Quora seems to have picked up where StumbleUpon once shown as the place for the most intelligent people to exchange insights and ideas. The tone of any social network is what attracts or repels specific audiences. In my experience, Quora users have always been respectful and welcoming to newcomers and regulars alike.
Elijah Young provided the perfect description of Quora in his guest post for SocialMediaExaminer that asks Is Quora the Next Big Social Media Site?
When I first heard about Quora, the conversation went a little like this:
Jill: “Have you heard of Quora? It’s a question and answer site.”
Jack: “You mean like Yahoo Answers?”
Jill: “No, it’s full of experts who give you the best answers.”
Jack: “You mean like LinkedIn Answers?”
Jill: “No, the community votes for the best answer and they can hide irrelevant answers.”
There you have it. Quora is what happens if every Wikipedia article was turned into a Jeopardy question and then answered with the same Wikipedia article, although much less accurate, completely subjective and much more self-promoting.
Read Elijah's full review for his insights, and read on for why I disagree - as usual - with those who believe we should squash what they insist on calling "self-promotion".
Why Quora is Better Than LinkedIn for Discussions
Who better than someone who loves a subject so much that they made it their life's work to answer your question? Many sites and especially Q&A sites are so focused on preventing "self-promotional answers" that they delete and run off the very people most qualified to provide the answers their users are seeking.
While LinkedIn is encouraging us to share with groups there (note the LinkedIn share buttons in this and many other blogs), using them to share highly relevant posts with individual groups can get you banned. Many groups prohibit sharing links to posts that answer the very questions that someone posed.
Those group moderators are doing the same thing Yahoo! Answers did -
throwing our the people most qualified to provide the best advice.
If someone already has a post written that answers that very question they are likely to have deep expertise on that subject. Linking to a post that directly answers that specific question is sharing that expertise.
Where that content lives does not make it less beneficial. Allowing a link if the writer published it on a major site like Mashable, Techcrunch, Forbes or the NY Times but refusing it if they published it on their own blog is ridiculous. Same writer - same expertise.
In fact, what they publish on their own site might be more useful because in most cases they have more freedom to link to and recommend the best and brightest.
There are two factors that can not be avoided:
- If someone makes a living selling products or services, anything they say could be construed by others as "self-promotional".
- Where there is no advantage to spending our time - we won't.
Ignoring these two key points is why Yahoo! Answers has deteriorated into a place where a few wise people answer intelligently, but primarily what you see is a whole lot of children provide horrendously inaccurate answers to each other.
If a representative of a business discloses that fact and provides answers on Yahoo! Answers they are more likely to be banned than have their answers stay on that site. Where intelligent answers are deleted, those who answer questions leave.
Why Quora Attracts Brilliant People
Intelligent people got that way because they are open to discussing ideas with others. Many may not know anyone who lives in close proximity so they go online. (That is probably why colleges first existed: as a place to find experts and mentors.)
StumbleUpon was one of the first social networks that made it easy for them to find each other because their algorithms surfaced both the top content for any category (and originally keyword) and who shared the best content on that subject. That made it easy to find each other and to know who was an expert on what.
For experts to contribute to and continue to use a particular social network
there must be something in it for them!
Quora made a conscious decision to allow what Yahoo! Answers, LinkedIn and so many other sites prohibit: "self-promotion" in answering questions.
- Q: Why should someone who makes their living in a particular specialty give away their time?
- A: While they may just like helping others, there needs to be a benefit to them, too. That benefit is potential new business.
- Q:Where will they choose to donate that time?
- A: Wherever they get the most benefit.
- Q: What kills their incentive to participate?
- A: A site that wastes their time by deleting their answers or makes them feel unwelcome.
Right now, Quora is the site with the largest audience that is most business friendly. Whether it remains that way will be up to those who make decisions for Quora and the community itself. (As communities mature they tend to become less friendly for newcomers as established groups on power trips become more common.)
Future of Quora
Big changes are going on at Quora. Quora raised $50 million in funding from co-founder Adam D'Angelo, Northbridge Ventures, Matrix Ventures and Facebook investor Peter Thiel - and then appears to have pushed out Quora co-founder Charlie Cheever.
There is a predictable pattern in start-ups that are founded by the elite:
- Founded by people with connections to major corporate entities (think Facebook, Google, Yahoo!, etc.)
- Target audience at launch: brilliant techie people who create massive amounts of high quality content and use the site to find each other and interact. (Examples: StumbleUpon, Friendfeed, Quora.)
- Rumors of interest by a major site which may or may not end in an admitted sale. Examples:
- Friendfeed got bought by Yahoo! but their functionality showed up in Google Buzz.
- Rumors of Twitter being acquired by Google or Apple
- Shake-ups and changes that drive the original users away that are intended to scale the site up and attract the general public enmasse.
Quora is at a turning point and it remains to be seen whether they throw their most dedicated, passionate users under the bus or they try to increase general usage without taking away why brilliant people hang out there.
In Why Quora Won't Scale, Christie Barakat discusses some of the current challenges Quora faces and accuses the Quora community of retaliatory conduct and acting authoritarian and elitist. Quora would do well to read and correct the issues Christie brings up.
I wonder if the Quora community realizes that how you treat people determines what kind of community you end up with and who contributes? There has been some very public stone throwing including Dan Kaplan's Quora is Not Your Playground, Scoble.
There is no real reason Quora can not make changes and improvements to attract the masses without alienating those who made Quora what it is today. Unfortunately, that is NOT typically what the global elite who launch these social networks choose to do. They intentionally use the best and brightest and then just as intentionally destroy what attracted them to that site originally. We must always remember who actually launched each site and what their long range goals are.
As always, I recommend using major sites to find each other and attract whomever your target audience may be (readers, clients, customers for your goods and services) back to a domain you control optimized to encourage subscription and participation or into an independent community like Blog Interact where groups of like-minded individuals can invest their time.
Important 2013 Prediction
There is no guarantee that any site will last forever and your time and efforts there may not be lost - so choose where you spend your time wisely. What I predict will happen is that leading influential social media savvy bloggers will join together to create geo-targeted group blogs where local communities will form.
I explained why local is where the money is for bloggers and provided examples of sites in How Social Networks Are Restoring Human Connections so you can see what we need to be doing.
In 2013, Bryan Hollis of BlogInteract, Kiesha Easley of WeBlogBetter and I will be rolling out turn-key sites for blogging leaders. Read my 2013 Small Business Prediction on DIRJournal.com/business-journal for details.
What is Quora?
- What is a Quora?
- Quora Crunchbase profile
- Quora Adds 'Boards' and Becomes a Little More Like Pinterest
- Why Quora's New Boards Feature Makes It a Better Network
How to Use Quora
- The Marketer’s Guide to Quora
- 5 Ways Marketers Can Use Quora
- 20 Ways Schools Should Be Using Quora
- 20 Ways Colleges Should Be Using Quora
- Bing Now Surfaces Quora Answers In Its Social Sidebar
- Quora Is On A Quest For Users With Its New Embeddable Quotes
- Now You Need Quora Credits To Ask Questions, But Can Also Use Them To Promote Content
- Quora Launches An Off-Site “Follow” Button For Topics And People