Also, unlike many question-based apps before it, the Instagram Questions feature is not anonymous—something many people have been forced to learn the hard way. “My friends and I myself were confused about this at first,” says Josephine, a 15-year-old in New York—one of several teens I interviewed to learn more about user behavior related to Questions (all of whom asked to be identified by their first name only).
But it isn’t the Questions feature itself that’s so bad; what’s most obnoxious is the way many people use it. Most people will pose the default Ask me a question to their audience of friends, who then reply with inside jokes, or generic questions like “How tall are you?” or “Why are you so cool lol?” The user will then post responses to these uninteresting questions in individual slides, encouraging you to tap through pages and pages of mediocre material.
Instagram isn’t the first platform to come up with a Q&A service. Earlier products such as ASKfm, Formspring, and MySpace Bulletin also allowed people to solicit questions from others, and all have shown that users tend to have a lot more fun answering questions about themselves than reading other people’s questions. But asking people to ask you questions can come across as uncreative and self-indulgent. Good conversation should be give and take, not passively sitting back and waiting for people to come up with creative ways for you to talk about yourself.
There’s one way to use the Questions feature that will save your audience from slides of spam, however. Instead of using the box to encourage followers to ask you a question, ask a question of your followers.
Changing the default Ask me a question text to pose a question to your followers allows you to collect different responses to a question of your own. This will prove to be a useful new tool on Instagram, as doing so was previously very hard.
Instagram has polls, but the responses to those are binary, which makes it hard to gather nuanced opinions or solicit feedback about several things at once. Answers via the Questions feature are also collected and tiled neatly on a separate page within Stories, not your direct messages, so it’s much easier to scan responses. Unfortunately, Instagram doesn’t allow for private replies, but if you want to continue the conversation with someone you can always start a DM thread.
After testing this method recently on my own Story, I found it incredibly useful for receiving suggestions on everything from where to eat to which lamp to pick out for my living room. Others have also used the feature in this way to solicit advice, pep talks, or suggestions on what to do in certain parts of town from their followers. “I’ve asked ‘tell me something nice,’” says Eve Peyser, a staff writer at Vice and an avid Questions user.
Using Instagram Stories this way can be way more fun for both you and your followers. They’re able to experience the joy of giving their opinion, and you’re (theoretically) getting useful information, collected and organized neatly.