Generating questions (and answers) in social media

good question

Scour any university website and it won’t take long to discover a list of frequently asked questions. But all too often these FAQ aren’t those questions most often asked, but the answers the school most often likes to give.

So where do I get the good stuff?

Social media marketing thrives on the trusted referrals of friends. And as such, several social sites seek to tackle the best way to pair quality questions with quality answers. The following are a few of my favorites:

Facebook Questions

The Facebook Q-and-A option enjoys the benefit of being a product of the largest social network out there. It’s a great tool for posting quick polls to see where people stand and share what you know.

  • What I Like: The Facebook Q-and-A service is easy to use and can quickly generate a wealth of responses, especially if the question is universal and appeals to a wide array of users. For example, the average post to our university Facebook page generates a dozen likes and half as many comments. The second question posted netted more than 125 votes.
  • What I Dislike: While an easy way to reach a ton of people, Facebook questions isn’t so great at crediting the person who asked for the answer. A question may generate 1,000 responses but rarely do those responses convert into people who like a page.


Quora is a collection of questions and answers, continually updated and voted to prominence by users. The goal is a noble one: Quora wants to have each question page become “the best possible resource for someone who wants to know about the question.”

  • What I Like: The questions are good and the answers are solid. There are some great, insightful minds logging into Quora offering expert advice and opinions on any number of topics. The knowledge is strong.
  • What I Dislike: There doesn’t seem to be the critical mass of users to make this site a social hit. I have an account, follow a few questions and have several people following me in return. It’s more work than fun, meaning the times I participate on Quora are few and far between.


Formspring allows users to invite people to answer any question they want. Users select the questions they choose to answer and delete the ones they don’t. The site is easy to use and easily compatible with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and others.

  • What I Like: The beauty of Formspring is its simplicity. It’s just as easy to submit questions as it is to answer them. For a great example in higher education, check out St. Michael’s College. The anonymous option also allows more authentic conversations to occur.
  • What I Dislike: The anonymous option allows more wiggle room for the trolls. And I’m not convinced the user base is strong enough to devote more resources to developing a full-scale Formspring campaign.

Yahoo! Answers

Yahoo! Answers allows users to ask and answer anything and encourages participation by rewarding Yahoo! Users to identify quality answers. More active participants rise to a higher level and unlock a handful of features: unlimited answers, unlimited votes, etc.

  • What I Like: Yahoo! Answers has been around a while and the site does a solid job if categorizing its questions and provides a solid forum for open discussion. Plus, the people are there.
  • What I Dislike: Some of the answers can be off topic, crass or unhelpful. Few people cite references and I’m not sure I trust most of what gets posted there.

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3 Responses to “Generating questions (and answers) in social media”

  1. I completely agree with your assessment of Facebook’s new Questions feature. I believe it’s an awesome way to generate a lot of quick engagement. It even gives users the opportunity to be creative, when they create their own answer to the question. I greatly dislike it, because it doesn’t bring people to the fan page and doesn’t force them to like the fan page.

    April 21, 2011 at 2:05 pm


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