Quora If you’re looking for the “it” social media site of the moment, it’s apparently Quora. Named one of ten “websites to watch in 2011,” Quora is described as “a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it.” People post questions, and other people answer them. A whole bunch of cool features make the process more social and keep things interesting. It’s worth a look … especially if you want to reach tech reporters or social media early adopters.

All that said, Quora isn’t necessarily doing anything new (but they are doing one thing really well). Lots of people have questions about all kinds of things. They probably have questions about the subjects that you know best. That’s an opportunity for you and your organization.

Not everyone is on Quora yet, and they probably won’t be for a while. But there are plenty of other sites where you can find questions about your area of expertise. Here are a few places where you might want to look:

  • Yahoo! Answers: The granddaddy of the category. Yahoo! Answers are open to anyone and indexed by the major search engines.
  • LinkedIn Answers: Open to any LinkedIn member. Follow categories that interest you most, and get recognized for providing the best answer to a given question.
  • LinkedIn Groups: Groups can be very targeted by industry or interest group, but they can tend to get self-promotional. Find the groups with proactive managers and get active in the discussions.
  • Facebook Questions: A fairly new feature in Facebook (some people still don’t see this option in their status bar), the size of the userbase alone makes this one worth watching.
  • Twitter: Twitter is full of people asking questions and pondering various subjects. Use the Advanced Search feature, plug in a keyword term related to your industry along with a question mark (one example I use is “wordpress help ?“) and see who you can assist. Plug the terms into your Twitter client of choice, or grab the RSS feed and check back a couple times a day.
  • Local/Industry Networking Sites and Forums: If your business is focused on a specific region or industry, there’s a good chance there are already discussion boards and networking sites where people are seeking information. Be there to help. (And if such a site doesn’t exist for your industry yet, start one here.)
  • Your Website or Blog: If you’re already blogging or getting a decent amount of traffic to your site, consider taking questions from readers and answering them in future posts or a dedicated area of your site. What better place to make sure that potential customers can find the answers they need?

That’s Just What I Needed!

The difference, and the advantage for Quora at the moment, is the quality of the experts answering questions and the answers being provided. You’ll quickly find that Yahoo! and even LinkedIn are full of spam, while Quora provides their community with tools to help vote the best answers to the top and suppress the self-promoters.

Whether Quora makes it or not, people will always be searching for useful answers. If you’re going to spend some time answering questions on any of these sites, here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure you stand out from the pack:

  • Be a resource, not a sales clerk. People want answers, not sales pitches. If they reach out to you, you’ll get the opportunity to reel them in.
  • Be clear and concise. We’re all busy. We don’t have time to sort through pages of manuals. Get to the point, and fast.
  • Be a connector. Sometimes you don’t have the answer, but you know just the person who does. Rather than making something up, make the referral. Provide a link to reach the other expert.
  • Look for ideas to incorporate into your own site. If you see a trend, leverage it. Write a blog post, add some content to your FAQ or record a quick video to address the question that keeps popping up.

The bottom line is that being helpful is be a great way to gain trust. And when people trust you, they’re more comfortable doing business with you. I can tell you from experience — helping people on LinkedIn and Twitter has led directly to several wonderful, long-term clients. Give it a try … you might be surprised at the results.

Have a question for me? Post it in the comments, reach me here, or ask me on Quora. I’ll be sure to answer as soon as I can.

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