As Director of Digital Strategy at Coyne one of my tasks is to explore new Social Media tools and applications. Sometimes a quick review is all that is needed to see that a site will have limited value (see Jon Burg’s review of Cubeduel as an example). Other times first impressions may not be enough and after further review, value can be found. Quora may be an example of the latter.
Buzz around the site was fueled by this Fast Company article from earlier this month: “Q&A site Quora builds buzz with A-List Answerers.”
Initially, I was skeptical of Quora. It seemed to be a solution in search of a need. There are plenty of places to get answers to questions on the web, whether from official site FAQs, Wikipedia or via one’s social graph (Twitter, Facebook). But ramp up on the site seemed strong, especially among those of us involved with Social Media. David Armano noticed the rapid adoption as well:
Have never seen such effective social graph siphon and ripple effect. Nearly 1k Quora followers in less than 2 days.
I had a similar experience. The Quora team did an excellent job of integrating their product into my existing social networks so I quickly built up a group of people I was familiar with, making Quora seem like a familiar and comfortable place pretty quickly. And yet I still had my doubts. Those doubts were fueled by posts like this one from Saneel Radia of BBH Labs: The Answer to this Quora? No.
Frank Eliason was more optimistic, but seems to be cautiously so, asking, “What’s with all the Quora hype?” Chris Brogan has a similar response, seeing potential but not yet ready to commit. He offered some ideas on how Quora could get interesting.
But soon people started talking about a “thin end of the wedge” approach in respect to Quora. Here, digital media entrepreneur Semil Shah writes convincingly on Techcrunch about seven ways Quora may grow in relevance. Edward Boches commented on how Quora is demonstrating the Network Effect in its meteoric growth.
David Armano offered seven reasons why Quora will be bigger than Foursquare. Clearly he’s become a convert, a look at his Twitter feed shows his frequency of use and general enthusiasm for the platform:
Day one on Quora. Mega potent social hooks. Following built up in record time. It's all about establishing expertise an social currency
Leslie Barry of Iphso also is a convert. Here he speaks of Quora’s ability to “create a database of intentions.”
For me the key “a ha” moment came when I stopped thinking of Quora as another place for Social Media practitioners to keep score (my answer is #1; look how many followers I have…), but rather an engagement tool for brands.
My colleague at Coyne, Derek Brown, pointed out several potential benefits for brands leveraging Quora from a PR perspective. Derek sagely notes, “Just as the goal of traditional PR was to make you a resource to journalists, the new model of social engagement requires you to be a resource to an evolving spectrum of influencers and stakeholders.”
Brian Solis also sees the potential for brands to benefit from Quora, noting “listening and monitoring are important within Quora if it is indeed where your community is asking and answering questions. Like Yahoo Answers and Mahalo Answers, answers to brand related questions are already populating the top of search results in Google.”
I think Quora has several challenges ahead. Will it be able to maintain momentum after the initial ‘shiny new thing’ effect wears off? Will Google or Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn catch up (or buy it)? And of course, will they figure out a business model? But there are also many exciting possibilities. Could they partner with Foursquare or some other location-based service to offer local Q&A? Could they integrate with corporate websites to create dynamic FAQ pages? I think the next interesting period for Quora could be this year’s South by Southwest conference. Will Quora see increased activity around this event which attracts a core user base? There are many questions, but Quora seems to be off to an exciting start.