The Web as a Magic 8 Ball: Quora, LinkedIn Answers and Q&A Site Best Practices
With billions of users and trillions of documents, it's always seemed like we should be able to lob any question into the internet and get an answer back, as if it were the world’s greatest Magic 8 Ball. Remember when Ask.com was Ask Jeeves and its claim to fame was that you could enter a search query as a natural language question? Or when “search directories” like Yahoo and LookSmart, curated by a community of experts, were viewed as viable competitors to purely algorithmic search engines like Google?
Today, the Q&A dream has found its footing in social media. Quora has rapidly become the next “it” web property; LinkedIn Answers has turned into a vibrant network of professionals; and chances are your Facebook feed has been full of its Questions app. Even Google and Bing have hitched themselves to the train by incorporating social recommendations into their core search results.
Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Quora, you no longer have to lob your questions blindly into the world wide web; you can pitch them right to your friends or professional network. Conversely, if you happen to have answers to questions and are willing to take the time to become an active participant on Quora or LinkedIn Answers, you have a powerful marketing and lead-generation tool at your disposal.
Q&A sites are communities, so even if your primary goal is to build your reputation and secure leads, don’t barge in and act like a know-it-all used car salesman. Here are some more considerations to keep in mind:
1. Aim for quality over quantity. On LinkedIn Answers, good answers will get you promoted to "Expert" status. Similarly, Quora allows users to vote questions up or down. That means increased visibility and greater respect from other users.
2. Avoid being long-winded. While Quora in particular has a subset of users who see it as a place for conversation and deeper research, most visitors to Q&A sites are looking for a concise answer so they can get back to whatever they were doing that spawned the question. Answer the question, explain why your answer is legit and resist the urge to write a dissertation.
3. Don’t forget that you could rank in Google. For certain types of queries, Google and Bing have been ranking Quora and other Q&A pages highly. Give your answers the same keyword attention you would a page on your site in order to give that answer a chance to rank for relevant queries.
4. Track your traffic. Chances are you’re including links to your own site as part of your answer. Keep an eye on LinkedIn referral traffic to see which answers are generating clicks.
5. Expect to spend more time on Quora. LinkedIn is strictly focused on business and is built on an organized category structure. Quora, on the other hand, is powered by search (there are categories, but they function more like tags), far more sprawling in subject matter and more likely to spawn extended threads of conversation — all of which make it more fun.
6. Make Quora work with your social media profiles. By connecting your Quora account to Facebook and Twitter, you can follow questions on Twitter and share answers on both Twitter and Facebook. This will make Q&A a more integrated part of your online life and is likely to help loop friends and colleagues into the conversations.
7. Find a place where you can be the expert in the room. Quora and LinkedIn have quickly become saturated with other enterprising experts like yourself. Instead of going straight to the category that matches your area of expertise, consider poking around less-used categories for questions that relate to your area of expertise. If Quora and LinkedIn are still feeling a bit claustrophobic, there are plenty of smaller, more specialized Q&A sites where you might find a little more elbow room.