Will Facebook Questions help keep the lights on?

August 2, 2010

Last week Facebook released its Questions feature to an estimated 3 to 5 million users. In the conversation that ensued, I’ve seen Questions referred to as everything from “a game changer” to a weak, watered-down version of Quora. No matter what your forecast, it’s giving individuals an unprecedented opportunity to engage with 500 million strangers, and blowing our concept of “social graph” to smithereens.

The catch of the new feature is that questions are not subject to current privacy settings; Facebook aims to deliver questions to the most relevant of its 500 million users. While this will allow Facebook Questions to compete with Yahoo Answers in theĀ searc engine results pagesĀ if/when the feature is indexed, it also runs into the same issue that Yahoo Answers is plagued with: poor quality of answers. Facebook is banking on quantity translating into quality in that there are bound to be experts on something among 500 million users, but I can only imagine the answers to questions will become so fragmented and numerous that the user experience will be poor.

The silver living? It’s more bronze. From a marketer’s perspective, the silver lining would have been enhanced user data, but the extent to which Facebook will use this data has yet to been seen. As Mashable reported earlier, “Facebook clearly stated that Facebook Questions is not an advertising product.” They continue, “While brands with Facebook Pages will eventually be able to answer questions, it’s not meant to be a promotional platform; it’s meant to be a useful and insightful product for users.”

Do users pay for that shiny building in Palo Alto, Calif. — eh, Facebook?!?

Until Facebook opens up the feature to embrace brands, I’ll be experimenting LinkedIn-style with Facebook Questions using my personal profile, combing through posted questions, looking for opportunities to share knowledge and establish thought leadership. Now, for my first question, “How will you use Facebook Questions?”