Ditch the feedback fakery

Ears listeningHere’s a resolution I’d love to see in 2016. Don’t ask your community for their ideas, opinion or feedback if you know the response is going nowhere.

Asking for feedback isn’t special. Step outside and you’ll trip over a poll or a survey request.

Seeing that feedback folded into action is much rarer.

Cut the act

In one of my earliest community roles I was told to ask our community for their opinion on topics regularly. Those insisting were crystal clear that they didn’t prioritise or value the feedback they were soliciting, and had no intention of using it. But they understood the theatre of permission marketing and that caring sells.

It sounds cold, and it was.

The community members in question were far too smart, and it didn’t take long before they saw the overtures of having their say for what they were – smoke and mirrors with no follow through.

Asking community members (prospective, present or departing) for their opinion and feedback is a powerful, critical act to keep that community pulsing.

It’s the social contract between the hosts of the community and its members, and between those members themselves. It’s a way to create influence and ownership, which strengthens belonging and boosts participation.

Ask, but make it count

You might need product testing, solutions for challenges the community faces, or just want to understand where members are at in their own relationships with the community.

Take time to frame your request to get the focused answers you need.

Design the feedback format and experience meaningfully. Can you find what you need with data? Or do you need to ask people for their time as well? The latter can be incredibly valuable, but beware using it as a parlour trick.

Be specific about what you’re seeking, when you hope to have results, and what you plan to use them for.

If it’s not commercially sensitive, share the likelihood of the input being used.

Plans can change, and you won’t always be able to do what your members ask. Talk about it to your members. Don’t reach for a distraction instead.

There’s a sea of hollow requests out there, and another of feel-pinions disconnected from a constructive purpose.

Here’s to a year of less rote asking, more active listening and way more doing.

Flickr: Ky Olsen

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