From Yahoo Answers to’s recently unveiled Q&A format, the trend toward community-generated answers is growing. Now, it may grow to 500 million consumers strong with the newly launched Facebook Questions – and marketers should be aware that this platform could help word-of-web referrals on the social site.

The feature is rolling out to users gradually, with Blake Ross, Facebook’s director of product management, explaining it is currently open to just a limited number so it can be further developed according to feedback before mass release. Those who can see the service have a new “Ask a Question” tab option on their homepages.

When users type in a question, they can tag it by topic. Then, other users can click on tags of particular interest or expertise to offer answers. Users can also “follow” questions to monitor the answers provided by others. Notably, questions are submitted to the Facebook public instead of just users’ friends.

This public sharing is necessary to collect and share answers from the vast pool of potentially knowledgeable users, and some speculate that search engine syndication is the next step. While there are not yet announced plans for Facebook Questions to power search results, this move would boost the site’s page views and it could potentially expand the brand advocacy and referrals generated via Q&As for businesses referenced in discussions.

Marketers will want to monitor the chatter about their brands on the platform. Moreover, companies who offer answers to relevant questions can engage users and promote their brands as credible thought leaders – and chances are questions about products and services will arise on Facebook Questions. A study from E-Tailing Group shows that Facebook posts affect 31 percent of consumers’ buying behaviors.