Have you ever noticed how businesses on Twitter and Facebook often will ask their followers inane questions? For example,
“The weather forecast looks good. What are your weekend plans?”
asked by an auto repair shop.
“What’s your favorite kind of pie?”
asked by a search engine.
I know questions like these strike me as noise and they honestly make me twitch. But, fortunately I suppose, I’m not like everyone. Inevitably, there is a flurry of chatter from their followers looking to chime in. That activity is what the business is looking for and benefits from.
For years, it has been very advantageous to create interesting web site content other people will link to from other sites. Search engines used (use?) the number of links from other sites as a measure to differentiate high quality pages from low quality ones. So attracting links was a means to rank higher in search engines. Google called their measure of page quality as PageRank.
On Facebook there is also a ranking algorithm called “EdgeRank.” Facebook uses this metric to decide who (people) or what (Pages) appears highest in your “Top News” newsfeed. For a FB post to earn a high EdgeRank, FB users need to interact with it (“Likes”, comments, shares). It has even been demonstrated that posts with a really low EdgeRank may not appear in your “Most Recent” newsfeed.
So by getting followers to interact with inane questions, the business is gaining by
- Exposing its Facebook presence to friend of its friends
- Casually reinforcing the relationships with its followers in a fun way
- Demonstrating to Facebook interactions with followers which will lead to a higher EdgeRank
It should be noted that PageRank was site-specific, meaning it applied to how search results were presented to everyone. EdgeRank is person-specific. Content on my FB page will have a different measure for someone who has never visited the page than for someone who has visited and interacted with the page content. Also notable is that EdgeRank does not consider the number of followers a page has. In this way, a page with a small number of followers that is good at interacting can outplay a page with a large number of followers that isn’t interacting.
As you’ve seen it’s really easy to put up “softball” questions to your followers. If you can do so in an entertaining way, more power to you (I don’t twitch so much when I can at least be entertained).
Knowing not all your followers are Hemingways or even inclined to open the comment box, it is wise to offer your followers something that doesn’t require a full on comment. For example, “Click LIKE if you have ever spoken to a stranger in a crowd thinking they were your spouse.” This will garner more interaction since it requires the least amount of effort and thus a higher EdgeRank.
Have fun with your followers. Their relationship with your brand will grow and your presence on Facebook will improve.