Asking for information *can* be done well, if you put a little thought into it

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As a brand or a seller or a solicitor in the social media space, one of the big tenants to follow is to ask nicely, especially when you’re asking people to listen to you, opt in to emailings, or give you personal information.  Seth Godin has aptly termed it permission marketing, or “the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.”

While this sounds easy, a lot of companies can’t get it right, and I feel…well…interrupted (interruption marketing is the exact opposite of permission marketing, and considered “old school” and ineffective in the social media space).

Which is why it’s great when you come across a company that does do it right.  NPR did it pretty darn well for me this morning when I went to email someone an article, here’s how I did it:

This is pretty standard.  When I went to put in my NPR station, that’s when it got good:

There was a nice auto-fill drop-down menu that allowed me to quickly choose my station.  Granted, they were using this to collect data, but they sure made it easy for me to give them the data they wanted, and all I had to do was start typing…. no scrolling through a bunch, or even having to click a lot.

The super-easy buttons may be nothing new, but it was to-the-point and again allowed me to move along quickly, while they still got the info that they wanted.

Part of the email I received as both confirmation and invitation to a further action very nicely and obviously told me that I didn’t need to register for the community.  Well I signed up anyway.

And they brought me almost directly to an FAQs section on their community, which is what they were asking me to sign up for.  It answered important questions like:

Great!  I was wondering what made it different.  And look, I can even rate whether the answer was helpful.

None of this seems new, but the way that everything was put together made it easy for me as a user, it made it a quick process with few steps and clicks, was non-instrusive, and asked me for my permission along the way. NPR used regular tactics, put a little bit of thought into the design and the communications, and made me not only say yes, but made it pretty hard for me to say no.

So next time you want to ask people to listen to you or join you, make it so easy that no doesn’t enter their heads.  That takes thought, as Tim Walker put it:

Who else does it right?  What makes it easy for you to say yes?

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