In my last post, I suggested that Groupon would be 2011′s Twitter, by which I meant that it would start attracting more and more media attention, as well as big brand dollars. And I stand by that.

However, if you’re a frequent reader of Techcrunch or many of the other big tech-blogs, particularly those based near, and part of the West Coast tech-scene, you might think that another site is set to dominate the coming 12 months.

Social question site Quora is receiving the sort of attention that Foursquare was getting 12 months ago, or Twitter a year or two before that. Barely a day goes by on Techcrunch without an article featuring Quora (to the extent that many readers are now commenting that they’re already bored of reading about it), and since signing up to the site, my inbox has been flooded with notifications of people who are now following me.

Heck, even Robert Scoble is now following me (I have no idea why), and when Scoble gets on board, you know there’s a new fad in town.

So how much of this is hype, and what should marketers do about? In each case, I’ve tried to find an answer on Quora, so that you can compare it with my own.

1. How is Quora different from other Q&A services?

One major difference is the type of users it’s attracting (see #2 below) and its UI, which aims to reduce repetition of questions, thereby creating a more Wikipedia-style library of questions/answers.

But probably the main difference is its insistence on openness, to the extent that it’s hard to post questions or answers anonymously, thereby (arguably) keeping the level of discourse higher than on other services.

On top of that, Quora has made great use of other social platforms, such as Facebook & Twitter to help individual questions gain attention, thereby driving user acquisition. (Quora’s answer)

2. Why is Quora attracting so much attention?

As with many such instances of sites attracting attention/hype (you decide), Quora is, in part, getting written about a lot because it’s a great boon for journalists. MG Siegler wrote about this very fact last month.

Because whereas Yahoo! Answers, and similar services (because Quora is far from original) are often filled with meaningless drivel, Quora has proved to the favourite place for the great and the good of the Valley to sound of on everything from the movie that’s been made about them to the start-ups they’ve sold. (Quora’s Answer)

3. Is Quora likely to become a mainstream product?

It’s always dangerous to make predictions, but I’d say no. At least not in the same way that Facebook or Twitter has (that is a truly mass-market audience, with brand recognition beyond geeks).

The reason for this is simply that it’s not a truly original service (although that’s not a barrier to going mainstream in and of itself), but none of the services that have come before (Yahoo! Answers, Google Answers) have truly tipped.

It’s actually one of a number of services currently looking to expand in that area. And one of those services is Facebook Questions, which has an audience over 1,000 times greater than Quora’s. Essentially, I simply don’t see a big enough demand for a Q&A platform, when something like Wikipedia can answer most factual questions, and so many others are based on opinion. (Quora’s answer)

4. Should I be considering investing time and/or resource in Quora?

That depends to a certain extent on whether you agree with my take on Quora’s chances of going mainstream. Well known search expert Lyndon Antcliff certainly thinks that there will be an up-side, in that he feels Quora answers will start ranking, and therefore will be open to spammers/marketers.

Personally, I think it will very much depend on your clients’ business. If you’re looking for cheap and dirty traffic, then Quora may well become a new Squidoo; something that gets filled to the brim with junk content. This of course could kill it, as Quorans* themselves admit.

If however you’re a big brand, or working for one, then it may be much harder to justify the sort of expense required to engage fully in the site, just as very few brands now consider Wikipedia to be a marketing channel, rather something that should be monitored to ensure that no nasty reputation issues are brewing up.(Quora’s answer)

5. Is Robert Scoble killing Quora?

Robert doesn’t think so.

Quora is obviously an impressive site, and whilst it often seems like we’re in the midst of a new bubble (the only thing lacking being shareholders), a valuation just shy of $100m is still not to be sniffed at. And though there can be little doubt that the convergence of recommendation and search will play a large part in the ongoing evolution of the web, the Internet is littered with sites that promised much and ended up delivering little, with the latest news on MySpace being a timely reminder of that.

So before jumping into Quora, make sure you understand what it can offer and whether your investment, in terms of time, resource and content, is likely to bring any return, or just end up as column fodder for Techcrunch.

*I was hoping I was the first to come up with that name, but I’m not.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Search & Social

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About The Author: is the Head of Digital for Mindshare Ireland, as well as holding a global role for the media agency as Director, Emerging Media. At Mindshare he works with both local & multinational clients, helping them to integrate on & offline, and to utilise search, social, mobile & video in their broader marketing mix.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | LinkedIn



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  • http://www.domesticatingit.com/about JonDiPietro

    This is a nice primer for those not familiar with Quora. However, I’d like to make a suggestion that your advice in #4 is a little to narrow. Your point seems to be limited to looking at Quora as a means to directly connect with a target market, but I would argue that there are indirect opportunities.

    There are a number of influential folks on Quora that are very active and there are opportunities to get on their radar in order to reach your target market vicariously. This may include connecting with influential journalists, bloggers, or investors.

  • http://www.mindshareworld.com Ciarán Norris

    Hi Jon,

    Thanks for the comment. I probably was being quite narrow, but for a reason. There are already so many places/ways to connect with these type of people, that one simply has to prioritise. Over the years we (marketers) have told people to invest in building blog relations, forums, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc… Whilst I am open to thoughts on how to use Quora, I don’t really see how you can do so in such a way as to avoid spamming. My Scoble question at the end was meant in jest, but it highlights the potential down-sides of jumping in.

  • dstiehr

    There is an interesting quandary at work here for anyone touting Quore as the new Twitter (not this article but many of the TC articles) which is that “becoming the new Twitter” implies mainstream acceptance and widespread use. But mainstream acceptance and widespread use will destroy the Quora experience, because as mentioned in the article it’s the quality of participants that set it apart.

    So the more people that start using it, inevitably the lower the overall quality of discourse will be, the more spam that will pop up, and the more nonsense (like you see in Y Answers or even trending on Twitter) will flood the site.

    So if you want Quora to continue to provide the service it provides as effectively as it does now it’s probably in your best interest that it stays off the mainstream radar. I guess that’s my long way of saying this article is the best and most honest assessment of Quora’s future that I’ve come across.

  • http://www.mindshareworld.com Ciarán Norris

    Hi dstiehr

    Thanks so much, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I guess that’s what I struggle with – how does Quora grow when a; I don’t see that many people really using it that much, and, b; more people using it kills whatever it is, it has.

    I guess that these are questions where the answers appear obvious if you live & work in the Valley.

  • http://palomadelamanecer.blogspot.com/ Heidy Murillo

    :P The first one mut be: Do you speak English? lol

  • http://www.mindshareworld.com Ciarán Norris

    Heidy – that’s actually a good point. At what point do Quora internationalise, and how?

  • http://www.leads4pros.com/blog/ Stephen Da Cambra

    Ciarán – Thanks for the informative post. For what it’s worth, I did my own little test on the Quora ranking question.

    As we all should, I regularly search my name “stephen da cambra” to see what’s being said.

    While I’ve been online for many years, I’ve been particularly active for the past 5 yrs and have search results going back to 1998.

    I have been on Quora for 2 weeks and have answered about 5 questions.

    I searched my name just now on the following engines and got these results:

    Google: Two of the top six results (page 1) were from Quora

    Bing: No Quora results over 8 pages

    Yahoo: No Quora results over 8 pages

    Dogpile: #1 result is my Quora profile

    Again, don’t know what the info is worth to anyone else, but I find it very interesting.

 

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