The Question Of Quora

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When someone asks, "what’s the next Twitter?" more often than not, there is not a response.

Over the past few years the answer has been, "Foursquare, Gowalla or Groupon" until recently. Over the past little while, a new online platform has been gaining ground, momentum and attention. It’s called Quora. At it’s core, Quora is a question and answer service. Anyone can post a question and anyone can answer it. Answers can be voted up and down (ala Digg) and you have the ability to follow the individuals and topics that are of interest to you.

"It doesn’t sound all that groundbreaking."

If that’s what you’re thinking, please remember that they never sound all that groundbreaking. I still get the old, "Twitter just sounds stupid to me," or "why would anybody want to post all of their personal information on Facebook?" First off, never be a "market of one" (just because you would not do it or that you do not find it interesting, it does not mean that others will feel the same). Quora seems to be working because the questions are smart and the varied answers are smarter… and coming from some very smart people.

What makes Quora cool?

Here’s a great example: Someone asked: What do people at Twitter think of Facebook? While this question can be answered by anyone, in this instance, Albert Sheu, a former Twitter Search Engineer (and current employee at Quora), candidly replied, "I will try to step through this question carefully, but honestly, people at Twitter are generally not fans of Facebook," (but you’ll have to click on the question above to read his full response). Part of Quora’s cool factor is that it seems to have captured the hearts and minds of the Silicon Valley luminaries and all of the Bloggers and Tweeters that follow them. They’re not just watching Quora become popular, they’re actually diving in and mixing it up… answering questions (and even posting questions).

And this is how media changes.

Just this week, Jeremiah Owyang (a well-known Blogger and industry analyst) noticed that he was now being quoted in more mainstream media spaces by journalists who were pulling his answers off of questions he responded to on Quora. Think about the ramifications of that for just one moment. Now, without the ability to always get an interview, a journalist can either ask a question on Quora or search for an answer if their question has already been asked in the space (more on that here: Quora: a tech journalist’s utopia, but what does it mean for journalism at large?). Pushing that further, what happens when a well-known entity is active on Quora (posting questions and answering them), but then ignores a question being asked on Quora by a legitimate source?

The Marketing Implications.

While it is still early days and it’s hard to tell if Quora is something that will be sustainable, the data, information and search engine optimization is already impressive. Quora knows what kind of questions gets answered, how they spread, who spreads them, who those people are connected to and, ultimately, what interests them. Much like many of the other online social networks we have seen to date, Quora is quickly going to have a lot of valuable and highly targetable data. On top of that, because of its current popularity many generic searches done in places like Google, Yahoo and Bing are now showing Quora questions high on the first page of organic search results (which speaks to its quick rise in power).

Where can this take us as Marketers?

Imagine the ability to really ask serious and honest questions of your consumers and community members. Think about the significant back and forth that can take place. Imagine what it’s like when each answer can be voted up by everyone in an equal and public fashion. While all of that has been doable for some time, it’s now taking place in a very public forum (that neither brand nor consumer "owns"). It’s also a place that is not limited to 140 characters or being mixed in with a personal profile page or a Blog that sits within a walled garden.

What do you think about Quora… and the potential for Quora?


  1. I just started playing with Quora, but I can definitely see the value. A lot of times, when I have some sort of technical question, I’ll Google it to see what I can find. That works, but I get the sense I’m going to be able to get much more specific answers from true experts if I ask at Quora. I’m thinking it can almost be like Wikipedia on the fly. I think it’s ultimate success will depend on how many people consistently provide quality answers.

  2. Hi Mitch,
    After joining Quora earlier in the week, I’ve been thinking about it, and who will benefit from it.
    I found it couldn’t be approached the same way as LinkedIn discussions and Q&As. I find it overwhelming to follow everything that interests you – like Twitter. It’s not a social platform, in the sense that Twitter or Facebook are.
    It’s very inward facing. It doesn’t inherently draw or aggregate content from across the internet.
    But as you mentioned, it’s fantastic for data mining and crowd sourcing. I question whether it has enough appeal for the demographics being queried.
    Like you said, great for tech journalists. I did a search for fashion, and found a lot of opinion discussion. I searched Healthcare and found a lot of questions with no, or few, answers.
    It’s still early, and I think the platform has some growing pains to get through. But it has real potential. I think it needs to grow beyond the blogger niche, and it needs a better UI and wider integration across social software to do that.
    I don’t think appearing high on search results is enough to draw the typical web user to contribute to it.

  3. I also have been spending time on Quora trying to get the lay of the land. As a die hard Twitter fan, I am finding myself quickly seeing the value of Quora. I see it as a great blend of Twitter meets Wikipedia with a super smart group of people participating and exchanging information. I will definitely be spending time here and using it as a research tool.

  4. Hi Mitch thanks for posting this.
    I doubt to see the added value from the usual “yahoo answers”? Except of course, that the crowd is currently more tech gurus at the moment (until the hype changes it into more mainstream).

  5. Some god answers here to an excellent post. I’m pretty excited about Quora. Love @Kevin Ertell’s describing it as Wikipedia on the fly. Actually, I’m in awe of the UI. Yes, it takes a bit of studying, but then you’re in, more easily than on LinkedIn, for instance.
    Can the convo be vetted constantly as they seem to promise, I wonder?
    Maybe we users can vet it by asking, as you suggest, “… serious and honest questions of your consumers and community members.”
    If we “Think about the significant back and forth that can take place,” Quora takes on awesome proportions.

  6. On the face of it, Quora is a Wikipedia/Aardvark hybrid. It’s strength and weakness lies in being curated correctly like Wikipedia. If it’s not monitored, the room for exploitation is massive. If it is, well then this will be a really cool organic reference resource. It’s a big goal (#understatement)
    The question is: do we need it? We have so many niche search engines already.
    Aardvark searches through your social network and then through its social network to find a human to answer your question (a P2P search engine if you will). Wikipedia is an encyclopedia written by humans and is zeitgeist sensitive. Wolfram is an objective calculation engine. Google is search.
    To my mind, Quora hasn’t distinguished itself enough to yet be taken seriously.

  7. Mitch, thanks for the post. I have now registered for an account and will dedicate some time to learning. Have I thanked you for all you do for us lately? ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. For years I have heard cries “what if Facebook goes out of business?” or “how does Twitter make money?” and my response has been and remains – I don’t care. Why do we concern ourselves with the success of a platform if we are simply using it? If it fails, we move on.
    Delicious is folding yet we are finding many other ways to bookmark cool stuff for other people to discover. Writing was not invented after Gutenberg introduced the printing press.
    Quora is cool. I have asked two questions. And it reminds me of the moments after signing on to Twitter and saying “now what?” Three years later, I’m still unearthing new ways to collaborate and meet people.
    I don’t think Groupon works for every company on earth. I am still trying to figure out the value of GetGlue and I meet people daily who don’t think building a more social business is the way to increase revenue.
    This is not about discovering the next Twitter, this is about embracing the possibility of reaching people around the world along though silos. The interface is irrelevant.

  9. @Amod Munga: I think the difference Quora presents is public authorship of the answers, so while it is mainly an information resource, it’s also social media in that there’s an opportunity to establish personal expertise.

  10. I’ve seen a few people posting links to their answers on Quora on Twitter and to me, that clearly shows that they don’t get “it”. I see Quora as being very transparent and the inputs being authentic. Seeing people posting their answers from Quora on Twitter is like someone pulling a Horshack and desperately vying for attention, which to most of us who engage actively online in social media readily recognize as someone that’s more interested in the number of followers or friends they have rather than the quality of their content.

  11. Hi Mitch,
    I have just started playing with it and so far, I like what I see… It is intuitively built, you can follow people, themes and questions, and it also allows you to capitalize on the content generated by the questions & answers to populate your Twitter feed when you feel like it is relevant for your Twitter audience.
    Will see if I stick with it, but so far so good !

  12. @Karen SD
    I do not agree with you, as I am finding that Quora allows for more substantial answers, in more of a forum type — which Twitter cannot provide. While I agree that posting Quora answers on Twitter systematically would be a mistake, I find that being able to post some of the discussion threads to my Twitter audience is a plus, when I feel that the content is relevant to them.

  13. Don’t disagree that there may be relevance for a Twitter audience; I should have been more explicit in stating the the postings I’ve witnessed were without context and simply “see my answer on Quora” with a link…

  14. True. Probably because this is the standard sharing message in Quora when you are about to share an answers. Perhaps we should/will develop the reflex of adding a more personal comment to our Twitter posts in the future !

  15. I think this is an accurate depiction and analysis Mitch. However i think one appeal to me is that it is still small and manageable. The MLM creeps and other spammers haven’t found it yet. Enjoy it while you can. : )

  16. I agree with Mark. I have only been on Quora for a couple of days, but watching it for a bit longer. I am pretty excited about it, as I was active for about a year on twine (often in the top 10 users) until the takeover. I had quite a collection of twines (subjects) and people whom I conversed with, (perhaps more informally than the current format on Quora). But this already seems a more grown up version of what i enjoyed about twine.
    In cruising Quora I have already found new information I have been looking for on various subjects. What is also comforting to me (if I needed comfort:-), is to find many of my friends from twitter already here.
    I do notice (strictly as a beginner) that the Q/A format lacks a little of the “conversational style” I really enjoy in online interchange. Does anyone else get this or is it just my particular state of newb-ness?
    Great post and comments.
    Thank you.

  17. @CASUDI – Oh it seems definitely more serious. It’s social, I suggest, in its ability to showcase your brand without being obnoxious, but the stated purpose of the site is to build a resource for learning – and “mere” conversation seems to be deprecated on Quora!
    Shall we call it a refreshing new approach to the internet’s potentials?

  18. In June last year, I posted the following Tweet: “Lets use Twitter to validate/reshape our thinking & expect feedback. Using it as an “index” of what is out-there, Googleize it.”
    Judging by my first visit at Quora today, I am not the only one living through the sentiment above.
    1) At first look Quora appears to have the potential to seriously challenge Twitter position;
    2) Quora appears to be more fast pace, in-tune, to the point than LinkedIn. Ask the question, get the answer, move-on. No strings attached, use the information, sans relationship;
    3) Entries I saw were professional, direct, specific. No “I am taking my shower…as on “another more popular gathering place”. What will “The Wonder-Kid” will come up with…

  19. I am getting annoyed about the grammar “lesson” and rules on how to post a question in Quora. Not friendly to Tower of Babel grammatically confused individuals like me.

  20. I think this is a perfect analysis of the platform currently. I think the potential is great and can definitely see Quora becoming another mainstay in the social space. The only thing I fear is how well the noise filters will be designed and implemented the more it grows in popularity. Would hate to see the established “experts” always voted up merely because trust is already established, yet would also hate to see not enough of helpful feedback because of over saturation. Tricky balance!

  21. Hi Mitch,
    I Think in order to be a part of Quora, one needs to have the invitation.. Now this may sound like a silly question, but I would like to have the invitation and whoever I know in my network so far is not on Quora..
    So how can I go about in getting the invitation? is there any alternative?

  22. I’m gonna repost my comment from Mark Schaefer’s blog:
    there is nothing on Quora, that I cannot find by using my Google skills. If anything, Quora is a way for the lazy to gain answers. Why search query results when you can have people answer for you? Maybe it’s another Bing, “your decision maker”.
    As quick as Scoble is to throw out the rubbish, I gotta wonder of he’s getting paid to evangelize this site. Though he and I have spoken on Twitter before, it hit me as a bit odd that it was he who was the first to answer my initial question I placed on there. It could very well be that it was in how tagged my question, but he was on it in a matter of minutes.
    When it comes down to it, for me, Quora is jumbled, difficult to navigate, and boring. Wiki-gone-wrong, if you will.

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