Why do guys from Brooklyn, New York have so much swagger? What’s it like to work at Chipotle? When and why did people start adding coloring to cheese? Got a question? Quora is the place to find authoritative answers.
The latest question is for Quora itself: Is the new blogging platform part of a long-term plan to woo brands and, ultimately, develop a monetization strategy?
At first glance, the Q&A platform, which debuted in 2010, may seem like a glorified version of Yahoo Answers. But Quora is a much more insular community populated by highly educated, specialized users. The site also has a loftier mission statement.
"Quora aims to allow anyone to easily share their knowledge and in the process to dramatically increase the total amount of knowledge available to the world," writes Quora Founder and CEO Adam D’Angelo.
With the recent introduction of a free blogging platform, Quora’s mission remains largely the same, but the site’s focus is clearly expanding.
"As we grow, we will be able to provide larger and larger audiences to writers, cover more and more topics, and have greater and greater impact on the world," according to D’Angelo.
Quora already boasts excellent SEO, strong content, an engaged audience and social sharing functionality. But until now, brands have been largely unable to tap into Quora’s unique and highly coveted audience.
The new blogging platform could be an attempt to make Quora more brand-friendly and ultimately, help to resolve the issue of monetization. But the transition to monetization won’t happen seamlessly.
"When you look at Quora, it’s badly placed for monetization," says Tom Goodwin, director of partner development at IPG Media Lab. "Sure, the users are vastly intelligent, deeply curious, and very connected, but they’re also very reluctant to change."
Marketers face other clear challenges on Quora. "Quora can be time-consuming for a brand-marketer, given the level of thought and detail that go into the information sharing on that platform," says Matt Wurst, Director of Digital Communities at 360i.
For the right brand, however, there are some potential opportunities to successfully market on Quora.
"One might consider blogging on Quora—or participating in the Q&A, for that matter—if your brand is fundamentally built on its expertise about a specific subject matter," says Wurst. In a scenario like that, it would help if the brand were tied intrinsically to "one strong personality that has an expertise in a certain area."
At the moment, Quora doesn’t allow brands to create profiles, but companies such as JetBlue Airways and Virgin America have managed to create a presence by responding to questions in the Q&A section.
While marketing on Quora isn’t a quick and easy proposition with a clearly defined endgame, there is an upside. "The best thing about the blog platform is that it immediately gives you access to very qualified, important people," says Goodwin. "It has incredible value."
But Goodman cautions that brands have to be "incredibly careful" about how they use the opportunity. "If I had to offer a brand advice, it would be to be patient," says Goodman. "Be selective in when you choose to talk about your services and use delicacy. The more overt your messaging is, the more quickly you’ll be shut down."
That said, if brands are willing to stick it out and make a significant time investment Quora, "it could be a very effective tool," says Goodwin.
Eventually, it’s possible that Quora will allow brands to create profiles (like Pinterest recently did). Although Quora likely won’t introduce traditional advertising any time soon, the site could feature promoted answers, much the way that Twitter allows promoted tweets.
"It doesn’t seem likely that the platform will be able to compete with the behemoth of Facebook anytime soon," says Wurst. "But clearly its new blogging platform was launched as an attempt to shore up activity on the site, which is the first step."
[Image: Flickr user v1ctory_1s_m1ne]