Unrealized Potential: Why Quizzes Should Be Bigger on Facebook

Each week, we track the growth and decline of Facebook’s biggest apps here at Inside Facebook. Among those that we watch, there are almost always several quizzes gaining thousands or millions of users. Yet quizzes also have trouble holding onto their users, and are often viewed as a second-class type of app by developers. Is it possible that they could be more successful?

Judging from history, quizzes could do much better, indeed. Women’s magazines use quizzes as a monthly staple — Cosmopolitan’s website, for example, devotes an entire section to fare like Are You Enough of a Bad Girl? and What’s Your Passion Personality? And, of course, there’s all sorts of classic men’s quizzes in magazines like Men’s Health, asking questions like Do You Make a Good First Impression?

And in earlier years online, websites like IQtest.com and TestQ.com found success with IQ tests, while OKCupid.com built a major dating website on the back of quizzes. Examples abound of successful quiz sites online that use both professional and user-generated content.

There have also been successful quizzes on Facebook, but their quality and retention rates are usually abysmal. Profits can’t motivate developers to do better, either; to date, quizzes have monetized badly.

We think that could change. But before going any further, we should pause to define the types of quizzes on Facebook. Broadly speaking, there are three categories:

  1. Friend quizzes — These quiz apps are designed to reveal how you feel about friends with quick-to-answer questions. Until recently, Friend Quiz and Friend FAQ had achieved great success in this group with over 30 million monthly active users total, but they were banned by Facebook for breaking the platform’s developer guidelines. Friends Exposed, which had about 20 million MAU, was also apparently suspended recently.
  2. Personality quizzes — The largest developer in this category is probably Lolapps, which has an application called Quiz Creator that Facebook users can create their own quizzes within. Generally the aim of these quizzes is to tell their users something about themselves. Right now, Lolapps’ biggest quizzes are How dirty are you ? and what tattoo best fits you?.
  3. Skill quizzes — The most recognizable type of skill quiz is an IQ test, but there are definitely others. On Facebook, the biggest skill quiz app appears to be a game from Wooga called Brain Buddies, which tests users on their spatial and mathematical skills and has three million users. There’s also an older Playfish game called Who Has The Biggest Brain?

All three of these categories have the potential to create huge applications, in our view. Friend quizzes have already proven this. At their height, over 60 million monthly users were using a small handful of friend quizzes. But the temptation to use shady tactics like forced wall-posts appears to have been too high for the developers; Facebook has banned almost all of them.

So let’s take a look at the latter two categories, personality quizzes and skill quizzes.

Right now, “it’s like in the early days of YouTube,” Lolapps CEO Kavin Stewart told me yesterday about his company’s user-generated personality quizzes. “There’s a lot of silly stuff, it’s not a high production value, but people get a cheap thrill.”

The low quality doesn’t seem to matter to users, though. Although Lolapps wants to shift most of its attention to making games, Stewart thinks that quizzes will always be popular. “It has been shown again and again that there’s a huge audience for this stuff,” he said. “There will probably be an evergreen interest.”

Lolapps set up its system to direct users to similar quizzes after they completed each one, which helps new quizzes gain users and rise quickly. Since most of the quizzes are short and sweet, there’s an obvious addictive factor — people tend to hop from one to the next, and they’ll also retake quizzes to get a preferred answer. What’s still missing is a way to make money from the crowd.

An obvious method might be targeted product advertisements; after all, many quizzes are just users picking out the things that they like. Quiz apps would also be a natural home for offers or marketing studies. But a more interesting idea, especially for the Facebook Platform, might be the addition of some light game mechanic.

How would it work? Dedicated quiz-takers might take dozens of quizzes daily, but the results never add up to anything. A virtual currency or tokens would serve to keep users more engaged, adding to the number of visits.

Friends could compete to acquire the most tokens, or even to get specific types of tokens that could be associated with specific results within each quiz, for instance a “mean” or “nice” token (in keeping with the high-school feel of most popular quizzes). An even deeper mechanic might attach these to an actual game, like a zoo that specific animals appear in based on a user’s personality.

Brain Buddies and Who Has the Biggest Brain?, mentioned above, are skill quizzes that are already in game-form. Yet although each gained several million users, they never really took off. The key for these sorts of quizzes is probably to sell something concrete. Skill quizzes that test the abilities of a user’s mind, for example, could push versions for seniors or children (Who Has the Biggest Brain does have a pro version).

There’s also the idea that made Tickle, IQTest.com and a number of other sites briefly successful on the internet. Users who took IQ or personality tests on these sites were shown a basic result — an IQ of 130, for example, or their Myers-Briggs personality type. But the tests also offered a deeper look into the user’s strengths and weaknesses, which the user could pay for.

A similar model could be successful on Facebook, especially with the added factor of competition between friends when they post their results.

Of course, from here this is all speculation; following Facebook’s bannings, quiz apps are at low ebb. But most people have a strong urge to find out more about themselves, and Facebook offers the perfect platform for social quiz-taking. So there’s a good chance that a company that finally gets the model right will find itself an overnight success.