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.