Question: Is Facebook Questions a Quora killer?
Answer: Wrong question.
Facebook’s launch of Facebook Questions today adds yet another product to the ever-expanding multi-tool that is the Facebook social graph. Whereas Quora is a utility in search of social critical mass, Facebook is social critical mass in search of more and better utilities. This is why we see Places, Payments, Deals, and other products launch discretely, slowly building out a set of use cases for the massive data set that is Facebook’s core asset.
At its core, Questions is a simpler, more streamlined way to ask questions of your friends than using the status update. It’s useful for the average Facebook member, in that it will return a more structured view of your friends’ favorite New York hotels, what car they’d buy next, or what band you should be listening to. The question itself, and a link to answers, will appear in your news feed.
But another important use case for Questions stems from what it will deliver to Facebook Pages, specifically to brands. Imagine the ability to do instant polling of Facebook Fans, package the insights and use them for decision-making. At its simplest, it’s a lightweight way to engage fans; at its most sophisticated, it could be a simple innovation engine, or a method to do A/B testing of a new concept.
- Consumers should recognize that questions answered within Facebook Questions still retain all the privacy of their account, while responding to contests (and submitting their email addresses as part of the registration) enables brands to contact them outside the Facebook relationship.
- Brands should think about whether their goal is to obtain fans’ email addresses for marketing purposes, and whether the poll needs to be an intrinsic part of an existing branded campaign.
- Both should realize that friends of friends can also answer these questions, so make sure that privacy settings reflect your intentions about sharing this information.
So is Facebook Questions a Quora killer?
It’s the wrong question, because not every problem can be solved using the social graph.
While I might ask my friends which pair of Tom’s shoes to buy, or where to go for a weekend getaway, I might go to Quora to answer a question about the difference between UI and UX design, or why Barnes & Noble is doing well, while Borders has filed for bankruptcy. Why? Only some of my friends will hear that as signal. The rest will think it’s noise. The answer is dependent on the context of the relationship I have with them, their interests and their preferences.
We’re going to see a lot of disruption in this idea of the social graph, what it means and how it should be used. But the point is this: rather than thinking about the social graph as an entity in and of itself, think of it as a series of interconnected networks based on context–profession, interests and friends.