting results which could be a follow up post for you.

Some of you are asking right now what questions should you be asking, how should you start this discussion. Really, anything does go here. You can type this question and run with it in any way that you like, in any medium that you like.

A few tips to help you to formulate effective discussion starters.

Firstly, keep the discussion relevant to your blog’s topic. If you’re writing about pet care, do a question around pet care. If you’re writing about sports, do a question around sports. You obviously want to keep it within the flow of what you normally do on your blog. That’s probably a bit too obvious to include but last time I did this challenge, I saw a number of people asking random questions and I wondered whether it really added to what was going on in their blog.

Second tip, you might like to try asking a question that builds upon a previous post that you’ve written. For example, earlier in this seven day challenge, I encouraged you to write a piece of content that answered a frequently asked question. Maybe you could ask your readers how they would answer that question. If the question that you covered earlier in the week relates to that, maybe you could follow up and say hey, I answered this question here, link back to your old post, how would you answer it?

Or maybe you could ask your readers to review something related to the review you did earlier in the week. For example, recently we did a review of a new camera on Digital Photography School. We could quite easily follow that up the next day with, “Hey, we just reviewed this camera, what camera do you use? Tell us in a hundred words why you like it.” That type of thing might be a good follow up.

Or, you might say as a follow up to the story post that you wrote a few days ago, get your readers to tell a story on a similar thing to yours or you might issue them a challenge to do something based upon the how to piece of content that you created yesterday. Maybe in the last three or four pieces of content that you’ve created, you can formulate a question that relates to those. This is great because it gets people back to that other content. It gets the second page view and it takes your readers on a bit of a journey. You could actually create two or three pieces of content over a week or so that all sort of tap into the same topic but tackle it from a different perspective.

Ask questions that are answerable. It’s amazing sometimes the questions that I want to ask in a blog post, I think that’s too complicated. I just need to ask something really simple. Don’t make your readers jump through too many hoops to participate in the discussion. Ask them a simple question, a question that maybe they could answer in just a few words if they chose to do that. Just getting a couple of word reply is better than getting no reply. It may just show them how to use comments on your blog, it may just get them used to the idea of putting their thoughts out there, and then the next comment may actually be a little bit bigger. Simple questions are really great.

Ask questions that your readers will want to know the answer to as well. If you ask a question on a hot topic that people are unsure about, that can be really good because people will not only share what they know but they’ll come back to that post again and again maybe several times throughout the next 24 hours to see what people have said about that particular topic. Asking questions that people not only know the answers to but want to know the answers to can be quite good as well.

You might want to suggest to your readers some of the possible answers. You might say hey, what’s your opinion on US politics at the moment? Do you like Donald Trump? Do you like Hilary Clinton? Suggest three different options for them, that makes the question a little bit more answerable, particularly if it’s a tough question. That may not be the best example because that may start a bit of a fight and people will already probably know their answer on that particular topic but by suggesting a few different options, you may actually get a few more responses from people because you’re making it easier.

Sometimes in the same way, you might want to ask an either or question. Say do you like this or do you like that. We asked this question a while ago on Digital Photography School, would you prefer Canon or do you prefer Nikon? That stimulated a whole heap of discussion because people are quite passionate about their camera brand and people who weren’t Canon or Nikon fans chimed in as well because they wanted to add in their thoughts as well. Sometimes an either or question could be quite good, sometimes you might like to start a debate in a similar way to what I’ve just said there.

You just need to be a little bit careful about controversial questions because they can be a great way to get a discussion going but they can also get people pretty fired up. Perhaps, the example I just gave you of Trump versus Clinton might be one that you might want to avoid if you’re not going to be on your blog all day over the next 24 hours to moderate that discussion.

You may want to use a poll today and there are plenty of plugins for WordPress that will enable you to do a poll. Polls are great because they don’t actually require anyone to write anything. They just have to click a button for the option that appears for them and they can be a really great way of getting a new reader’s first response from them.

Sometimes, what we do in our posts on both blogs with polls is we have a poll and then ask for more information in comments. We might have a poll on which camera brand you use and then underneath that poll say something like, “Tell us in comments below why you like that camera brand.”

Really, what we’re asking people there for is two pieces of information. We’re getting them to vote and then we’re bringing them a more open ended question to discuss. Not everyone will answer that second question, we’ll get many more responses on the polls than we do get comments. It gives people two different ways and they can respond to the extent that they feel comfortable responding. Some of your readers just will never comment but they will respond to a poll and again, they’ll come back to see the results of that poll as well.

You may choose to use a tool, there’s plenty of WordPress plugins that enable you to do that. If you’re doing your content today on Twitter or on Facebook, there are poll options there on Twitter. You can set up a poll pretty easily if you’re in Facebook. Facebook groups I think have polls, I’m not sure that they do have them on most pages. Polls might be a good way to go.

Another tip, be willing to share your own answer to the question. You could do that as the meat of your blog post. If you’re writing a blog post, you might want to write a few paragraphs on what you think about something and then ask the question inviting your readers to respond. The beauty of doing that is that if you don’t have many readers, at least you’re producing some content that has your opinion or has your view on a particular topic.

That may be one way if you are a bit nervous about creating this post today and worried that no one will respond to it, maybe you just want to write a blog post that has a question at the end of it today. The other thing that you might like to do is to ask the question as the main part of your blog post or your Facebook update or your Instagram, whatever it might be. Then, answer that question as a comment.

This is something I used to do in the early days of my blogs. I would ask a question and then I would say I’ll kick things off. I would be the first commenter. That showed my readers that I was willing to respond to my own questions, I was willing to have a discussion. It also got that magical number one next to the comment numbers so it wasn’t that daunting as a zero comments.

The other thing I used to do back then was also email my friends and say hey, I just started this discussion. No one’s answering, could you chime in? That maybe something that you would like to do is to email a friend, you might even like to tweet and influence that in your niche and ask them to respond to the comment. You may like to promote the discussion you’re having on other social media channels.

I think trying to get people to that discussion and highlight that you’re having it is great. Getting those first few comments and those first few responses is half the battle. Once you get a few, social proof kicks in and it’s easier to get the rest.

I think they’re the main tips I’ll give you about today’s topic. Give it a go. You may not get too much in direction today but you’re going to learn something by creating this type of content. You are going to help yourself get in the groove of creating content.

Once you’ve created your content today, your discussion starter, publish it and head over to the ProBlogger Challenge Group on Facebook and share a link to your discussion starter. Look for the Day 6 thread, I’ll have it pinned to the top of that Facebook page. I ask you to share your content in that thread, don’t start a new thread.

Once you’ve shared it, I really would ask you today to check out some of the other discussion starters that people are starting. Share a comment or two in there and help to get each other’s discussions up and running. I challenge you to find at least three, go for five or ten if you can, but choose at least three other pieces of content that people have shared in today’s challenge and respond to them, encourage them in that way. Hopefully, they’ll check out yours as well.

Really look forward to seeing the discussions that you start today. If you’re enjoying this series, I’d love it if you would take a moment today to head over to iTunes and hit subscribe if you haven’t already or on Stitcher if that’s your preferred podcast network and to leave us a review. I read every single review that comes in and it does help me to shape future shows as well. It’s very encouraging as well when I have those darker moments where I wonder whether anyone’s listening.

Thanks so much for participating. It’s great to see that people are listening, we’re getting hundreds of people submitting their pieces of content. I love hearing the stories about how people are getting back into their blogging groove. This is really the point of this particular week. Any feedback you’ve got for me today, you can share that on the comments of today’s show notes or over in the Facebook group as well.

Look forward to chatting with you tomorrow in the last challenge of this week’s amazing, epic kind of challenge that we’ve been doing. I hope you’re finding your blogging groove.

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