Facebook phases out Questions for pages

4

As part of Facebook’s advertising simplification, the company planned to phase out several ad units and focus on objectives. Many Facebook page admins noticed recently that the Questions product has been eliminated.

Facebook announced last month that Questions (as well as Offers) would be phased out as the company tires to make advertising easier and more accessible.

Facebook confirmed to AllFacebook that the Questions product is now history (for most pages, at least):

We’re no longer offering questions as an advertising product, or as a tool for all pages on Facebook, but we’re exploring the value questions bring to pages that produce public content — like news organizations, for example. Questions will remain as a tool for a small group of these types of pages, so that they can help us test a few improvements we’re making to the ways people and pages interact on Facebook.

Something Facebook wanted to do when they announced plans to simplify ads was to eliminate redundancies. Facebook feels that questions asked by pages could be better done by posting a photo or video with a question.

Readers: How often did you use Questions for your page?

Image courtesy of Facebook.

Facebook makes Questions product available only for groups, pages

Facebook has removed the Questions feature from users’ News Feed publisher, leaving the product only available to groups and pages, TechCrunch confirms.

Questions has gone through a number of iterations, never quite catching on as the social network envisioned. It began in 2010 as a Q&A community, similar to Quora, but that product didn’t even make it out of beta. The company overhauled Questions and relaunched it as a type of polling and recommendation feature in 2011, focusing on users’ opinions rather than facts.

Ultimately, Questions turned out to be more of a novelty feature than a utility and the company subsequently put little development into it. It was nearly a year after the product launched that Facebook even made it possible to see and answer questions from mobile devices. Users never gained a way to ask questions via mobile.

The product did take off more among page owners. Marketers found success in asking Questions in a format that users could quickly answer. And since they generated News Feed stories when users answered them, Questions could go viral, especially when they first launched and had higher weight in the feed. For now, pages still have the option to create Questions, albeit behind a drop-down menu where they’ve been since April. In August, we saw Facebook testing a new, more visual format for the feature. We wonder whether this may become a paid feature similar to Offers and perhaps Collections.

Facebook has also left Questions in tact for groups and events, suggesting that the feature has been useful for helping small groups of people make decisions together.

When it launched, Questions seemed like it could be an interesting social plugin for blogs and news sites to get feedback and engagement from readers, but Facebook never offered this. In fact, it didn’t even add the ability to write Questions via the Graph API until 10 months after launch.

Facebook tests larger visual format for Questions

Facebook appears to be testing a new format for its Questions product, which includes large photos that users can click on to respond.

We saw the social network testing this on its own “Known Issues on Facebook” and “Facebook Tips” pages, but could not recreate the format with our own pages or personal accounts. It’s unclear whether this is an exclusive feature for Facebook or a test of something that may roll out to other users. We’ve reached out to the company for more information.

[Update 8/22/12 9:04 a.m. PT - Facebook said in a statement, "We are currently testing a feature that allows page administrators to attach a photo to a question. This is still a test, and we have no further details to share at this time."]

The new layout is much more noticeable in News Feed and includes subtle animations when users mouse over the different options. After users choose an answer, they will see how others voted. This aspect appears in the same format that Facebook originally used for Questions.

A version of new format also appears on mobile devices when users click through from a friend’s News Feed story. Users can respond by touching the image they want to vote for.

Questions is a product that never seemed to take off as the polling and recommendation feature Facebook seemed to envision, and subsequently, we haven’t seen the company put much development into it. It was nearly a year after the product launched that Facebook even made it possible to see and answer questions from mobile devices. Users still can’t ask questions via mobile.

Marketers, however, often find Questions useful for engaging their fans. We can imagine this larger format being especially effective if it is extended to more pages. And with Facebook testing page post ads in News Feed, this may become a new interactive advertising opportunity.

Videos, events now featured in publisher tool for pages; Questions demoted to drop-down menu

Facebook appears to be testing a consolidated content publisher on pages, giving new prominence to videos and events while hiding the Questions feature behind a drop-down menu.

The publisher is the area from which page owners make posts to their fans. With the initial rollout of Timeline for pages, the publisher included options to post a status, photo, question or milestone. Milestones are posts that get larger placement on Timeline to commemorate important events or achievements. One problem with the old publisher was that it wasn’t clear that to upload a video, page owners had to click “photo.” See below.

Now the publisher features three sections: status, photo/video and event/milestone+. When page owners click event/milestone, they will see options to create an event, share a milestone or ask a question. (See below.) This makes event creation much simpler than before, when it could take several clicks to add a new event, but it makes the Questions feature much less noticeable. It’s unclear whether Facebook is trying to discourage page owners from using Questions, but its placement suggests it’s a lower priority for the company.

Although only certain partners have access to Facebook offers for now, we are told the ability to create an offer will soon be available from the publisher. We do not know how much prominence the feature will get when it rolls out.

The Facebook publisher has gone through a number of iterations both for users and for pages over the years. The social network seems to go back and forth between offering more or fewer options in the space. At one point the tool included third-party apps under a drop-down menu, but then Facebook eliminated the feature citing low usage. Events were added to the publisher in 2009, but removed a year later. We can likely expect more tinkering with the publisher this year as Facebook tries to find a balance between streamlining the user interface and making people aware of all the options available to them.

It’s worth noting that when page owners choose the “use Facebook as a page” feature, they see an older version of the homepage publisher, which includes separate options for links and videos. Some time in the past few months, the social network grouped photos and videos together, as well as status and links, but it did not update this less frequently used aspect of the site seen below.

Hat tip to AllFacebook for first making us aware of the change.

Facebook Questions appear in mobile News Feed

Facebook now displays Questions activity in the mobile News Feed nearly a year after the product launched on the desktop version of the site.

Mobile users can finally see and answer Facebook Questions from their friends and pages. This could increase engagement for pages who use the feature to poll their fan base and could boost viral reach. However, users still cannot ask Questions from native apps or m.facebook.com.

When the product launched in March 2011, many pages found success getting more fans to respond to structured Questions than posts that posed questions in plain text. In recent months, fewer pages seem to be using the feature. This reporter’s own experience is that impressions and responses for Facebook Questions dropped significantly in the last half of 2011, underperforming compared to photo and link posts. It is unclear whether this was the result of fan apathy, Facebook no longer favoring Question posts in News Feed, more users checking the site via mobile where Questions weren’t visible or some other factor.

Allowing Questions to be viewed and answered from mobile News Feed could improve the performance of this type of post. It is also likely part of Facebook’s plan to bring ads to mobile. Companies can pay to promote page posts including Questions as ad units on the web. We imagine Facebook’s mobile ads will be in-stream versions of Sponsored Stories, not a separate offering, so the social network has to make Questions available on all devices in order to not divide its ad product.

Questions has been a somewhat neglected feature, lacking a mobile component and open API until recently. We think Questions has a future as a plugin for blogs and news sites to get feedback and engagement from readers, but the company has yet to offer this option.

Facebook expands Questions API

Facebook added the option to write structured question posts through the Graph API on Friday.

Applications can now ask Facebook Questions on behalf of users or pages that authorize them to do so. This is particularly useful for page management applications like those from Involver, Buddy Media or Vitrue, which allow admins to write and schedule posts from another platform. Page owners can use these apps to share links or photos, but they have not been able to use them to ask Facebook Questions. With the new write API, developers can now make this an option.

The social network’s Questions product is unique in that it allows users to create polls that other users can add options to. Asking or answering a question generates a story in News Feed. Pages use Questions to promote interaction among fans, but the feature hasn’t caught on among users as Facebook seemed to envision — a company blog post in March 2011 positioned Questions as a way to get recommendations from friends.

The addition of the write API follows the read permissions that Facebook introduced last fall. Questions has not otherwise seen any significant design or functional improvements and is still not supported on mobile devices. When it launched, Questions seemed like it could be a useful plugin for blogs and news sites as a way to get feedback and engagement from readers, but the company has not yet offered this option.

Facebook 2011: A Year in Review

Facebook’s “Move fast and break things” mantra was put into action again this year as the company overhauled a number of its products, introduced many new features and eliminated old functionality. Here is a month-by-month review of changes that most affected users, marketers and developers on the platform in 2011.

January

Redesigned Profiles
Facebook started the year with a new look for profile pages. With Timeline on everyone’s minds now, it can be easy to forget that 12 months ago the social network had redesigned profiles to include more photos and information at a glance, eliminating the horizontal tab structure that had been in place since 2008.

All-in-One Messaging
Users began to get access to the new Messages product, which groups all direct messages between users whether they are viewing a conversation from the inbox, chat window or mobile.

Sponsored Stories
In an effort to make advertising more relevant by including social context, Facebook introduced Sponsored Stories that allow advertisers to pay to promote activity on the site, such as likes or check-ins. The company added more Sponsored Story types in April and June.

Memorable Status Updates
Perhaps hinting at the nostalgia-inducing Timeline to come later in the year, Facebook began displaying users’ status updates and stories from the past.

Secure Browsing
Facebook started giving users the option of accessing Facebook over an encrypted connection and encouraged developers to obtain a Secure Sockets Layer certificate to make their iframe apps accessible to users with secure browsing enabled. Since then, the company has prompted users to switch to HTTPS and made SSL certificates mandatory for all developers.

February

Page Redesign
Page owners got a number of new features to help them manage their communities. These included activity notifications, “Use Facebook as a Page,” and a spam filter for comments. Fan pages were also designed to look more like the new user profiles and place pages, which displayed applications vertically on the left hand side rather than in tabs across the top. Advertisers also gained the option of driving ads to any landing tab, not just the default.

Improved Like Button 
Clicking the Like Button began sharing full-sized stories in the News Feed rather than the one-line Recent Activity stories it previously generated. This along with the Send button that came in April have replaced the Share button, which Facebook no longer supports.

Real-Time Commenting
Facebook made commenting more like chat by removing the “Post” button and instead publishing comments after a user hits “enter” on the keyboard. Since this leads to more accidental comments, Facebook later began giving users a 12-second window to edit their comment.

March

Questions
After a Q&A product similar to Quora never made it out of beta in 2010, Facebook relaunched Questions as a poll feature aimed at helping users get recommendations from their friends. Pages began using the feature to engage their fans with questions that had a more viral effect than plain-text posts.

Deals Subscription Service
Facebook seemed to be taking on Groupon when it began a new pre-paid deals service for users in select cities, but it discontinued the test in August.

April

Updated Groups
Ahead of the rumored Google+ launch, Facebook made improvements to its Groups product aimed at helping people share with subsets of their friends. Most notably, group admins gained the ability to approve people before they are added to the group. Users could now also upload photo albums or ask Questions within groups.

Send Button
The Send button was introduced as a way for people to share articles and third-party websites with groups of friends, whereas the Like button posts to all a users’ friends.

May

New Ad Analytics
Facebook made several changes to its advertising analytics dashboard to focus on performance indicators such as Page Likes, app installs and social reach, rather than older online advertising metrics such as CPM.

Recommend This Place
The social network implemented a recommendation box on place pages (and fan pages that included an address) so that users can share their opinions about a location or a business.

Tag Pages in Photos
Users and pages gained the ability to tag other pages in photos they share on the site. This increases the reach of any given photo and builds additional connections between users and pages.

June

Happening Now: Prelude to Ticker
Facebook began testing a “Happening Now” module on the right hand side of the page. This later became the Ticker, which shows more recent activity from your friends, including comments, page likes and now Open Graph activity like listening to a song in Spotify.

July

Mandatory Credits
All developers on the Facebook platform became required to use Credits as the sole payment option for their social games. The company had announced a July 1 deadline at the beginning of the year and then added additional payment options and feedback channels for developers over the next few months to support the transition.

Video Calling and Group Chat
Teaming up with Skype, Facebook integrated video calling into its chat product. The social network also expanded group chat to friends who were not already in designated groups. Users can now add any friend to a chat conversation.

August

Revised Privacy Controls
The company simplified its privacy settings page and moved controls to the profile editor and news feed publisher. Users also gained the ability to approve tags in photos, check-ins and statuses.

Canvas App Page Changes

Facebook made several changes to the Canvas Page, bookmarking and games stories in the news feed in order to improve game discovery, retention and user experience. The redesign added a real-time activity ticker dedicated to stories about a user’s friends engaging with games.

Expanded Ads API
Facebook brought its ad API out of private beta and began allowing more developers to build tools and services that programmatically create, buy and manage Facebook ad campaigns.

Standalone Messenger App
Moving away from its all-in-one mobile application strategy, Facebook released Messenger as a separate app to rival texting and group chat alternatives.

New Locations App for Pages
Some corporations gained access to a beta product that allows them to designate multiple locations under a parent page and include a store finder on the page.

September

Timeline
At F8, Facebook unveiled a new version of user profiles that organizes stories in a timeline format, giving users the option to add life events to any point in their personal history.

Open Graph Application Platform
Along with Timeline, the company announced a new way to connect people and objects beyond the Like button. Developers will be able to make apps that let users share what they are reading, watching, listening to, cooking and more. Along with this comes “frictionless sharing” and additional avenues for app discovery.

Reconfigured News Feed
To accommodate this new type of Open Graph app, Facebook redesigned the home page to include News Feed and Ticker.

Subscribe
Facebook introduced a new one-way follow dynamic with its Subscribe button. Users can subscribe to the public updates of anyone who allows subscribers. This gives the social network a way to compete with Twitter and Google+.

Smart Lists
The social network introduced Smart Lists to automatically group users’ friends by location, workplace and school. As users become comfortable with Facebook grouping friends automatically, we could see Facebook’s algorithms creating more nuanced lists that compete with Google’s Circles feature.

October

Mobile Platform
After much speculation, the company unveiled a way to help mobile developers market their native and HTML5-based apps through its platform. Developers can now take advantage of bookmarks, requests and the news feed in the same way that Facebook canvas developers do.

Talking About This
Facebook added a new public metric to pages called “Talking About This.” This metric encourages pages to think about engagement, not just accumulating Likes.

iPad Application
Facebook released its official iPad app after months of leaks and rumors about its development.

November

Sponsored Stories in Ticker
The social network began showing Sponsored Story ads in the Ticker, signaling more lines being blurred between paid and organic content in the future. The company later told us Sponsored Story ads will be shown within the News Feed starting in 2012.

December

Timeline Goes Live
Facebook began its global release of the Timeline profile developers had gotten a preview of at F8. Timeline is still opt-in for users until sometime in early 2012. The company also debuted Timeline on mobile devices for the first time.

Coupon Test
We discovered Facebook testing a new coupon post feature for pages that could have big implications for next year. Pages that are part of this beta can offer discounts and promote them with Sponsored Stories.

Private Message Test
We have also seen the social network testing a way for users to privately message page owners. This, too, could have a big impact for people using Facebook for business in 2012.

Facebook Adds “Related Posts” with Questions and Comments to Sponsored Stories

Facebook experimented with a new “Related Post” Sponsored Story format that leverages comments and questions over the Thanksgiving holiday to encourage more interaction between consumers and respective brands.

This is an improvement on Facebook’s “Comment” Sponsored Story ad unit, which draws posts from a brand’s Facebook Page to create a display ad with a text question beneath the Sponsored Ad content. Now, the ads don’t have to connect to a previous post, and comment activity on the ad is solely kept within the ad, not connected to the News Feed.

Brands using the new feature receive direct feedback on their ads and products. As brands go through the holiday season, they can adjust their strategies accordingly. Walmart was one of the first brands to apply comments to its sponsored advertising, asking Fans to Like and Comment on its Christmas Price Guarantee, an offer for in-store only purchases. At the time the following screenshot was taken, the ad had accumulated 852 Comments and 19,806 Likes. Note the ad does not appear on Walmart’s Facebook Page, so the number of Likes and comments support the viability of the feature.

For users, the addition of Questions and Comments makes brands more approachable and provides an immediate review mechanism. Comments and answers to Questions become a product review tool, which can influence a user’s brand opinion or purchasing decision. If a user views the Comments of Walmart’s ad only to see users complaining about the deal, that user is more likely to stay away from the offer.

[Thanks to Eti Suruzon for the tip and screenshot]

Reviews and Discussion Tabs Now Removed from Facebook App Profile Pages

The previously announced removal of Reviews and Discussions from application profile pages has now gone into effect.

The removal of Reviews mainly affects developers that solicit reviews for their apps, such as game developers fishing for a five-star rating. By killing the Reviews feature, Facebook is signaling a commitment to surfacing “good” apps only through social discovery.

As for the Discussion tab, Facebook is now encouraging developers to make use of Posts and Comments on their Walls as the best way to encourage conversation:

Facebook’s latest platform updates also reveal a new API for retrieving Page Questions and signal the end of App Reviews and Discussions. The API update follows on a previous Questions modification where developers could retrieve questions asked by users via the Graph API. Now developers can access Questions using a Page.

Facebook also set out a list of breaking changes, including info on the OAuth spec migration, Deprecating Dashboard APIs, removing the Bookmark URL, and updating the FB.Canvas.getPageInfo method so that it must be called with a callback function.

SurveyMonkey’s Facebook Page Tab App Helps Businesses Gain Feedback From Fans

SurveyMonkey today launched a new Facebook Page tab application that helps admins collect surveys from their fans. Once the free app has been added to a Page, admins can select to display any of their pre-made SurveyMonkey along with a Facebook Share button for getting users to distribute a questionnaire to friends. Though its display to existing fans means those using the app will be collecting biased data, it can still be useful for attaining user feedback and market research.

Facebook’s own Questions product offers Pages the ability to query their fans. However, admins can only ask one question at a time, there are no advanced answer analysis tools like the those provided by SurveyMonkey. Businesses and marketers looking to identify the best and worst parts of their product or service, and those wanting a deep look at what attracts their fans to competitors may find significant value in the SurveyMonkey Page tab app.

A basic, free plan gives Page admins access to survey templates, and distribution via weblink, Facebook, Twitter, email, and website embed. The are limits on the number of survey questions that can be asked, the number of responses that can be collected, and branding, though, which are waived with SurveyMonkey’s premium plans.

The popular online survey platform helps clients collect responses from 25 million users a month. It has 8.5 million registered users who create roughly 280,000 surveys a month, and it is rumored to pull in $50 million a year in revenue.

Helmed by CEO David Goldberg, husband of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, SurveyMonkey closed a $100 million round of senior debt financing last year to pay off old debt and fund acquisitions. With feedback crucial to business success, the space has heated up as Techlightenment launched a service for quickly attaining survey responses through Facebook ads in April.

SurveyMonkey already offered an option to share a specially formatted news feed link to survey in order to solicit responses, but this directed users away from Facebook to SurveyMonkey’s website. Page admins may be able to use the new app to attain a higher completion rate on their surveys by keeping respondents within the social network’s chrome.

Oddly, the Facebook Share button within the Page tab app sends users to the SurveyMonkey website rather than back to the app itself. [Update 9/21/2011: This bug has been fixed and the in-app Share button now publishes a link back to the app.] There’s also no easy way for admins to share the app the news feed, as copy and pasting its URL into the Facebook publisher creates an awkward feed story that doesn’t preview the survey or app.

SurveyMonkey needs to redirect the Share button to the app (which it now has) and add an app publishing function so admins can take advantage of the reduced friction of on-site response collection. If it does, it could use the app’s ability to turn fans into focus groups to sell businesses on premium plans.

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