Why this sudden trend and momentum towards Questions and Answers?
First, Status Updates are passé. The social web needs to move beyond.
Second, Check-ins were an evolution of the status update, but they lack mainstream appeal, have privacy related issues, and are limited in scope (you have to move to check-in to a different location).
Third, Q&As are more attractive to both users and businesses:
- Q&As vastly increase the actual usefulness of a social site by several orders of magnitude. This is the obvious, perceived benefit for users.
- Meaningful questions reveal more about a person than mindless status updates. This leads to better profile information than what people may or may not reveal in their profiles.
- Questions reveal Intent. Advertisers are more likely to target “Which are the best places to travel to Goa?” (Question) than “Wish I could spend the New Year in Goa!” (Status Update).
- Questions have a much greater possibility of eliciting responses, leading to greater interaction, translated as more time spent using the site/service.
- Answers reveal more information about a person’s expertise and interest than what people may or may not reveal in their profile.
Update: To illustrate the last point further, let’s say you answer the question “What’s the best telescope to buy at home?” and it gets voted up. Bingo! Now, even if you don’t have Astronomy listed as a hobby or interest, Facebook knows you’re an Astronomy enthusiast. Also remember, all this information is public and search engines would be glad to get their hands on it. Imagine Blekko with a slashtag search of all Q&A sites – it would be a gold mine for marketers.
What’s next? I wouldn’t be surprised if check-ins and Q&A were tied together. Answers from a person geographically closer may be of higher relevance for certain type of questions. You can add special Badges for the most answered questions about a location, and you get the next version of “Mayor” in FourSquare.