If you’re an entrepreneur or small-business owner, you should know about Quora. Two former Facebook employees, AdamD’Angelo and Charlie Cheever, founded the platform in 2009. It attracts thought leaders, journalists, executives, investors and students who have one thing in common: a desire to learn.
The free question-and-answer (Q&A) engine for nearly any topic facilitates professional connections, research opportunities and open-ended dialog. The social network is a place for experienced professionals to share industry news, as well as learn about topics ranging from programming to sociology, marketing to art.
No matter how you’re building your business, you’ll encounter questions. Whether you’re thinking of trying a new service like Groupon or re-evaluating your fee structure, consider looking for answers in Quora’s community.
Know how it works
You can ask, answer and follow questions about anything. The platform organizes the questions by topic.
“Its current form reminds me of bulletin boards in the '80s, except the audience is much more diversified,” says Russell Mickler. “Threads of concepts [were] posted to thematic boards by well-known personas and high-strung personalities. And there were casual people who liked to follow what you read and contribute from time to time." Mickler's technology firm Mickler & Associates helps small businesses streamline processes, improve efficiency and contain costs of growth in Vancouver, Washington.
Beyond straightforward questions and answers, Quora encourages people to engage in holistic dialog.
“It blends the best in people from their academic, work and personal lives,” says tech-marketing consultant Gaia Dempsey. “I definitely engage with topics related to my business, like social media and analytics. But I also follow topics related to science and everyday life. Quora is, perhaps, the only social network that enables nuance.”
Build a network, be the expert
According to Dempsey, Quora can help consultants build connections and credibility.
“It’s a really in-depth way to connect with professionals. Beyond a face-value sales pitch, you see how people approach problems,” Dempsey says. “I’ve met people because of Quora, and one person in particular.... I’ve met so many people through him, and I’ve found business opportunities through him.”
Mickler has not directly found business opportunities through Quora. But he leverages the platform to strengthen his existing relationships by answering questions in his areas of expertise.
“I share a lot of what I write with my social network that includes personal friends, professional colleagues, students and potential customers,” Mickler says. “So much of social media helps demonstrate who you are, what your values are and what your competencies are. [It] explains how you might provide value in a business relationship. All of that transparency over time codifies an impression with others who’d likely recommend you.”
Build a big-picture marketing strategy
As Dempsey points out, Quora provides accessible market-research opportunities, especially for client-driven businesses.
“I recommend that clients search for topics related to their business, and research questions that already exist," Dempsey says. "See where you can leverage your expertise to find some great answers.”
“Learn what your prospective customers want. Write an answer to relevant questions, and link back to your company blog. Thanks to Quora, you’ll already have a built-in audience. Quora should become part of a larger blogging or content strategy for generating thought leadership.”
Building on Dempsey’s suggestion, Mickler encourages business owners to stay focused on value-driven goals.
“If you're considering whether to invest time responding to a thread, consider how the Quora [response] could be re-purposed as a company blog post, website contribution, direct-marketing message or social media transmission,” Mickler says.
Don’t try to sell
Dempsey reminds new Quora users to value the community’s etiquette and implicit guidelines.
“If you’re only there to up-sell your business, it won’t be well received. Contribute to the conversation and add substantive value. Don’t make your entire profile and activities about your business. Quora is all about well-rounded individuality. That’s what makes a good impression, not content that looks like a giant ad.”
“This isn’t a place to club somebody over the head with a marketing message,” Mickler says.
Photo credit: Thomas Hawk/Flickr CC
Ritika Puri is on online media professional who specializes in user research, product strategy and data analysis. She enjoys writing about marketing, user experience, new business models and entrepreneurship. Puri blogs for Contently.