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Quora – what is the best way to use it?

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28 January 2011
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If you have not tried Quora, you should. While literally hundreds of social services launched in 2010, and we try most, there are only a handful that are real game changers. Quora is one of those.

The use case – Questions & Answers – has been tried before (I was a product manager of LycosIQ, and there’s been Yahoo! Answers), but they failed because people were not incentivized in the right way to create quality content. But Quora is on the right track.

We find Quora interesting in part because of the innovative way it has re-imagined interface design to nudge, prompt and help usability and the quality of the service.

Quora aims to crowdsource the best information around a question.  To this end it includes the ability to edit your answers or to suggest edits. The best answers can be voted up to more prominence. And they have moderators to monitor the quality. Pretty nifty.

But that is not what this post is about. It is what we think you can use it for and what we have discovered so far is the best way on how to use it.

Since it launched:

Quora has sent us one business inquiry (a hot lead);
It’s great for showing you know your stuff. Thought leadership. So myself, Gerrie and Adriaan are all active answering and asking questions. Notice the URL of the profile pages – this is designed with SEO in mind. Soon, when people Google your name, your Quora page will be one of the top links.

Quora has helped us build an interesting tool;
We wanted to build a mash-up between FourSquare and PeerIndex, but we could not find out how FS checks you out of a venue. So we asked a Question. And an FourSquare engineer answered.
We speculated the other day why somebody like a FourSquare engineer would rather answer a Question on Quora than on Twitter. It’s because you don’t have to keep on answering the question. On Twitter, the communication disappears into the ether rather quickly. On Quora it sticks. It becomes a resource. This allows people to show how clever they are over and over gain with the least amount of effort.

Quora helped us research a blog post;
I violently disagree with Malcom Gladwell’s assertion that social networks can not be used to make risky political change happen. To prove this point I searched for and followed some Questions about the unrest in Tunisia. And once I knew more I asked a few, at times directing the question to specific users. I got information from people that were involved. The result is arguably two of the most detailed blog posts on Tunisia and Facebook in the west.

As is the nature of Quora, there are answers to even more specific uses of it on Quora itself:

RAAK’s Tips for using Quora

  • Above we mentioned specific questions. Being specific, being niche is key. When you log into Quora you get to see Questions based on topics you have selected. The more specific the topics, the more likely you are to see interesting questions. So instead of following the Facebook topic, Follow what’s being said about the Facebook API .
  • Otherwise follow people you know that are likely to to ask or interact with questions you might find interesting.
  • When answering a question, make sure you have a genuinely interesting or insightful answer. If your answer is not one of the top 3 answers, not many people are likely to see it. Try to be the best or else you’re wasting your time.
  • Don’t forget to add topics to your questions. That way the right people can see them.
  • Often some of the best bits of information and good insight is in the comments below questions. That’s where debate happens. It’s in the comments on an answer on this question on Tunisia where the gold dust about Facebook and Google’s actions re Tunisia came to light.
  • Direct specific people to answer a question. The founder of RWW France, Fabrice Epelboin, was very involved in the Tunisian affair from early on. I directed him to a few Questions. Some argue that this is Quora’s greatest strength: It gives you first-hand accounts from verifiable personalities. See for example Ashton Kutcher’s answer to What determines whether an actor is cast in a part in Hollywood
  • If you have a question about using Quora, search for an answer (the search and Question writing boxes are done in the same place). Invariably the Answer to your Question is already there. It helped me find out how to link to specific Answers, and not just Questions for example. If you can’t find it, then you’ll have an excellent Question.
  • It helps if you have an active dedicated following on social networks like Twitter. People that have spent time on social media will reap the rewards on Quora, which is tightly integrated with Facebook and Twitter.

Which brings us to one of the points of criticism against Quora, i.e. that the answers of popular users with a large Twitter following – like Robert Scoble – get voted up, simply because of who they are and not because of what they say.

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