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In these last few days before holiday vacation officially begins, you have probably noticed a steep decline in chatter on your social sites. That’s because although they may not be telling you, your customers are probably “checked out.”  While they may be trying to focus on business, in their minds, they are probably sitting by the fireside at their family home in the woods, sipping on spiked egg nog and waiting for a memorable visit from Santa.

So what do you do?  The old cliche is true – if you can’t beat them, join them.

A recent post on FeverBee – The Online Community Guide focused on growing online communities, suggests taking advantage of the holiday season by starting some “fun, off-topic, conversations which all of your members can participate in.”  This approach to growing a social community, called “discussion seeding”, can be quite effective.  When you get people talking about a topic on your page that they may not expect to talk about, they tend to have a little fun with it and visit again later, to see what new topic you are talking about.  We do admit that focusing on the holidays is an “out of the box” approach for businesses – after all, that’s what everybody’s focused on right now anyway.

FeverBee’s Richard Millington, suggests a few ideas for posts on your Facebook and Twitter pages that would get everyone talking about the holidays.  Questions like:

“What was your best Christmas?” “What are the worst holiday gifts you’ve ever received?” and looking towards the New Year “What are your predictions for 2011?”

So as the holidays continue to approach, utilize this technique and get people to let their hair down and have a little fun.  However, as you continue to move into the New Year, we recommend that you develop a strategy for discussion seeding with these tips in mind:

Ask your social audience questions that provoke thought.

You want to include subjects that inspire people to put their thinking caps on and offer you sound suggestions.  So ask questions that require some thought, however remember that the social media space is somewhat casual, so make sure that the answers you are looking for do not involve making people respond with mathematical formulas and heavy rhetoric.

Ask your audience to solve problems.

This is the reason why “Dear Abby” and other advice columnists are so popular.  People love to solve other people’s problems and they also love to read about the solutions.  Think about common problems in your line of business and ask for solutions from your audience.  Then, offer appropriate solutions that the audience hasn’t thought of.

Keep the conversation going, ask people to participate and heed calls to action.

Once you get everyone talking about a particular subject on your page, they are going to get in the habit of responding to you.  Keep coming up with provocative topics.  If it’s social media related, for example, questions like: “Should Groupon really have turned down Google’s 6 billion dollar deal” could be a possibility.  As a follow up question, you could ask: “As a business owner, what would you have done in that situation?”  And whenever possible, give your audience calls to action that direct them to engage with your website.

While this may seem like small talk, with increased discussion seeding comes the potential for increased popularity and revenue for your company’s brand.  You never know, you could find that your page has become the most hip place to be in cyberspace.

And if that happens, you have won more than the discussion.