Standard Answer Soft Launches Open Beta

SAlogo One of the companies I serve on the advisory board of, Standard Answer, has entered open beta and is gearing up for launch at SXSW Interactive. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell a little about the site and why I thought it was cool enough to get involved, when there’s already a sea of YASNS (Yet Another Social Networking Service) out there. It’s a little rough around the edges still, but I think we’re doing something that’s compelling enough for members to spend some of their time there and marketers to spend some of their budget there.

At first glance, Standard Answer could easily appear to be just another social networking service. It’s built around one of the most popular activities in social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook: asking and answering questions of your friends.

We built Standard Answer with the idea of taking this popular activity and 1) making a better experience for users, 2) allowing users to use those questions as the basis for building community, 3) creating a better channel for advertisers and 4) building a really, really cool dataset that’s never been seen before.

So let’s look at how Standard Answer accomplishes each of these objectives.

Better Q&A

Do you ever get tired of answering the same questions over and over again? With Standard Answer, you don’t have to any more. Your “standard answers” are saved, so when someone sends you a new quiz, the questions you’ve already answered can be automatically answered for you. Of course, you’re always allowed to change your mind, and Standard Answer even keeps a history of how you’ve changed your answers over time.

Do you ever take a multiple-choice quiz and the answer you want to give isn’t on the list? No more! With Standard Answer you can add your own answers to the multiple-choice questions.

Standard Answer also does everything it can to help standardize the data, such as looking for similar questions when you enter a question, so as to prevent duplicates. What’s the point of having 100 different people ask “What’s your favorite color?” and having each one have a different set of possible responses?

Building Community

This is where the rubber really hits the road with Standard Answer. One of the problems with most existing social networking sites is that the data is unstructured. You can only do simple text searches to find who you’re looking for. For example, the “pivots”, or hyperlinks on interests, favorite books/movies, etc., in MySpace and Facebook only allow you to find the people who share that one interest.

But one of the things we learned in researching The Virtual Handshake is that one of the best ways to build strong relationships is through the discovery of multiplexity, or in plain English, finding out what you have in common with people. Similarly, if you want to meet new people with whom you have good odds of building strong relationships, then seeking out people who share several common interests is one of the best ways to do that.

So let’s say you want to connect with, say, other people in Austin who love sushi and sci-fi, or people around the world who are fans of both American Idol and American Beauty. Or whatever. Doesn’t matter whether it’s serious or silly. Standard Answer gives you a way to make those connections quickly.

And what’s really cool is that you can either save those searches for your own personal use, to reach out to people one-to-one, or you can create a community around that search and help others with that combination of interests and attitudes connect with each other. We think this will be really compelling for both social and business applications.

Better Advertising Channel

Standard Answer won’t be filled with boring banner advertising. Social media is showing us that companies/brands need to join the conversation. Standard Answer allows them to do that in a fun, interactive way.

What we offer advertisers is sponsored questions, e.g., “Do you prefer Coke or Pepsi?” Guess what. Our early results show that people love answering these simple, one-off questions in the Standard Answer context, whereas they might be hesitant about responding to longer marketing surveys. Brands are a part of our lives, and people actually enjoy answering questions about them if done correctly. For example, people are loving answering the question I posted: What’s your favorite Doritos flavor? At the moment it’s a toss-up between Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch. Of course, I want to meet the other person who said Fiery Habanero besides me (see how it works?).

Interesting Data

Now this is where I think this thing gets really fun. Just think of the massive data set we build with this. Without ever putting anyone through a painfully long survey, we’re gathering an amazing amount of not just demographic information, but psychographic information, i.e., info about attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.

I can tell you that when I talked social network researcher danah boyd into joining the advisory board, she said there was one condition: “I get to get my hands on the data.” So it’s in good hands. Who knows what she’ll find? 🙂

One thing we’re going to look for is interesting correlations in the data that have maybe never been discovered. Maybe we discover something trivially fascinating, like that geeks prefer maple syrup on their pancakes, but suits prefer honey. Or maybe we find that Lexus drinkers prefer Coke, while BMW drinkers prefer Pepsi. Those companies might like to know that, don’t you think?

Of course, we will never sell personally identifiable data to companies. But we will make aggregate data available, for a fee. And while we may not have the volume of data of, say, Facebook any time soon, the quality will be much higher.

I’m excited to be a part of Standard Answer and watch its launch.

Want to learn more? You can…