Look Out Quora, InboxQ Takes Q&A Off-Site And On To Twitter

As it becomes more difficult to find the answers you want on Google, using hashtags like #lazyweb to ask questions on Twitter has become some people’s recourse. Realizing this, Y Combinator company Answerly is announcing a product revamp today, going from a run of the mill Q&A site to something much more interesting. Their new product, InboxQ is a free browser plugin (right now only available on Chrome) that performs searches for questions on Twitter by keyword and other factors.

The fact that InboxQ, like Replyz, has realized that Twitter has become the platform for a lot of Q&A activity is pretty genius. And its plan is to leverage this for businesses and brands looking to connect with customers, a hyper targeted form of lead gen.

How valuable would it be for the @BestBuy Twitter account to be able to offer immediate tech support when someone asks a question about product installation? Or the @DKNY Twitter account to offer spot advice to someone wondering about the perfect “little black dress”? Currently all brands have to go on are search terms, and out of the thousands of tweets only a small percentage are questions.

By downloading the plugin here and logging in with their Twitter accounts, everyday users and big brands can set up Campaigns (by keyword, volume and/or tweet quality), answer or share Questions, track their Answers, and set up questions to be answered under To Do.

I tried it out with the keyword “Apple”and realized that questions yielded are relatively high quality. InboxQ uses natural language processing software to detect real questions (only 1% of tweets with question marks are real apparently). The startup’s previous incarnation Answerly used the same software on Google searches but then the founders realized that Twitter was more valuable in terms of user engagement.

Says founder Joe Fahrner, “We find that questions on Twitter seem to be way richer and have more context because there is the expectation from the asker that real people are reading the question in their Tweet and not machines (as in algorithmic search).”

In terms of a possible business models, InboxQ plans on offering brands premium access to analytics and data. Farnher tells me that InboxQ is planning on more browser support and that a Firefox version is due out next week. He also is planning to expand the service to more than just Twitter, and plans to crawl both Quora and Yahoo Answers as well as develop more API partnerships and further keyword relevancy.

There is huge huge untapped potential in Twitter as a Q&A service and InboxQ is fortunate to be a first mover. Farnher tells me about one of its beta users who had had a Twitter account for a year and didn’t utilize it. Then, after downloading InboxQ in January, their usage picked up exponentially, “It was as if using InboxQ helped “unlock” the value of Twitter for them.”