One thing in life that that never seems to change is the fact that Facebook is always changing.
While most Facebook updates are a real source of frustration and create a flurry of negative posts, Facebook may have just hit a home-run that will get fans buzzing. Today, Facebook unveiled their newly revamped (and little known) Questions app (or Tool as they prefer to call it) to a beta trial market and will soon be making it available to all Facebook users. Remember a couple of years ago when you could make your Top Five list of favorite classic rock bands or childhood games or famous people that share your name? If you liked the Top Five app, you are going to love the new Questions tool.
The Questions tool allows Facebook users to start a customized poll to share with friends. The example below shows a Questions poll asking the question, “What are your favorite restaurants in San Francisco?”
When you set up your poll, you will make a list of multiple choice answers for your friends to select from. When they vote, their profile photo appears next to their answer and the results are then re-ordered in real-time with the top vote-getter moving to the top. Each answer also shows a bar graph, but at this time does not show a % statistic. This example screen shot is a bit fuzzy, but if you look closely, you can see that you can make more than one selection. If your friend doesn’t find the answer she likes, she can simply add her own to the list, provided you have enabled that option.
Unlike the Top Five app, the new Questions tool is interactive and will be made available to your friends. Once they respond, it will be made available to their friends, making this a truly viral app. Built-in filtering will allow you to see only your friends’ answers or, if you prefer, you can view the global results of everyone who has participated.
Questions’ greatest appeal may very well be as a marketing tool for business page users to expose new products, poll customers and generate excitement about upcoming events. But smart marketers will step outside the box of conventional wisdom to see the hidden value of respondents interaction. For example Proctor & Gamble might publish a question asking fans to pick their favorite new cleaning product, listing a few products that are currently under consideration. But, here’s where this starts to get interesting . . . what P&G really wants (or should want) is to get ideas for new products that they have not yet thought of. Not only does this give them a chance to go viral and get people discussing their products (and doing so beyond the scope of their current fan base), it also opens the floodgates of creativity dwelling within the online community and may lead to their next big product. Imagine Starbucks asking what they most dislike about the Starbucks experience. Trust me, this will never happen, but imagine if they did. The possibilities are endless.
Businesses will need to remember and repeat over and over the social media marketing mantra, “You are not in control. You are not in control.” Weak kneed CEO’s will elect not to allow answers to be added, and lose out on the most valuable aspect of this app. Others, like the very successful and thick-skinned Victoria’s Secret page are likely to allow user-added responses in spite of the potential for negative comments (check the comments they get on their posts). They may indeed have pinpointed the ‘secret’ to successful social media marketing . . . letting go. The old adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity holds especially true in social media ( just ask Charlie Sheen). The key to getting the most out of the Questions tool will be to allow your company to be vulnerable to criticism. If nothing else, it will give you a barometer of what the public thinks of your company and an opportunity to fix problem areas.
One pesky glitch in the Beta version of the Questions tool is the absence of a “select all” option in the “Ask Friends” window. If you have more than 100 friends (or in the case of a business, “Likes”) and you want to send your question to them and not just chance them seeing it on your wall, you have an ergonomic nightmare on your hands. Hopefully a “Send To All” check box and percentage statistics will be included in the final version. I have also found that this app does not give users the ability to switch between friends’ responses and ‘all’ responses as Facebook had promised and the overall result graphs end up being skewed (see screenshot below). Gingerale has two votes from “others” in addition to the two votes from friends, which should put it into first place with four votes, but Questions only ranks the list by your friends’ responses. The bar graph reflects all responses by friends and by others.
Overall, Questions is an exciting addition to the Facebook toolbox and one that should provide some entertainment value as well as some real marketing value. I think it will breathe some much needed new life into Facebook and help to get people engaged once again. While most changes tend to send FB fans packing and complaining, the development team at Facebook seems to have given them a reason to stick around this time, at least for now. Hopefully Facebook will see the value of the Questions tool and fine tune it to reach its full potential. While Questions will be available to everyone soon, you can try it now here.