Quora is one of the latest social networking sites catching the attention of small-business marketers. The company, founded in June 2009, is tight-lipped about its user statistics. However, KISSmetrics estimates that in January 2011, there were more than 547,000 registered users, showing an increase of 37,000 percent over January 2010. Conceptualized and developed by Facebook's former CTO, this new question-and-answer-style network offers a number of seamless integration tools and strategies small businesses can use to grow their brand recognition.
Here are 10 ways to use Quora:
1. Answer questions in your niche to establish thought leadership. Quora users are asking questions. While it's not designed specifically for small-business owners, building a presence and establishing a reputation as a thought leader can lead to sales and valuable business contacts. Like many social networking sites, Quora allows users to connect and converse, while the business community can capitalize on its audience.
2. Integrate Quora with your website. Like most of the popular social networks, it's easy to integrate your Quora profile with your company's website. Simply select "Create a Follow Button" from your main profile page to copy the code required to add a Quora follow button to any website. This allows more people to see what you're doing on Quora, and to follow your conversations.
3. Integrate Quora with other social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook. When you log into Quora, you are greeted with an option to add a Quora box to your Facebook Timeline, which will show your most recent activity. Robyn Kahn Federman, director of communications for Catalyst, Inc., says, "I have had many people link in with me or begin following our company on Twitter after posting answers to questions."
4. Connect with journalists for free PR. According to Inc.com, journalists are predominant among early Quora adopters. Quora provides a seamless platform for journalists to connect with experts in nearly every niche to obtain valuable opinions for news stories.
5. Source ideas for your own case studies, articles or blog posts. Monitoring the questions frequently asked in relevant topic areas is a viable way to get your creative juices flowing. Creating shareable content based on common questions is widely regarded as one of the most effective link building tactics among SEO (search engine optimization) experts.
6. Follow relevant topics. Quora allows users to create "boards," which are essentially topic-oriented categories, which other users can choose to follow. Following boards related to your industry will help you keep tabs on the pulse of the small-business community and your competitors.
7. Build your network by connecting with users with similar interests. Quora users are able to follow each other much like they can on Twitter. Following other users with related interests can enable small business owners to develop relationships with other business owners and those serving ancillary industries.
8. Share your content with your networks. If you've been using Quora long enough to have built an established network of followers, you can share your original content with any group. Whether you've created a board for the purpose of sharing your own content, or you're linking to relevant content in answers, Quora is a useful platform for drawing attention to your content.
9. Utilize the "Post to Quora" browser button. This useful browser integration tool enables instant posting of content from any website with your Quora network. If you frequently find yourself filtering through your Facebook feed and clicking on interesting links, you can get the same effect by instantly sharing the same content on your Quora profile. Sharing useful content with other professionals in your industry is a tactic widely used among all the social networks.
10. Share your questions and answers on Twitter and Facebook to maximize search engine indexing. When a user searches Google, Quora results aren't likely to appear on the first page unless the term Quora is included in the search query. According to Eric Wagner, Quora's site structure isn't totally search-engine friendly, but tweeting specific questions can improve visibility. Because Google indexes Facebook shares and Tweets, sharing Quora content can create the link trail that appeals to search engines. And the more visitors directed to your expert responses, the more awareness you've built for your business.
Quora is gaining a lot of attention among the small-business community, thanks to its unique combination of social sharing features combined with the question-and-answer format that enables easy communication between users. Using Quora wisely, without abusing its potential as a sales tool, could result in dramatic growth for small businesses. As Federman points out, "You must really have expertise to participate—not just hawking your wares, which is too often what happens with LinkedIn Q&As or in LinkedIn Groups."
Angela Stringfellow is a PR and MarComm Consultant and Social Media Strategist offering full-circle marketing solutions to businesses. Angela blogs via Contently.com.
Photo credit: armst via Flickr