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Facebook Q&As: Marketers' New Fireside Chat

Does your brand have more than 10,000 Facebook fans? If so, you have access to a unique feature that marketers are just beginning to explore: Facebook Q&A. Although the social media network introduced the tool in 2013, it’s been largely ignored until recently. Celebrities from Prince to Diane Sawyer are engaging with their audiences in Q&A sessions; it’s time for brands to follow suit.

Although the feature isn’t yet available to pages or individuals with fewer than 10,000 fans, Facebook has indicated the cut-off will eventually be lowered. Marketers for brands of all sizes ought to be prepared.

One question that immediately jumps to mind: Is there any advantage to using Facebook over Twitter for a chat session? As Julie Ask of Forrester Research states, “this isn’t a question of either-or—this is a question for brands looking for more of their consumers in more places.” Here, we take a look at how Facebook Q&A works, then compare it to the more familiar Twitter chat function that marketers love.

How to create a Facebook Q&A

Setting up the event is as simple as creating a new post and selecting the “Q&A” option. Inviting fans to the event is the fastest way to get attention, but marketers won’t be able to invite everyone. Facebook limits the numbers that one person can invite to prevent an event being reported as spam, so brands should invite their most engaged fans first and allow them to invite others.

Next, marketers will want to promote the event on their brand page’s timeline. (Note: Promoting other than on your timeline is essential if you want better visibility). NPR has more than 3 million fans, but found that only around 100,000 of them saw its timeline post about an upcoming Q&A. To add personality, brands can include images as Eminem did in the example below.

Once the Q&A is underway, Facebook uses algorithms to move the most popular questions to the top (based on the number of likes and replies). Questions are threaded, so it’s easy to see which ones still need a response.

To control the quality of the Q&A page, administrators can ban unsavory participants and delete troll or inappropriate comments. The page doesn’t automatically refresh itself, so whoever’s running the session will want to refresh the feed (and tell participants to do the same). Admins can choose to leave the Q&A open indefinitely so they can return later to answer questions, or simply update the post and let people know it has finished. Also note from Katherine Heigl’s Q&A below, marketers might want to set out the direction of questions right from the start.

Facebook Q&A vs. Twitter Chats

Now that we understand how it works, let’s consider the benefits of using Facebook Q&A versus Twitter chats:

  • Facebook is easier to follow, since the threaded questions and answers are all set within one post. Twitter is not as easy to follow, especially if participants are not using a tool like TweetDeck.
  • The hashtag is not a necessary part of set-up, meaning marketers can avoid the trolls that latch onto trending hashtags.
  • It’s easy to keep people updated with what’s happening simply by updating the post.
  • It’s easy for people to find the Q&A on the brand’s Facebook page afterward. It’s not so easy with Twitter ,as it will be jumbled up amongst all other tweets.
  • Users aren’t limited to 140 characters on Facebook, so they can provide more complex answers.

Facebook Q&A has a few cons, too:

  • Users need to refresh their Facebook pages since live updating doesn’t happen like it does on Twitter.
  • Even though the most popular questions surface at the top, they’re not necessarily relevant. Someone could add something completely off-topic and it would be prominently featured if it had a lot of likes.
  • Participants are difficult to pick up in real time. On Twitter, users continuously see updated tweets in their feeds—not so on Facebook.
  • There’s no “trending” feature that allows you to pick up even more participants who aren’t fans.
  • Facebook Q&A's are difficult to follow chronologically, because the popular posts (not the most recent) appear at the top.

A balancing act

Brands should hold events on both social media platforms to make the most of where their fans hang out, but strategies will differ on each. For example, the decline in organic reach on Facebook means that brands are more likely to need advertising to better promote the event. On Twitter, brands could choose to advertise, but they can also place a few well-timed tweets to receive similar results.

It’s increasingly challenging to be noticed above the noise, so brands need to be trying these tools for engagement. Has your company tested Facebook Q&A? Share your experiences in the comments below.

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