Facebook removed its Questions feature for Pages as part of its recent overhaul of advertising products. According to the social network’s leaders, the change was intended to streamline the choices available to marketers and make their processes easier. The decision to include Facebook Questions in the downsizing of its advertising options has sparked mixed reactions among brands.

The good news is that the change doesn’t need to be a negative for your business. Even if you’ve been a regular user of Questions, there are still ways to make an inquiry to your followers. In fact, the elimination of Questions may reveal a better way for your brand to interact with fans while accomplishing the same goals. Here’s how businesses can benefit from losing Facebook Questions.

What Was Missing?

The basic premise of Facebook Questions was certainly sound. Ask your fans about their opinions, their needs, or their interests, and you’ll be able to better deliver what they want. Having a built-in market research tool that also got followers interacting with a brand’s Page seemed like a great asset for businesses using the social network. While Questions delivered on the market research capabilities, it fell short on the second part of its promise.

In order to be a success on Facebook, brands don’t just need answers from their fans. They need activity. Facebook Questions lacked organic engagement with followers. In the same vein as Likes, answering a brand’s query through Facebook Questions usually involved just ticking a check box. That action would appear in the News Feeds of the individual’s friends, but it didn’t create much dialogue or interaction. A person’s involvement with a brand Page was cursory. Respondents might receive updates if they followed a question, but that wasn’t automatically done when they gave answers. With a path of least resistance most prominently available, there were too many steps involved to spark real conversation in Questions.

The feature was also less useful because it was all about the asker. Respondents usually didn’t have a way to add their voice or their nuanced opinions to the topic at hand. Everything was controlled by and for the benefit of the company making a query. In a brand-customer relationship, that’s a risky dynamic. If customers, or a potential customers, feel that they are being used to serve the needs of an impersonal corporation, they’ll be less likely to continue participating in that brand’s social programs. They may even decide to take their business elsewhere.

Offer your fans more ownership over how they interact with your company. If you want their insights, let them tell you in their own words rather than in stock answers. With the launch of nested comments, where people can create conversation chains within a status update, making an inquiry as part of a regular status post is likely to have better success rates for getting fans to talk — both with the brand and with each other.

How to Adapt

It’s important to keep in mind that Facebook may still make Questions available in select capacities. The network’s leadership said Facebook was keeping the feature for certain Pages that produce public content; news organizations have been cited as the top example. Depending on the user response and the use Questions bring to the members who still have access, Facebook may launch a new type of poll service down the line. In the meantime, though, brands need to search for alternatives.

The simplest way to keep the gist of Questions is simply to pose queries in status updates, allowing fans to answer in comments. Facebook’s threaded responses indicate that this is probably what the network expects to be the replacement. This is the most bare bones way to still gather opinions and insights from fans while fostering more engagement than the old tool would allow.

However, this may not be a feasible choice for some industries or some types or questions. If your company is dedicated to using a directed, poll-style approach to asking questions — and this may indeed be the best route for some situations — you still have choices. While the Questions feature is gone for Pages, it is still available for now to Groups. At the top of any Group Page, along with the buttons for writing posts and adding photos is one called “Ask Question.” This query will only be available to Group members, but for brands that have that community audience, it may supply the key functions available from the Questions feature.

The other, more easily available option is to use a third-party app. Several programs are available on the social network to provide the basic services of a poll. Do some research into the apps available and look for a program that will be easy for your social media team and your fans to use. A successful poll tool doesn’t need to be an exact replica of Questions. You may be able to get more analysis, a nicer interface, and a better way of understanding fan opinions than was available through the old Facebook feature.

What’s your workaround for Questions? Let us know in the comments!

[Image credits: Mike Linksvayer, Ryanmilani, Victor1558]