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5 Questions To Ask Before Jumping Into Quora

In my last post, I suggested that Groupon would be 2011’s Twitter, by which I meant that it would start attracting more and more media attention, as well as big brand dollars. And I stand by that.

However, if you’re a frequent reader of Techcrunch or many of the other big tech-blogs, particularly those based near, and part of the West Coast tech-scene, you might think that another site is set to dominate the coming 12 months.

Social question site Quora is receiving the sort of attention that Foursquare was getting 12 months ago, or Twitter a year or two before that. Barely a day goes by on Techcrunch without an article featuring Quora (to the extent that many readers are now commenting that they’re already bored of reading about it), and since signing up to the site, my inbox has been flooded with notifications of people who are now following me.

Heck, even Robert Scoble is now following me (I have no idea why), and when Scoble gets on board, you know there’s a new fad in town.

So how much of this is hype, and what should marketers do about? In each case, I’ve tried to find an answer on Quora, so that you can compare it with my own.

1. How is Quora different from other Q&A services?

One major difference is the type of users it’s attracting (see #2 below) and its UI, which aims to reduceĀ repetitionĀ of questions, thereby creating a more Wikipedia-style library of questions/answers.

But probably the main difference is its insistence on openness, to the extent that it’s hard to post questions or answers anonymously, thereby (arguably) keeping the level of discourse higher than on other services.

On top of that, Quora has made great use of other social platforms, such as Facebook & Twitter to help individual questions gain attention, thereby driving user acquisition. (Quora’s answer)

2. Why is Quora attracting so much attention?

As with many such instances of sites attracting attention/hype (you decide), Quora is, in part, getting written about a lot because it’s a great boon for journalists. MG Siegler wrote about this very fact last month.

Because whereas Yahoo! Answers, and similar services (because Quora is far from original) are often filled with meaningless drivel, Quora has proved to the favourite place for the great and the good of the Valley to sound of on everything from the movie that’s been made about them to the start-ups they’ve sold. (Quora’s Answer)

3. Is Quora likely to become a mainstream product?

It’s always dangerous to make predictions, but I’d say no. At least not in the same way that Facebook or Twitter has (that is a truly mass-market audience, with brand recognition beyond geeks).

The reason for this is simply that it’s not a truly original service (although that’s not a barrier to going mainstream in and of itself), but none of the services that have come before (Yahoo! Answers, Google Answers) have truly tipped.

It’s actually one of a number of services currently looking to expand in that area. And one of those services is Facebook Questions, which has an audience over 1,000 times greater than Quora’s. Essentially, I simply don’t see a big enough demand for a Q&A platform, when something like Wikipedia can answer most factual questions, and so many others are based on opinion. (Quora’s answer)

4. Should I be considering investing time and/or resource in Quora?

That depends to a certain extent on whether you agree with my take on Quora’s chances of going mainstream. Well known search expert Lyndon Antcliff certainly thinks that there will be an up-side, in that he feels Quora answers will start ranking, and therefore will be open to spammers/marketers.

Personally, I think it will very much depend on your clients’ business. If you’re looking for cheap and dirty traffic, then Quora may well become a new Squidoo; something that gets filled to the brim with junk content. This of course could kill it, as Quorans* themselves admit.

If however you’re a big brand, or working for one, then it may be much harder to justify the sort of expense required to engage fully in the site, just as very few brands now consider Wikipedia to be a marketing channel, rather something that should be monitored to ensure that no nasty reputation issues are brewing up.(Quora’s answer)

5. Is Robert Scoble killing Quora?

Robert doesn’t think so.

Quora is obviously an impressive site, and whilst it often seems like we’re in the midst of a new bubble (the only thing lacking being shareholders), a valuation just shy of $100m is still not to be sniffed at. And though there can be little doubt that the convergence of recommendation and search will play a large part in the ongoing evolution of the web, the Internet is littered with sites that promised much and ended up delivering little, with the latest news on MySpace being a timely reminder of that.

So before jumping into Quora, make sure you understand what it can offer and whether your investment, in terms of time, resource and content, is likely to bring any return, or just end up as column fodder for Techcrunch.

*I was hoping I was the first to come up with that name, but I’m not.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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