Everything you ever wanted to know about using Facebook Questions

When I first saw Facebook Questions, I wasn’t overwhelmed.

I knew the value of asking questions within normal Status updates, but the Questions interface and the aesthetics of the resulting Page posts put me off.

However, I tried them out on one of my pages earlier today, and I’m actually pretty impressed with the results: within the first hour, the post had generated 375 interactions (from a base of 56,000) – much higher than most other types of updates I’ve used on this page, including photos (which generally drive the greatest levels of interaction):

So how can brands take advantage of Questions?

Here are the details of my experiment, and what I’ve learned.

The Basics

First of all, if you’ve not seen Questions before, it’s the farthest right of the status update options:

Asking a question is pretty straightforward – you write out your question, give a few default options as answers:

It’s worth noting that you can also tag other Pages as Options for people to vote for too: as you start typing any entry for an Option, Facebook offers you a list of Pages to choose from in a drop-down:

Simply click on any of the Pages in the list to add that Page’s title as an answer (referred to as an ‘Option’) in your Question.

You can add up to 10 default Options (whether as simple text or tagged Pages), but if you leave the “Allow anyone to add options” box checked, other people will be able to add a seemingly endless number of other options of their own:

Fortunately, Page Admins can moderate these user-generated options (more on that below).

Once you’ve added all your options, you simply click the ‘Ask question’ button to post the question to your Page.

On The Page

This is what the subsequent Page post looks like:

As I mentioned, these posts leave something to be desired aesthetically, but the level of interaction I’m seeing in my experiment means I’ll overlook that for now.

Getting Involved

One reason why Questions may work so well is that they offer fans a number of different ways to interact.

Firstly, they offer people a way to express their opinions – something we already know encourages interaction with any kind of update.

People can vote simply by clicking the check-box next to an Option; they can also vote for as many Options as they like, even all of them.

Secondly, if you choose to allow people to add their own (new) Options by leaving the “Allow anyone to add options” box checked, people can get much more involved.

In my experiment, many of the Page’s fans voted for one of the options I’d suggested, but a large number also added options of their own.

Anyone who clicks on the box ‘[xx] more…’ box under the first 3 default answers in the Question’s status update (in their own newsfeed or on the Page itself) is taken to a dialogue box where they can vote for any of the previous Options (whether generated by the Page or other people), or add a new option of their own:

If you’re worried about other people adding unsuitable additional Options, you will need to check back manually and look at the list. Should someone add something you’d like to remove, the process is a little complex, but it is possible.

First of all, you need to open the Question dialogue box:

The subsequent dialogue box opens in a stand-out format similar to the ‘gallery’ style Facebook uses for photos:

Notice that friends’ avatars appear next to the Options they’ve voted for. This is true of everyone who votes, not just Admins, but the visibility of their picture will depend on each individual’s privace settings.

Right down at the bottom of this dialogue box shown in the image above is the ‘Edit options’ link:

When an Admin clicks this link, it changes the Question dialogue box into an editable format that allows them to remove or change Options. Critically, clicking the ‘x’ box next to an Option will allow an Admin to delete it:

Newsfeed and Profile Objects

Another potential reason for Questions’ high response rates is the way Facebook shares details of how people have interacted with a Question: rather than simply posting a straightforward ‘[person] likes [Page]’s update‘ into friends’ newsfeeds, a Question newsfeed object tells people what their friends have actually voted for:

Best of all, this newsfeed item can appear in the newsfeeds of all that person’s friends, regardless of whether those people are already connected to the Page or not.

You also may have noticed that the newsfeed object offers people the chance to ‘Ask friends’ too:

Anyone who clicks that link will see a dialogue box that allows them to invite all of their friends:

Alongside these newsfeed elements, Questions also generate some interesting Profile updates for people who participate:

You’ll notice that this person’s Profile has two distinct entries relating to the Question: one for their actual votes, and one for a comment that they added to the Question post.

Like and Share

Interestingly, the ubiquitous ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ links are missing from both the newsfeed objects and Profile entries. This may be partly because votes work in a very similar way to a ‘Like’, posting that interaction to people’s Profiles and to their friends’ newsfeeds.

The ‘Share’ option is actually available, but it’s hidden right down at the bottom of the Question dialogue box we saw earlier, next to the Page’s avatar, and is quite easy to miss:

Clicking ‘Share’ brings up the usual Facebook Share dialogue box that allows people to add their own introductory text to the update:

As with other uses of the Share functionality, people can choose to post the Question on their own Profile, or to a variety of other options, including a Private Message:

Following

However, in the Question dialogue box we saw earlier, it’s the two buttons to the right of the Share button – ‘Ask friends’ and ‘Unfollow’ – that are particularly interesting.

The ‘Ask friends’ button works in a similar way to the ‘Ask friends’ link described above, but the ‘Unfollow’ button relates to a different function that is quite intriguing.

When you ask a Question, you (as the Question’s Admin) automatically ‘Follow’ its progress – i.e. you receive updates about other people’s interactions. However, ‘Follow’ is not the default setting for other people who interact with the Question. They can choose to receive these updates though, by clicking on the ‘+1 Follow’ button that appears when they interact with the question:

Doing this will allow them to keep track of what everybody else votes in the poll too.

Comments

As you can see in the image above, this dialogue box also allows people to comment on the Question, and once again, there is something interesting about its functionality: when a fan opens the Question post, the default view only shows comments made by their Friends (this is evident in the image above).

People can access all the other comments simply by clicking on the ‘Others’ link, but this restricted initial view is worthy of note, especially because Questions are the latest introduction to the Facebook platform; I’d be interested to know whether this indicative of other, future developments around Page commenting.

Notifications

Oddly, the way Facebook keeps Page Admins updated of a Question’s interactions is closer to the notifications we’re used to in personal Profiles than those we see for other kinds of Page updates.

From what I can see, Admins get the same notifications as non-Admins who have participated in the Question poll:

Similarly, if a Page Admin uses the ‘Ask friends’ functionality, it will only allow them to invite their personal (i.e. Profile, not Page) friends; there doesn’t appear to be an option to send the Question to all of a Page’s fans (as you might do using the ‘Send update’ functionality).

Afterthoughts

This is the first time I’ve used Questions in any depth, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to replicate the same levels of interaction seen above in any future poll.

My sense is that Questions are something to use once in a while, and only when you have a question that you know people will engage with (see here for a few more thoughts on that).

However, the powerful engagement offered by Questions should certainly not be overlooked, and is well worth experimenting with to see how it can work for your brand.

I hope that overview gives you plenty of ideas on how to use Questions for your own Page, but don’t forget there’s a whole section of Facebook Help dedicated to Questions too.

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