Is Quora good for business or mere time killer?

I signed up for Quora when they first started allowing people in after the private beta last year, but fairly quickly clicked away at the time because I didn’t feel the need to participate on yet another social platform. Much like my first – and perhaps many people’s first reaction to Twitter – I didn’t see the point.

But as the cacophony of hype swelled over the last few weeks, I decided to jump in and see if I’d find any business use there. It didn’t hurt to read the insights by people I highly respect like Shel Holtz and David Armano. And while I still haven’t adopted nor found the value in FourSquare or Gowalla for me personally, I started seeing the potential of Quora once I set aside my resistance.

In the short time I’ve been dabbling , I find the potential lies in the following areas:

  • The ability to learn from peers and conduct research. For example, this question on measuring the ROI of social media; something top of mind in any company developing a social strategy. At least at this point, it’s seems easier to find solid information compared with some Google searches I’ve done.
  • The ability to ask questions of others to test your ideas before releasing them in your market
  • It provides a platform for a knowledge business to demonstrate their credibility. Forget the sales pitch, build your awareness on Quora. Show, don’t tell is a very powerful sales tactic.
  • The ability to find potential business resources and partners by searching on topics, observing responses and behavior. That combined with their overall digital footprint should provide a decent snapshot. Like dating and interviewing, you want to sample behavior in a variety of settings.
  • For entrepreneurs and sole proprietors, there seems to be a lot of valuable content on business models, funding and investing. You can learn a lot of practical business knowledge here without paying for a business degree. Granted, there are plenty of books that do the same, but Quora is searchable and snackable. Speed rules.

Like Twitter, the breadth and depth of the communities and knowledge forming on Quora is not immediately apparent. There’s little to distract you from the core purpose of learning and sharing ideas a little deeper than you can on Twitter. No, you’re not going to rock your business out of the gate. Like any other social platform, Quora will take some time. And ultimate success and staying power will depend on how they evolve the service and manage the noise that comes with mass adoption. They’re certainly not out of the woods yet. Cwora very plainly highlights the risks they face in achieving staying power after the hype dies down.

What’s your take?


  1. Taariq Lewis says:

    Quora is great but if you apply the 10/90 rule, then 10% of the folks will provide 90% of the content that is quality. This leaves 90% lurkers who are free-riding on the careful Q&A of the platform. Wanna test a business idea? Sure, Ask it on Quora and get free insights/research that ANYONE can use and execute. Very good feedback will be business-viable for smart lurkers.

    How do you solve the free rider problem? On Twitter, the Free Rider problem occurs, but tweets are only 140chars so content is limited. I love using Quora to let other folks work hard to educate me and these folks are lifting the entire community. In that way it’s super-valuable.

    get ur competitor to answer questions about your industry and markets = free competitive intelligence!

    Taariq Lews

  2. I haven;t spent too much time yet on Quora, despite being aware of it for some time. I’m curious about your thoughts on how Quora differs from LinkedIn Answers (or any other answer platform for that matter). Is the main difference in the quality fo the answers (an by extension – the participants) or is there more to it than that?


  3. Kyle Bedard says:

    What great point on how Quora provides a platform for a knowledge business to demonstrate their credibility.” Show, don’t tell” is a perfect of example of using specific, sensory language + dialogee, when trying to get a business point across. This a key differentiator when using Quora, Focus or LinkedIn. Telling people what you want them to know and hope they are listening vs showing them how it will enrich and improve their business.

  4. Patrick says:

    @Taariq – you raise some good points about free riders. Yes, the majority will not contribute and merely consume. That rings true on most any social platform where typically only 5% are active contributors. That said, sure people can get some free insights and research, but the proof is in the execution of that knowledge. You have to take action and most people are not willing to do the hard work of translating their learning into action. Now if you answer questions, you want to be smart about what you share and anything considered a trade secret shouldn’t be shared.

    @Sean – I think the main difference between Quora and LinkedIn Answers is the former is focused on Q&A vs. it being part of a broader platform, not necessarily the first reason one might go there. Time will certainly show how this plays out and I’ve not spent enough time in Linkedin Answers to be any kind of authority, certainly.

    @Kyle – Thanks Kyle; I had the ‘Show, don’t tell’ mantra drilled into me by a Journalism professor and think that’s the key. Telling someone how great you are rings hollow and me-centric vs. showing that you genuinely care about helping them, providing value.

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