Quora - building your personal brand? close

Mark McDermott
20th January 2011
Quora - building your personal brand?

You have probably heard about the recent social media explosion surrounding Quora. There have been some pretty grandiose claims about how it could be "bigger than Twitter" and "the future of blogging" so I thought I would give you a closer look to see what all the fuss was about.

What is Quora?

"Quora is a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organised by everyone who uses it." - their definition

  • You ask a question and the community answers it. You can also subscribe to topics, answers or people that interest you.
  • It utilises your existing connections via close ties with Twitter and facebook so you are more likely to start getting answers from people you're already engaged with.
  • The best answers get voted up Digg style, the dross is pushed down so you iterate towards quality.
  • Relevant content is collated into a facebook-like feed enabling new content to be brought to your attention (via notifications).
  • It has a strong, intelligent search engine for easily finding topics and answers surrounding the question you might have.

So it's like a discussion forum then... wow!

Indeed! Plus Q&A sites are not exactly unique either so why has it carved out its space on the web and been so highly praised by the big players of Silicon Valley? The answer lies in building personal reputation. Aside from the pleasure of writing, bloggers generally publish in order to share their opinions, experiences and expertise so they can build an audience and ultimately become influential. However this can be at quite a considerable cost in terms of their time creating and marketing that content (ask me how I know!) and is rarely successful.

By engaging with Quora on topics that you have sound knowledge and opinion on you can build audience and influence much faster than before. A well constructed and timely answer will get voted up towards the top and therefore will be read (alongside links to your profile) by everyone following the topic. Invariably, you will pick up more followers and be inclined to write better quality answers to help increase your votes. It's this game mechanic that has really set Quora apart.

Ok, I'm liking this anything else cool?

Funny you should ask. The SEO benefits are actually astounding. Q&A sites are doing particularly well in natural search at the moment (as are video and real time social media content) as the space race for relevancy and fresh content continues between the major search engines. It is completely feasible that your post on Quora could top the search term for the topic whereas your own blog post would normally nestle somewhere on page 5. Now that is powerful, and it's already started happening.

The quality of the current conversations is really high, primarily because of the extremely engaged early adopter community who buys into the concept and is committed to producing good content. Additionally there is the chance of commencing discussions with the top people in each topic field. Thought leaders and CEOs such as AOL's former chairman Steve Case are talking openly with regular users on a level playing field (not from a lofty conference stage). This is your time to be seen and heard by the right people.

It is not to everyone's taste though!

It wouldn't be right if I didn't list a few faults would it?

  • The site does spew out a lot of notification emails which can be a little annoying, especially during this massive growth period. Although do you remember how many invites you got to join facebook initially? However, it was enough to prompt one developer to create this spoof site.
  • You are building your reputation on someone else's platform. No different to doing the same on Twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace etc. but Quora is still in its infancy and anything could happen. Maybe best not to shut down that blog just yet and possibly repost what you write on Quora there as well?
  • As the platform expands into the mainstream there is a danger that it will dilute and get spammed causing the big guns that are currently engaged to get bored by mediocrity from the wider community of fools. Some people feel Twitter is moving this way and it certainly is the reason Yahoo! Answers is widely derided. In this case we could see questions outstripping answers. The community must continue to police Quora for quality but will they stay engaged?
  • You can edit another person's question. This is a marmite feature and does feel reminiscent of the warring editors of Wikipedia battling for supremacy. Where reputation matters, big ego also lurks.

Do you use it Mark?

I must admit I did sign up pretty early (last summer) and just clicked about, followed a few of the geek guys I take note of on Twitter and pretty much left it there until the explosion around Christmas. I am following a few topics like "Getting your startup featured on TechCrunch" and "What's the best CMS to build a corporate website?" and the quality of answers are really high! It's undoubtedly a useful resource.

However I'm not addicted to riding on the sweet high of Quora as yet. That may be because I am not really trying to build my personal brand as much as I am for our agency. Quora is currently positioned around the individual although inevitably in the future it will open up for companies in much the same way facebook did. Brands are being mentioned right now so if you represent one I would start searching straight away and getting in on the conversations early.

You can follow me here if you like and please do tell me what you think of Quora in the comments below.