Facebook’s new Questions feature, which the social network rolled out globally on March 24, is a direct response to the interest in new networks like Quora, which had gained a lot of buzz on the internet. Like Quora, Facebook Questions also allows users (and brands) to post questions on their walls, and when a friend or a fan responds to the question, it reflects on their wall as well, so their network can see it in turn.
The feature represents a further opportunity for brands to interact with their loyalists, and drive more interactions with fans on the social network. Third party applications also already brought this function to Facebook, but third party applications require users to give application permissions, which is often a stumbling block – Questions does away with that layer, allowing direct access to people.
Ajaay Gupta, MD Capital Foods said, “It is a very interesting application, with the added advantage that since it’s a native Facebook app it doesn’t need the user to install anything, which they would hesitate to do because of privacy issues.”
He added, “Ching's Secret actually used the Facebook Questions feature within 4 hours of its global launch. We have asked ‘Who will win the Cricket world cup?’ and we asked ‘what is their favourite Chinese dish?’ So it is perfect for surveys and also contests. The added virality is that the response by a user is auto posted on his/her wall and he/she gets to option to further ask the question to their friends.”
At the same time, it’s important to use the new feature in a thoughtful manner, he feels. “The challenge that we would definitely watch out for is overuse leading to perception as spam. Any content or post needs to educate, amuse, enlighten or entertain the reader.”
Asking the Right Questions
The relevance of content is clearly important. While Questions doesn’t allow open ended answers like Quora, users can be allowed add more answers to the multiple choice answers presented. This flexibility can help brands to learn more from their customers, if they can choose the right questions.
Yashraj Vakil, COO Red Digital said, “We’re not sure about the best way to use it right now, but we’re experimenting with it ourselves before we bring it to the clients. What we’re seeing is that if the questions are very relevant, like ‘who will win the next match?’, then you generate a lot of responses, but if you ask something open ended, like ‘who will be the man of the match?’, then the interaction is less.”
He added, “We’re working with it now, and our feeling is that it is a very good tool. Earlier, when we wanted to ask people questions for participation, we would post a question on the wall and see some response. Questions allows multiple choice answers which is crisp and easy, so we feel it will generate a much better response than posting on the wall.”
Chris George, CEO EBS Worldwide also agreed that there is a lot of potential for the new feature. He said, “I think it’s brilliant for the time being, until it becomes a blind spot, like the SMS Spam that we’re all used to by now. However until then, if brands use the medium in an intelligent and most important – relevant manner, this could work very well.”
Will this hurt Q&A networks?
Questions falls into a similar category as Yahoo Answers and Quora, but there are some differences. The answers are not free form – some of the answers on Quora, given by industry experts, tend to be very technical and lean towards being entire essays by themselves. This is something you can’t do on Facebook Questions. The other difference is that the questions are limited to you and your network, so for customer support and inquiries, the other services are going to fare better; if I need to know what people think about a particular product, I’m more likely to search Google than my social network.
On the other hand, it is my network of trusted peers – so I’m more likely to solicit advice, and trust the answers. And for that reason, for brands, collecting information and reaching more people through trusted networks is a lot more effective through Facebook Questions.
While the service will probably not be the new Quora, it will certainly become a part of the Facebook ecosystem, and early adoption is looking quite positive, as users themselves are showing an interest in the feature.