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Digital Marketing Guide: Quora

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What is Quora?

Quora, launched by a couple of former Facebook employees last summer, allows its users to ask questions of its growing community and answer the questions of others. It's become something of a PR darling, with a lot of tech folks wondering whether it can become the next Twitter. Quora has a long way to go, but here's a guide for how to deal with the site in its relatively early days.

Is Quora worth my time?

Right now, Quora is probably most useful as a depository of information and opinion on tech startups, entrepreneurship, web companies and social-media trends, all of which reflect a current user base of early adopters that skews toward the tech folk, including luminaries such as Robert Scoble and Evan Williams. As such, the information on a Twitter, a Google, a Fred Wilson or the ins-and-outs of pressing issues such as whether your Twitter handle should be on your business card is quite good and comprehensive. There are better sites for finding out what Facebook is up to today, but you might find an interesting thread about how blogging company Six Apart fell apart. Right now, Quora feels like a constantly rewritten oral history of the internet business.

Sounds great. What are the knocks against it?

Well, the subject matter discussed there in any real way is limited. And many have reported that it can be difficult for the nonfamous to get questions answered. Then there's the clunky, often confusing user interface that sends many people scurrying. One example of the bad design is the prominent box at the top left of the page whose function isn't readily clear. It looks like it could either be a search box or a place to ask questions. It's both. Not the dumbest way to go about things, but also not very intuitive.

Are there celebrities on Quora?

Sure. Ashton Kutcher and his bride, Demi Moore. LeVar Burton, too. No Kanye, though. And there are any number of tech micro-celebrities.

Should I believe all the hype about Quora being the new Twitter or Facebook?

That's the potentially multibillion-dollar question if you're staked in the company. Quora doesn't share its audience figures, but all signs point to exponential growth over the past few months on a very small base. The big challenge for Quora's leadership will be to maintain a level of quality that sets it apart from other Q&A sites as its user base grows.

Can I advertise there?

Not yet. But Quora's management has been public about counting advertising as a future revenue source.

How can brands use it?

There's no doubt that Quora, which is most definitely not a place for glib promotion of yourself or your product, will become a battlefield for reputation management. The question is: How large and important a battlefield? If you work at an internet company of note, bet that there are a few threads discussing your business model, your funding, your personnel, your product, your valuation and your future. Those threads are community-moderated, with no guarantee the people creating around this conversation have any real knowledge of your company. Quora makes it easy for users to qualify themselves, but it's self-qualification. It's essential that PR people get in there, tracking discussion about their companies and wading into the discussion when necessary. And remember that what happens in Quora doesn't stay in Quora. Discussion threads are turning up high in search results and journalists have been quoting from the threads there. Of course, the same sensitivity that would govern PR dealings in any other social-media channel would apply here. Use the rule of three hands: Don't be heavy-handed, ham-handed or underhanded. Have respect for the conversation. "We think it's a good thing that people are erring on the side of caution," said David Berkowitz, director of emerging media and client strategy at 360i. "If you do it the wrong way, you can get burned."

Can I create a Quora account for my company?

No. Quora doesn't allow organizations of any kind to have accounts, and even banned Mashable's.

I'm already on Quora. Why won't anyone answer my questions? Is it because they're dumb?

There are no dumb questions, only underdeveloped networks. You need to flesh yours out by spending the time to answer other people's questions.

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