Sometime last year, social networking giant Facebook launched an online Q&A product called Questions. It was thought to be a feature that would rival Yahoo! Answers or the much buzzed-about Quora – in that Facebook Questions would be a similar online database of knowledge, built by hundreds of millions of users – but the product eventually failed to gain traction. Few people used it.
Now, Facebook Questions has been revamped and made more “social”. It’s probably less ambitious than its first version, but it’s certainly better and more useful this time.
In a March 25 announcement made on the Facebook blog, product manager Adrian Graham explained the Facebook Questions update: “Friends are often the best source of advice when you’re trying new things. Friends know your tastes, and you have confidence in their opinions. Over the summer, we began testing Questions with a small group of people, and today we are beginning to roll it out to everyone…. There are lots of places on the Internet where you can get answers from people you don’t know, but there aren’t many places where you can quickly get answers from your friends.”
The new Facebook Questions is meant not so much as a knowledge database as a social recommendation engine, one that makes it easier to ask – and answer – questions. Once activated, the feature shows up at the top of a user’s News Feed and Profile pages as a share option, similar to that for posting status updates, photos, links, and videos. When a user asks a question, it shows up as a poll in his or her friends’ own News Feeds, complete with bulleted answer choices that friends – and friends’ friends – can vote on. (If someone wants to add an answer that isn’t already listed, he or she can add a new one.) Users also have the option of adding photos to their questions.
Once a question is answered by a Facebook user, it shows up in the News Feeds of that user’s friends. This – along with a “Follow” option that allows anyone to receive notifications about questions that interest them – adds to the huge viral potential of the new Facebook Questions.
Unlike the earlier version of Facebook Questions, the new one doesn’t allow free-form answers; content, moreover, can no longer be browsed by topic.
How Facebook Questions can help your business or brand
Because Facebook is making Questions available to personal users as well as to Facebook Pages owners, the feature presents a new opportunity for businesses and brand managers to leverage this social question-and-answer product as a tool for market research, crowdsourcing, customer service and support, and social media marketing. When a Facebook Page owner asks a question, it will be shared across the News Feeds of users who liked the page.
In a recent post by Brian Anthony Fernandez on Mashable, Ben Grossman, communication strategist for Oxford Communications, asserted that the Questions platform allows brands and businesses to engage with followers on a high level, emerge as a thought leader, and learn from customers – all at the same time. Grossman adds, “When Facebook adds major new functionality like Questions, it stands to shift the social dynamic of over 500 million people, creating richer, more diverse and increasingly dynamic conversations.”
So if you’re a business owner, social media manager, brand strategist, or Internet marketer, you can now use Facebook Questions to ask those users who liked your page questions like:
- What should our flavor of the week be?
- Which organization would you like to see benefit from our upcoming charity event / program?
- Who do you want to see interviewed in our next show / video / podcast / blog entry?
- Which fashion items are you most likely to shop for this season?
And so on and so forth. Questions, of course, would depend on your industry and type of business. But one thing is clear: the revamped Facebook Questions adds yet another dimension to the amazing social media and Internet marketing possibilities available on the social network.