Editor’s note: Elisabeth Holby is part of the client accounts team at , a social media marketing company in Raleigh, N.C., and contributes to the company’s marketing by generating internal content.

By ELISABETH HOLBY, Three Ships Media

RALEIGH, N.C. – newest development in social networking, Facebook Questions, is currently being explored by beta testers.

Once Facebook approved them as legitimate and worthwhile for testing the new question and answer capabilities, it granted these users a sneak-peak of the new service. While it may seem to channel the once-dominant “Ask Jeeves!” service, Facebook Questions provides a more in-depth question and answer system, because it is built upon a foundation of relationships and people who have opted-in to social networking sites.

“More in-depth” does not necessarily mean the answer quality will be more valuable though, the beta-tester jury is still out on that detail. What it means is that, if implemented globally, Facebook Questions will provide enormous insight into what social networkers are interested in, curious about, and seeking information for, and simultaneously expand the network dramatically.

People won’t simply ask a question and receive feedback from a random source, website or anonymous user like in search or on sites like WikiAnswers or Yahoo! Answers (although Facebook will be competing with those and other Q&A sources, including Google and LinkedIn).

Facebook says that the source of answers could come from inside your social network or from other “knowledgeable people on Facebook,” giving individuals opportunities to engage on topics of mutual interest.

Facebook Questions will also allow businesses and marketers the opportunity to observe thought patterns and subjects of strong enough interest to merit a question, as well as to respond and influence the social community built around those questions with their answers, information and expertise. Question askers will tag their question with relevant topics, such as fashion trends, job openings, best restaurants in a city, best neighborhoods, or parenting techniques.

Besides providing a creative and socially stimulating way for people to ask and answer questions, Facebook Questions has the potential to add a new layer to understanding consumer online behavior by acting as a social engagement monitor and generating new metrics for analysis based on question topics and interaction. It is already clear that question and answer services increase sales conversions and decrease returns in online purchasing, so it can be inferred that Q&A involvement will also drive online customer acquisition.

Demonstrating knowledge, social networking know-how and the ability to engage with consumers via the venue or medium of their choice is an effective digital marketing strategy to enhance interest in and credibility of a business.

If Facebook Questions goes live on a large scale, the potential ROI from Facebook involvement is clear for marketers and businesses. But any future benefit will come from establishing a presence now as a relevant and interesting source.

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