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What’s with all the hype about Quora?

Quora [1], the Q&A social network/search engine, has received a ton of hype over the last few weeks. The press comes in response to Quora’s recent growth spurt [2], which reported spikes of 10 times normal site activity and twice as many signups at the end of 2010. (Both these trends have continued into the new year.) Since then the blogosphere has been ablaze with headlines praising it as the new social media darling of 2011, while others are already forecasting its demise as yet another social media site that will fail to monetize.

For those of us who weren’t one of the select, invite-only early adopters, the chatter may seem a bit displaced.  What’s all the hype about? Is Quora yet another social media fad, or is it something with long-term revenue potential? I reached out to one of The Search Agency’s SEO/social media experts and Quora early-adopters, Grant Simmons [3], to get his opinion on the network, and its importance to marketers.

Launched to the public in 2009, Quora was founded as knowledge sharing site by Adam D’Angelo and Charlie Cheever, two former Facebook executives. An amalgam of Twitter [4], LinkedIn [5], Digg [6] and Aardvark [7], Quora enables its users to ask questions, post and edit answers and develop a community by subscribing to specific topics, answers or people. According to the company’s website, Quora is “a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it.” [8]

This seems to be the one of the areas where Quora has differentiated itself from other social networks. Unlike Twitter or Facebook, where users are simply encouraged to contribute, Quora is concerned with the quality of its user-generated content. As co-found Cheever said, “Our No. 1 thing is knowledge that people trust. Being a resource trumps making people feel good about themselves.” [9] To do so, Quora has promoted its users to editors; allowing them to edit typos, fix tags, etc., to ensure that this content remains reliable. Quora also has a voting system, similar to Digg’s, where you can vote up or down an answer, which means, if you want to stay on top, you have to contribute something of worth.

These features make for an engaging user experience. As Grant Simmons explains, “Quora’s platform has little ‘gifts’ strewn around that enhance the experience: voting up, follows, topic-level descriptions of yourself / expertise, comments, wiki edits etc., helping the early-adopter “geeks’ keep their ADD in check with interactive toys.”

Up until now, it’s been relatively easy for Quora to keep the quality of their content high and their users engaged. Since their beta-launch in December 2009, Quora’s invitation-only community has been primarily comprised of Silicon Valley start-up CEOs, engineers, SEO junkies and the occasional tech celebrity, like former AOL CEO Steve Case. [10] This has inevitably resulted in a higher standard of questions/answers, and has made it more interesting for the rest of the community. As Grant describes it, “It’s like the online version of Studio 54 — the party where everyone’s at, a place you can rub shoulders with influencers in a much more intimate setting than Twitter or Facebook or other answers’ sites. And it always (not always but emphasized because it’s often) suggests someone you’re heard of, so you feel you’re in good company.”

The number one challenge that Quora faces at the moment is how to scale its membership base while preserving the quality of its content. Quora has been able to separate itself from the other social media sites because of its air of exclusivity.  Will Quora still matter if it goes mainstream?

Here’s what Grant has to say, “It matters, because it’s going to affect the online community NOW, and it already has. Although, I can’t see it as more than a mid-term novelty because the noise is already (almost) too much. They have been selective in email communication off the bat, but logging on to the site now, it doesn’t seem as “exclusive.” Even as short a time as a few weeks back, it felt the level of ‘expert’ was pretty high, now I’m seeing (especially in the SEO / Online marketing field) a number of posts that are less cerebral and well thought out. Quora will have a great 2011, but I expect (unless they look at other integration options) the early adopters and influencers will move on to the next ‘next greatest’ before 2012 rolls around.”

Had a chance to browse around Quora? What do you think of the site so far?  Do you believe it will be  able to maintain the quality of its content, or is it destined to become another Yahoo Answers?

About Camille Canon

Outside of summer jobs and not-for-profit internships, The Search Agency is my first official place of employment. I recently graduated from Mount Holyoke College, where I studied Art History and German. I am an avid cook, baker, and destroyer of diets. My specialties are cream cheese brownies, biscotti cookies and lemon bars. I am also an Art enthusiast. Living in Berlin enables me to follow a young, emerging Art scene complete with “eccentric” performance pieces and temporarily converted butcher shop galleries. I also enjoy running, traveling, and handy work. Camille Canon + [16]