Are you looking for a way to enhance your credibility in your industry? Maybe you’re looking to humanize your brand by highlighting your staff’s capabilities and/or diversity? Or perhaps you’re looking to enhance awareness of your brand through an atypical social media tool?

In any of these cases, Quora may be for you. This relatively young social network may not yet have the cachet or user base of a Facebook, Twitter or a LinkedIn. But it offers a unique service that offers savvy marketers a way to enhance their firm’s standing in the industry, its brand awareness and more, just by answering some questions.

Using Quora for Business Purposes

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In this article, we will explore 1) the purpose of Quora, 2) the history of Quora, 3) the benefits of Quora, 4) setting up a Quora account, 5) best practices for using Quora, and 6) a case study.

PURPOSE OF QUORA

Quora is designed to provide users with quality answers to questions asked by other users. Adam D’Angelo, co-founder of Quora, describes itself, “as a general place for people to share knowledge of all kinds” with a focus on “high-quality content.” Many of those who answer questions are titans of the tech industry, such as Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. D’Angelo started off by inviting his friends to the site, many of whom happened to be in the tech industry.

In general, answers are voted on by users, with preference given to those that are comprehensive and personal from credible sources. Unlike many other social networks, to bolster the credibility of the answers, users must register on the site using their real names, rather than an alias. As with most social networking services, users can create profiles and connect with other users, as well as search the site for topics of interest. D’Angelo describes the motivation for users as:

“On Quora, you’re not answering questions because you want to get points or because you have nothing else to do. You’re answering questions because you want to build your reputation or you genuinely, intrinsically enjoy helping people. It’s the same reason someone might want to make a website with information. We just made that a lot easier.”

What makes Quora different from the dozens of similar web applications, like Yahoo Answers and WikiAnswers, is the quality of the answers. Quora users regularly receive emails containing some of the most popular Answers – those that have been upvoted the most. These are usually Answers that are very credible – written by subject matter experts and/or insiders, humorous, insightful or emotionally compelling. Those who ask or answer questions on the site can see viewership statistics – views, shares, and upvotes, on their content on the dashboard called Stats. This can help writer refine their questions and/or answers in hopes of providing more complete – and popular, information.

HISTORY OF QUORA

Quora was founded in 2009 and launched in June of 2010. Its founders, D’Angelo and Charlie Cheever, formerly worked for Facebook, with the former resigning his position there to create the site. Their goal was to create a question and answer site that was better than those online at the time. An iPhone app was launched in 2011 and an Android app in 2012. Shortly after the latter launch, Cheever stepped away from daily management of the firm.

By March of 2014, Quora had 1.15 million unique users on the site. By April of 2014, Quora had become the second largest online warehouse of information behind Wikipedia, with over 500,000 topics. At this time, they received $80 million dollars in VC, which accompanied a then-mostly unspent early round of $40 million. D’Angelo indicated that he intended to scale up the product in other countries and languages, using the VC to grow infrastructure, and to remain independent to ensure the quality of Quora. Quora’s head of business and community Marc Bodnick has publicly stated that they intend to monetize the site beginning in 2015 at the earliest.

The Co-Founders of Quora have a conversation with John Battelle

BENEFITS OF QUORA

Users can benefit from Quora in a number of ways. First, they can use the site to gather information by searching for answers to their questions or writing questions themselves. They can also follow topics and/or people of interest by creating topic specific alerts to deepen their knowledge of the subject.

Second, they can establish themselves as an expert by providing thoughtful, comprehensive answers to user’s questions. Quora already benefits from a number of industry leaders, such as Mark Cuban (Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire tech entrepreneur) and Tristan Walker (Director of Business Development at Foursquare), using the site. You can take advantage of that, by adding your carefully composed thoughts on a subject to Quora, by editing Quora questions and adding topics to them.

Quora users can get product and/or brand insights by researching answers, monitoring brand mentions (theirs and/or others) and asking relevant questions of Quora users, either directly or anonymously. Quora also launched a blogging platform in 2011, which you can use to extend your Quora and another content.

Using Quora to extend your reach and visibility

By providing consistent, insightful answers that are routinely upvoted, you can not only establish yourself as an expert in your field, but you can humanize your brand through the personal answers you and your staff provide. Further, by taking advantage of opportunities to help honestly answer people’s questions by discussing your brand and its services, you can drive traffic to your site. For example, a question about places to take a holiday on a limited budget might be answered by a social media savvy travel agent, who might be able to convert that user, as well as those that read the answer and visit his/her travel agency website.

You can use Quora to extend your reach and visibility through inbound marketing – by adding a backlink to your website when answering a question. You can also do so through trend research – by following competitors and their content on Quora, as well as popular content in your industry. By searching for popular topics in your industry you can develop content for your website or social networks. You can also network by answering, editing, and collaborating on questions from professionals in your industry, or by sending your contacts Quora content of interest to them.

Enhancing your search results

Quora can also be used for SEO as Quora’s answers are indexed by Google and Bing search engines. While backlinks are “nofollow” links, and therefore do not contribute to SEO, but popular content will have your byline and backlink, which can increase your overall traffic. Avoid creating low-quality content just to post a link.

Enhancing your public relations plan

Part of any public relations program is a PR agency or in-house PR department obtaining third-party validation for your brand, product, or initiative. Traditionally, this validation has come from journalists in newspapers; however, increasingly recognition on social networks can help increase the credibility of individuals and firms. Multiple, popular answers on a topic on Quora can do just that. Multiple, popular answers from multiple users from the same company can do it even more effectively.

Further, Quora can be used to correct public misinformation as a part of a crisis communications strategy. Or it can be used to respond to basic customer service complaints.

Quora has been used by journalists doing background research and may soon be used by reporters for sourcing material. Currently, Quora includes information for PR departments on how to get coverage in certain media outlets.

Integrating Quora into your social media strategy

Integrating Quora into your social media strategy is currently a matter of time rather than money, as it does not cost anything to set up an account, post questions or answers, or blog. While Quora can be used to achieve a number of different marketing objectives – such as increasing brand awareness and generating sales leads, it is perhaps best used for building credibility and obtaining business intelligence. Use Facebook for engagement and conversions, Twitter for news, LinkedIn for sourcing – but keep your Quora strategy focused on obtaining actionable insights and developing authority in your market.

Social Media Speaker Crystal Washington discusses Quora for Business

SETTING UP A QUORA ACCOUNT

Setting up a Quora account and profile is easy. You can use your email address or your account with one of the two social networking sites: Facebook or Twitter. With the former process, you will have to fill out the required form fields; with the latter, you will have to allow Quora to access your accounts, which will allow it to add your friends from these networks to your Quora profile. Once you set up your profile, be sure to connect your other social media accounts to it by visiting Settings, from where you can link email addresses, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and WordPress accounts.

When you have set up your Quora account, browse the site for topics of interest and create alerts to follow them. Type a topic in the bar at the top, and hit Enter. You’ll see displayed your topic and related ones. Click the green Follow topic link underneath the exact topic you want to follow to add it to your feed. Next, you can do this by going to Settings and then Email and notifications and adjusting the notifications you will receive by email.

Now you are ready to go. Ask questions. Make sure they are well-thought out, grammatically correct, and original – check the site for similar questions before posting yours. To ask a question, once you re logged in, type a question in the field at the top and click Ask question.

Also, make sure to use the topic biography feature by filling out the Biography fields. When you sign up with a social media account, Quora imports your personal profile information, including education and work history. You will see prompts asking if you want to answers questions about the educational institutions you’ve attended and the employers you’ve worked for. By providing a few contextual details in the biography, which will be displayed when you answer a question concerning them, you can add credibility to your answer. For example, if you answer a question about an event at a high school that occurred ten years, and you’ve already entered into the biography field that you were a student there at the time, Quora users will be inclined to believe you before they even read the first word of your answer.

BEST PRACTICES FOR USING QUORA

  • Fill out your profile completely, and avoid self-promotion or fluffing. Candor and straightforwardness are valued on Quora.
  • Ensure first that you have a social media policy that is flexible enough to allow employees to participate and encourage them to use Quora on topics of interest to them whether or not they are directly relevant to your core business.
  • Provide and/or have key staff answer questions for which they can naturally provide credible and comprehensive answers. Add (or have them add) a bit of humor or a personal anecdote to the answer to increasing its chances of being upvoted.
  • Add sources to your answer, which can increase its (and your) credibility.
  • Ask open-ended questions. In general, the most popular content is long-form and insightful. Yes or no questions are not what the site was designed for. Also, ask intriguing or unique questions.
  • Use your Quora Inbox to network with other users. Given the number of influencers on the site, this can be an extremely valuable resource.
  • Help filter content by upvoting and downvoting it and by editing questions.
  • Avoid self-promotion, as the format of the site, makes this readily apparent. Referencing your firm’s products and services is a solution is one thing, but a surfeit of jargon, direct appeals, and boasting will quickly lead to downvotes.
  • Monitor your mentions on the site using Google Alerts and the query “Quora your company” to get real-time tracking of what people are saying about your brand. Respond appropriately when necessary, but keep in mind that your answers, if public, should add value to other readers of the content.
  • Monitor the mentions of your competitor’s brands, products and services on Quora by running a simple Google query. You can get long-form, ongoing, and unique business intelligence from users, industry experts, and influencers, with a few keystrokes. Don’t forget to follow key topics in your industry as well.
  • Create Boards, which allow you to aggregate questions, answers and even content from other sites on Quora. Aggregating content on a specific topic can be another way to showcase your interest/expertise in it.
  • Add a Quora Follow Button to your website to encourage people to follow you on Quora.
  • If you are a brand, obtain a Verified Profile, so that users have confidence that your brand is in fact you. Verified Profiles are denoted by a blue checkmark and can usually be obtained simply by linking a relevant social media account to Quora.
  • Track and measure your viewership data on But first determine what metrics should be used to meet your objective. Is it visibility – measured by followers and upvotes? Is it engagement – measured by content and up/downvotes? Is it increased credibility – measured by the type of feedback and the type of engagement you receive? Whatever it is, make sure you know what your goals are and how best to measure them before investing time and effort composing quality questions and answers.

CASE STUDY

One prominent “brand” using Quora is the owner of the first Verified Profile, U.S. President Barack Obama. The 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), a landmark piece of healthcare legislation, which he championed, was met with considerable resistance by a number of prominent conservative politicians, and skepticism by much of the public. Some media outlets pointed to a deliberate and systemic misinformation campaign created by the Republican Party as the cause. To clear up concerns concerning the open enrollment period which took place between October 2013 and March 2014, and to help spur sign-ups, the President took to Quora to answer questions himself. The President obtained nearly 28,000 followers, answering questions about ACA, as well as some positive press. And while the most popular question he answered was a personal one, the use of Quora allowed the President to reach a valuable demographic. Some research points to Quora’s users being young and affluent, which make them a lucrative target for not only voter engagement and political donations, but also consumer products.

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