|Social Media Z to A: Q is for Quora|
Quora - heard of it? Ironically, if you have never heard of Quora, you will find the answer to that question at Quora - the leading online social Q&A site that has been generating a huge amount of buzz since its launch in January 2010.
Now, Q&A sites have been around for a long time - Yahoo Answers, Ask.com, Google Answers (now retired) and then there are Facebook Questions and LinkedIn Answers. So what makes Quora so special?
Consider the following buzz:
It's elegant and simple User Interface has also won over many fans - tech site Mashable rated it as one of the best user experiences of 2010.
The period Jan 2010, when Quora had a private Beta, to Jan 2011 has seen registered users zoom from 1,500 to 600,000
Quora estimates 160,000 of those users are Monthly Active Users - not bad for a Q&A site
Secured $11 million dollars in funding and current valuation puts it in the region of around $100 million
There are at least 5 Quora users who have answered at least a 1000 questions each
Part of the early success of Quora can also be attributed to its pedigree - its founders Adam D'Angelo and Charlie Cheever both came from Facebook, where they worked on the technology side.
So how does Quora's much talked about elegant and simple Q&A system work:
The Askers post a question
Quora's moderation team checks for any objectionable content
The Answerers respond with their inputs
Editors look at the clarity and lucidity of the questions and answers and may make edits.
Curators provide an "expert" rating to the answers, making the answers go up or down
Reviewers classify the Q&A into specific buckets, which can be searched by other users
There are also two other categories of users apart from Askers and Answerers:
Commenters who comment on these answers given
Lurkers who just observe and interact passively
There is also a unique social interaction system in Quora where users may use a Private Messaging System to interact with each other separately from the Q&A structure
Despite Quora's early success it is unclear whether this will translate into a long term win for them. Here are some of the challenges that Quora faces:
Lack of Revenue Model: How does Quora make money? How do the people who provide answers on Quora make money? If Quora is looking at ways other than an ad-centric revenue model, the world is yet to know about it. That could be a big risk in the days ahead.
Multiple players in social Q&A space: PeerPong, ChaCha, AnswerBag and Formspring are just some of the 20 odd social Q&A sites that are out there apart from heavyweights like Yahoo Answers and Facebook Questions. Whether Quora will survive the imminent shakeup in the market is a question that is yet to be answered!
Niche Expert sites: If you wanted expert advice on matters like aviation safety or on how to over clock your laptop's CPU, chances are you would not go to Quora but to specialized bulletin boards, that have for long been the popular destination for people with such needs
Credibility: Just as Wikipedia ran into issues when people started seeing some really dodgy and downright erroneous entries, Quora will have to watch out for any answers that may raise further questions. Once people start doubting the quality of answers on Quora it could be an uphill climb.
Why am I reading this article? Why should I care?
Quora and other social Q&A sites can have a significant impact on your organization. Here is how:
Impact as a social influencer: Just as you need to be listening on twitter about mentions of your brand and organization, and must carefully maintain your LinkedIn content, so should you keep an eye out for answers that contain references about your company and brands.
Tool for PR and marketing: A nuanced and soft marketing approach using Quora to spread awareness about your organization, brand and its products can have a huge impact as people associate Q&A sites with credibility. Are your organization's experts doling out expertise to general audience on topics of shared interest?
Knowledge Management: If you think that in today's day and age your internal Knowledge Management systems are adequate to meet your organization's needs then think again. Encourage your employees to be part of sites like Quora - both for asking questions and as mentioned above, answering them.