Beta testing has begun for a new Facebook feature, Facebook Questions, which allows users to ask and answer questions via the social media network.
The Questions product is strongly reminiscent of Yahoo! Answers, whererin users exchange questions and answers by posting to message boards.
Currently only 1% of Facebook users are able to access the testing version of Questions, with Facebook planning an eventual universal implementation of the feature if it proves to be a success.
Users will be able to ask Facebook Questions in a variety of ways: by updating their statuses, via the search field, or by using a new dashboard specifically developed for Questions. Popular Questions will be able to be identified by user-added category tags for ease of reference.
One might think that asking questions on a social media platform would personalise the task of online information-gathering, with users going to their friends for answers instead of the whole of the Internet. Not so – every question posted via the new feature will be entirely public. No exceptions allowed.
Then again, this is Facebook. User privacy is not its forte.
Beyond giving Facebook users access to the collective wisdom of their 500 million plus online brethren, the upcoming format will present new opportunities for using social media in business.
A brand’s Facebook fan page will be enabled with the Questions feature – so expect to see Coke and McDonalds asking and answering their way to real-time consumer research and viral marketing in the near future.
At least they’ll probably be giving away freebies in exchange for answers.