'Who knows what': Audience targeting for question asking on Facebook

Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch, Darren Gergle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Social networking sites are becoming increasingly popular venues for seeking information. To the extent that users can understand who knows what in their networks and target those friends appropriately, they can make effective use of the site as a knowledge base of information. This paper explores how targeting one's Facebook network when asking questions influences the breadth and quality of answers they receive. An experiment (N = 64) was conducted in which participants posted questions to their Facebook networks in four broadcast level conditions: status update to their full networks, status update to a custom subset of their networks, posting on a friend's Timeline, and sending a direct message. Results indicate that posting a question more broadly results in more information, which is moderated by perceptions of Facebook as a transactive memory system and as a source of social capital. However, informational and social value of responses is greatest when posting to a custom subset of their network. These results suggest that while targeting specific individuals may be the most effective means of gathering information in offline networks, the broadcast affordance of Facebook may be a more useful way to gather information on the site.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number11
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction
Issue numberGROUP
StatePublished - Jan 4 2020


  • Broadcast level
  • Facebook question asking
  • Social capital
  • Status message question asking
  • Transactive memory system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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