Is Facebook's New Questions Product An Engagement Trick?

Determining that something should be a fundamental component of human communication is a pretty big deal, but for Facebook that’s exactly what they do every time they launch a new feature to help users share with each other. One of the highly buzzed about products that the company is currently testing is “Questions”, something we first broke the news about back in April. Now more details have surfaced about the product.

Earlier this week Techcrunch received screenshots of the new Questions product which has been in testing for months. The initial reaction of many users is that it’s not for intellectuals. However that may simply be because the tipster’s friends are not interested in intellectually stimulating conversations, instead they’re more interested in Glee (as pictured below).

Additionally, the odds of you consistently asking “intellectually stimulating” questions among your friends is probably not extremely high, unless you hang out with a bunch of students pursuing their doctorates. Regardless of the quality of the content, there’s no doubt that questions are highly engaging, and also a potentially good source of search traffic, if the content was public.

Numerous business models are founded on this exact model, including Yahoo! Answers, Mahalo, and many others. Whenever we see a new Facebook product we often wonder if there’s a specific business purpose that the application will serve. Often times it may be little more than intent to test out new products, however Questions products can be extremely sticky.

Quora, for example, has built and extremely engaged community around asking questions, but many worry that once “the masses” join the service it will get filled with noise. While I’m confident that the Quora developers have already devised a system that will filter through the noise, the point is that the product can get users to keep coming back.

As David Kirkpatrick highlights in The Facebook Effect, the Photos application is essentially Facebook’s “killer” app. Since then, the company has been searching for products that are equally sticky, but unfortunately most haven’t been as effective. One way of continuing this search was opening up the Facebook Platform to developers. Three years later it appears as though FarmVille was the killer app.

I’m sure the company is convinced that there are other “killer” products out there and my guess is that Questions could be one of those. While it may not be focused on revenue, it could generate a massive amount of engagement for Facebook and help the company further attract brand dollars.