Quora, the easy to navigate question-and-answer service built on a social-media backbone, has soared in popularity since launching in 2009. Founded by a Facebook CTO, the site has already attracted high-level executives, journalists, industry insiders, and entrepreneurs, all eager to answer a vast array of questions for free. The site is rife with crowd-sourced queries, with a comprehensive listing and incentive to stay in touch with a network of people.
But on a site whose range of topics stretches from "Do Silicon Valley VCs invest in European early-stage startups?" to "Given our current technology and with the proper training, would it be possible for someone to become Batman?" how can you maximize its potential for your business? We asked a few Quora pioneers who've quickly found ways to take advantage of the site for their tips:
1. Find new ideas to talk about. "It's pretty much the perfect way to beat writer's block for your blog. Go to your topic of expertise, find the un-answered question that has the most followers, and assuming that you have an opinion on it, write an answer. Use it as inspiration or the meat for your blog post."
—Naval Ravikant, Founder, CEO, and chairman at online marketplace Vast.com
2. Open the lines of communication. "I'm not encouraging people to begin handling their business development and cold calling via Quora. It's a terrible idea, in fact. My advice on how to connect with a tech rockstar? Follow them on Quora. Start answering the questions that you are notified that they are following. If they ultimately choose to "like" your answer or comment on your answer, only then would I suggest reaching out to them via direct message. If you do so in a respectful manner you'd be surprised at the great people you'll connect with offline. It happened for me with one of the co-founders of The Huffington Post."
—Tyler James, co-Founder, Conversated Media
3. Sharpen your communication skills. "Honestly I can't say Quora has helped me win new business or do a great deal of networking. The value I've gotten out of my interaction with Quora has more been one of sharpening some of my own communication skill sets. It's helped me evaluate concise, clear responses to questions instead of waffling. This happens both in my own evaluation of questions/answers as well as the feedback I get from the community. Just like blog writing or Tweeting, this constant evaluation of "what works and why" makes me a better communicator, something that comes in handy given I work in communications."
—Vlad Ivanovic, head of Innovation at Blue Barracuda London
4. Don't self-promote. "The secret of building your reputation on Quora is to answer questions in which you have a deep level of knowledge. Your own company is obviously a thing in which you have expertise and that's where you could start. You should then look at the area your company focuses on and provide answers to questions related to that area. Remember that Quora is not about self-promotion but about providing the best answer to a specific question. The way you build your business with Quora is by helping the Quora community. Its members will eventually notice you and, hopefully, start using your services."
—Tristan Louis, CEO of Keepskor and writer at TNL.net
5. Ask good questions. "Questions are more important than answers. There is some spirit of competitiveness in how Quora works that encourages people not only to provide the best answer but also the best question. Picasso once said computers are useless because they only provide answers. In Quora the value is in the fact that you need to ask a good/interesting/intriguing question to get feedback from all those people out there. A lot of the work I do with entrepreneurs revolves around just that: focus on asking the right question and answers will arrive. For a business or a business leader, having the knowledge of which are the key questions driving his/her business provides a great advantage."
—Hod Fleishman, founder and chief of safety at GreenRoad, a maker of driver technology
6. Build a presence. "Use your real name, mention your business, and have a full, succinct profile. Quora, like Twitter, is not a social network where you follow friends a la Facebook, but rather, you should follow thought-leaders in your industry, colleagues, competitors, and anyone else who is making contributions that seem interesting. Everyone is an expert on something: contribute to the community and answer questions. I've engaged in some interesting conversations and found some very smart people to follow this way. I thought I would overwhelm myself by following too many questions and topics, but Quora actually curates interests well and so feel free to mark down many."
—Alexander Niehenke, associate at San Francisco venture capital firm Crosslink Capital
7. Monitor and engage. "Using Google alerts with the query "Quora jess3" for instance, will in real time for free send me e-mails mentioning (my company) Jess3. Start threads for areas you sell an expertise in, and stay engaged. Be a part of the conversations in your industry. This is how you build your businesses reputation on Quora. You might also want to put a Google alert for your competition's mentions on Quora. In general, you want to know what your industry is talking about, and this will include your rivals, partners and everything in between. Quora is an active version of Wikipedia. A business has to respond to any mentions of their brand."
—Jesse Thomas, CEO and founder, Jess3, an interactive creative agency
8. Do market research. "It's easy to look up topics and questions that are currently top-of-mind for my prospective customers. In this way, Quora excels as a market research tool. When I can contribute value to a question—whether through an authoritative answer, or a suggested refinement to the question itself—I can also help subtly market whatever I'm working on as well. From a marketing perspective, Quora is about being authoritative on a subject, and building relationships over the course of multiple questions with the people who share similar interests. In a sense, it's very similar to other forms of online marketing. The key for me is this: The extremely tight subject matter focus and smaller scope allows for greater intimacy, and lowers the barriers to being a consistent and useful contributor—even compared to something like Twitter!"
—Dean Blackburn, founder of NaviDate.com
9. Prove your worthiness. "This includes providing quality answers and brushing up on Quora icons such as The Scobelizer. Learn how to recognize and avoid the "dumb neighborhoods." Posting there offers a very poor ROI. If you have an easily stimulated sarcasm gland, fight hard to resist the temptation to troll the dumb neighborhoods. This will only get you banned. Buddy up with other newbies by "following" them so that you have someone to talk to because the coolest kids will most likely continue to ignore you. Finally, understand and appreciate that Quora is a good place to connect with interesting people."
—Peter Ireland, former CEO at Rubicon Capital Corp., who now runs www.tycoonplaybook.com
10. Don't over-promote yourself. "Don't try and market your site or product—put information about what you are working on, what you own, etc., in your bio/profile, but don't market it unless there is a specific situation that it adds value. Figure out how to give back to the community. Answer questions that are related to your area of competency and that you have a unique vantage point (based on your experience) that can add value and benefit the community. Don't be afraid to talk about your product/service, but only do it when there is value added. The bottom line rule is: add value by giving the askers of questions a useful and insightful answer."
—Marc Gayle, founder of CompVersions.com