Twitter's Loaded Questions: How people ask and answer questions on Twitter

Your business will earn more followers and increase sales by answering questions on Twitter, according to a survey of active Twitter users that we completed earlier this month.

That may be all you need to hear to convince you to jump in with both feet and start answering question on Twitter.  If so, you can download the InboxQ for Chrome, Firefox or Seesmic right now.

But, in case you want to learn more about Q&A on Twitter, we've prepared an overview of our findings below.

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Loaded Questions: How People Ask and Answer Questions on Twitter

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First, lets talk a little bit about questions on Twitter.

We identify about 100,000 questions per day on Twitter according to our internal data.  Any questions that start with an @reply or include an @mention are not included in our 100,000 count, as this number only reflects broadly posed questions on Twitter.

About one third of all questions are either product advice/recommendations (13%), tech support (12%) or local suggestions (11%) based on our proprietary category classifier.  It makes sense that the most commonly asked questions fall within these three categories because for these topics, a personal response or suggestion does a much better job than a search engine with providing a helpful answer. 

So, who is asking these questions?  67% of the respondents to our survey that had more than 100 followers, so-called high follower accounts, stated that they had asked a question on Twitter while only 33% of respondents with less than 100 followers, or so-called low follower accounts, had asked a question on Twitter.  It isn't surprising that Twitter users who have spent time building up their follower base would be more likely to query those followers when they have a question.

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According to these responses from our survey, 73% of the time that high follower accounts do ask questions on Twitter, they are likely to broadcast them to all of their followers.  Similarily, low follower accounts were likely to broadcast their questions to their followers, but only 52% of the time.  However, these low follower accounts were almost twice as likely than high follower accounts to target their question to a specific Twitter user via an @reply.

Now that we have an idea of what types of users are asking questions on Twitter, and how they are going about doing so, let's turn our attention to the answers and answerers.

Most of the respondents to our survey that had asked a question received answers at least some of the time.  However, low follower accounts were nearly twice as likely to have stated that they never receive answers when they ask questions (22%) versus high follower accounts (12%).

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It's important to realize that not all answers are created equal.  So, we asked our survey respondents about the quality of the answers that they received.  Again, the determining factor seemed to be follower counts.  Low follower accounts were more than twice as likely to state that they were unsatisfied with the quality of the answers that they receive on Twitter (32%) versus high follower accounts which were only unsatisfied 13% of the time.

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It is clear that high follower accounts are more likely to receive answers and are generally more satisfied with the quality of answers they receive.  Now, lets look to see where the answers are coming from.

It's widely assumed that answers come from friends and followers on Twitter, so we asked those respondents who had asked a question on Twitter if they had ever received an answer from a non-follower.  44% of low follower accounts and 66% of high follower accounts had received an answer from someone who was not following them on Twitter.  While we don't know for sure, our assumption is that these "strangers" are finding questions through tools like Twitter search.

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What is really interesting is that respondents who received an answer from a non-follower were also generally more satisfied with the quality of the answers that they received on Twitter.  Our survey showed that 14% of respondents that had received answers from a non-follower were unsatisfied with the quality of the answers versus 31% of those that had not received an answer from a non-follower.

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Non-followers are one thing, but what about answers from businesses?  Results show that 41% of high follower accounts and 21% of low follower accounts have received answers from businesses.  This means that many businesses are actively searching out and answering questions on Twitter.

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But, how is the quality of these answers?  Conventional wisdoms says that businesses likely can't help themselves and will respond with spammy, self-serving answers on Twitter.  The respondents to our survey tell us that is not the case.  80% said that they believe that the quality of answers they receive from businesses on Twitter is as good or better than the answers they receive from their followers.  Separately, 80% of respondents also said that they trust the answers received from businesses on Twitter as much or more than the answers they receive from their followers.

 

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This means that businesses are doing a great job providing high quality, trustworthy answers to questions on Twitter.  But, what is the point?  How can any ROI focused business justify the time and effort of answering question on Twitter?

It seems that answering questions on Twitter will earn your business account more followers.  59% of respondents said that they were more likely to follow a business on Twitter that answered their questions.  More followers are certainly a good thing.  But, follower counts are proprietary metrics that really only make sense to optimize for if you have a way to map them back to you own business goals, such as new sales or clients.  

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The good news?  Answering questions on Twitter will likely earn you more sales.  64% of respondents said that they were more likely to make a purchase from a business that answered their question on Twitter.

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We invite you to get started answering questions on Twitter today by downloading InboxQ for ChromeFirefox or Seesmic.

You can view the full report below:

Twitter Q&A Census

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Comments (2)

Jun 01, 2011
Jordan said...
Seems a little overkill to install an extension just to show me a queue of items.

Why would you not have built a webview to begin with?

Jun 01, 2011
joefahrner said...
Hey Jordan- Stay tuned. Our web app is coming soon.

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