As a business owner, there are always questions that need to be answered. To help with getting answers to their problems, many turn to the online site Quora to hear what advice others in their industry have to offer.
Launched in 2010, Quora is an online site where people can post questions they are having trouble answering. Rather than get answers from one person, the site allows all users to weigh in on what they think the best answers are.
"When you want to know more about something, Quora delivers you answers and content from people who share your interests and people who have first-hand knowledge — like real doctors, economists, screenwriters, police officers, and military veterans," Quora writes on its website.
Quora's goal is for each question page to become the best possible resource for people who want to know about that question. Quora allows users to create personalized homepages that feature the things they want to learn more about by following topics, questions, people and boards. The site currently features more than 400,000 different topics of questions and answers.
"It's a place where you can ask questions no encyclopedia is ever likely to answer, and expect inventive, authoritative answers from people who ought to know," Wade Roush wrote on Xconomy. "The question 'What does it feel like to be the CEO of a startup?' for instance, has more than 50 answers on Quora from actual or former CEOs."
In an interview with Xconomy, Quora founder Adam D'Angelo and head of business and community Marc Bodnick, said the site is really a way for people to share knowledge, rather than just information.
"We think of [knowledge] as anything in anyone’s head that might be useful to other people," D’Angelo told Xconomy. "The thing we really care about is getting that knowledge out of people's heads."
In addition to asking and answering questions, Quora is also a place for blogging. In 2013, the online site launched its blogging features, which, according to the site, allows writers to share their knowledge and thoughts in a space that they control, without the structure of the questions-and-answers format but with the same potential for viral distribution and the same engagement through votes and comments.
"Blogs on Quora are great for people who (1) don't have a big, established online presence already and (2) don't want to do the time-intensive, heavy lifting of marketing their blog and slowly building an audience," Quora engineering manager Kah Keng Tay wrote on the company's own blog. "If you are a good writer but don't have thousands of Twitter followers or a big audience for your blog, Quora is an ideal place to write."
Tay said Quora blogs differ from other blogging platforms because their visibility isn't dependent upon other people following the writer.
"For writers, this means that anyone who shares your topic interest may see your writing, no matter how many people follow you personally," Tay wrote.
How to use Quora
The first step in using Quora is signing up for the service. There are several ways in which to do so. Users can sign up for free via their Google, Facebook or Twitter accounts, or simply through an email account. By signing up with one of their social networks, Quora is better able to offer users content that would most interest them.
For those not interested in sharing that information with the site, it is possible to simply register with an email address. Once signed up, users must start building their activity feed.
According to Quora, the activity feed has recent activity about content that interests each user. The feed can be viewed by simply going to the site's home page. Users can build a good feed by following and searching topics, people and specific questions.
- Topics: When following a topic, questions and answers tagged with that topic will appear in the user's feed
- People: When following people, users will see questions and answers posted by these people in their feed
- Questions: When following a question, users will see activity about that question in their news feed
Once users have built up their feed, they are encouraged to "upvote" answers they find helpful, which in turn helps others see which answers are the most valuable. In addition, they can start asking questions when they have them and answering other questions when they have knowledgeable answers to share.
Quora for business
There are several ways in which businesses can take advantage of the services Quora offers. The first is by getting answers to questions business owners may have. If they need help getting started, figuring out how to price certain products or getting advice on which vendors to go with, Quora can help.
Whether it's reading answers to questions that have already been asked, or asking them for the first time, business owners will get a range of opinions from those who have experienced the same difficulties. Getting input from multiple sources, rather than just one person who may have certain biases or allegiances, is a good way for business owners to help make the best decisions for their specific needs.
Quora also allows business owners and other professionals to display their expertise in certain areas. By providing answers to questions that have been posed by others, they can build both their personal and professional brand.
"While it's not designed specifically for small-business owners, building a presence and establishing a reputation as a thought leader can lead to sales and valuable business contacts," Angela Stringfellow, a content marketing strategist for CODA Concepts, LLC, wrote on American Express' Open Forum.
In addition, Stringfellow said when users share their questions and answers through their other social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, it can help build up their search engine optimization (SEO).
"Because Google indexes Facebook shares and Tweets, sharing Quora content can create the link trail that appeals to search engines," Stringfellow wrote. "And the more visitors directed to your expert responses, the more awareness you've built for your business."
Dean Blackburn, founder of NaviDate.com, told Inc. magazine that Quora can also help with market research.
"It's easy to look up topics and questions that are currently top-of-mind for my prospective customers," Blackburn told Inc."In this way, Quora excels as a market research tool."
Quora can also help small business owners and other professionals with their networking and communication skills.