Can I ask you a question?
After the initial hype surrounding Quora died down, did you stick around?
If not, you have been missing out on what I think is one of the best professional networking sites around.
Not only is it the best Q&A site in my opinion (compared to old school stalwarts Yahoo Answers and LinkedIn, along with challengers like Focus), but it keeps improving as a valuable platform for discovering and engaging with leaders in business and technology as well as curating content.
And for anyone who cares about SEO, Quora questions are a great way to get indexed and drive traffic to your site.
A Quick Primer On Quora
Quora is organized around these primary areas. All are available within the main search box as you start typing.
Topics: When you follow a topic, questions and answers tagged with that topic will appear in your feed.
People: When you follow people, you will see questions and answers posted by these people in your feed.
Questions: When you follow a question, you will see activity about that question in your news feed (example: when a new answer is posted on the question).
Boards (NEW): Boards let you organize, collect, and share anything from Quora or from around the web. Create your own or find suggested boards to follow.
If you dabbled with Quora and left—or never took the time to check it out thoroughly—here is a list of 15 ways to get the most out of it.
1. Follow interesting people.
This is a great way to start using Quora in “listening” mode. There are a lot of smart IT people, venture capitalists, marketers and others using Quora. Similar to following them on Twitter or Google Plus, make sure you get their updates and pay attention to what is important to them.
2. Follow relevant topics.
Use the search to discover topics related to your industry. These are excellent to follow, to get a sense of the “hot topics” and what is being discussed the most. I use these (along with searching specific questions) to get a lot of ready-made content, quotes and sources for blog posts, for example. Both People and Topics are invaluable resources for bloggers.
3. “Vote up” the best answers.
With every answer in Quora, you have the option of clicking a small arrow to “vote it up” (or down).
This is the equivalent of Facebook Likes, but even better because the best/most voted answers rise to the top. Voting is good for a couple reasons.
First, the person you “vote” for will be notified.
Second, your name will show up as having voting so other people see it. By default, the first three voters’ names appear under the answer, and you can click to see more. This is another good way to find others to follow and converse with around topics of mutual interest.
Finally, if you (or let’s say a client of yours) are the one answering a question and it gets voted to the top, you’ll gain a lot of visibility. This is one of Quora’s strongest points and what makes it well worth the time spent crafting strong answers vs. simply posting comments two pages down on someone’s blog, or watching your LinkedIn answers disappear into a void.
4. Ask smart questions.
This should go without saying on a site dedicated to questions and answers. But really think before you just dash off a question.
First, see if there is already a related question by using the search box. If not, carefully phrase your question with long tail keywords in mind.
Google will index Quora pages based on the keywords in each question. This is huge for SEO purposes.
If you are logged into Google, you may also see Quora questions related to your search query. Besides search results that people can “Plus One” on Google, Quora questions are the next best thing to curated searches.
The Quora guidelines on how to ask good questions are also worth reading. Don’t rush in trying to blatantly sell your services, put out misleading information, antagonize people, etc.
Important: Do not enable “Search Engine Privacy” in your account settings if you want your name to appear in search results.
5. For related questions that already exist, add your own comments.
Take time to be thoughtful and proofread before you post. Personally, I will think twice about answering if there are already a bunch of responses. It might make more sense to just add a comment to one of the top answers.
You can also use the @ symbol to link to others questions, topics and people. Type the symbol then the first few letters of what you want to link to. This is especially helpful when linking to other people on Quora, since they will get notified of the mention.
6. Get others to “vote up” your answers.
To get traction with your answers on Quora, you need to toot your own horn. Have a plan in place to alert your colleagues, friends and others and ask them to click through and vote for your response.
7. Share questions on other networks.
In addition to directly telling people you know, you can use the built-in tools to share the question on Twitter, Facebook and Quora (see information about sharing to Quora Boards below).
8. Google your question and then +1 the result.
After you have posted a question on Quora, search for the question on Google and then +1 the result (and invite others to do the same). It might take a few hours for the question to appear in Google results.
9. Thank people who vote for, comment on or thank you for your answers.
If someone votes for you or comments on one of your answers, you will learn about these in your Notifications. It’s a good practice whenever possible to thank them back.
10. Edit your bio.
Quora gives you a standard bio area as part of your profile. But you can make a different bio for various topics.
This is really neat and helpful, particularly since the bio line after your name on the answers screen is short (about 36 characters). So rather than having the same bio show up everywhere, or get truncated, play around with a different “tagline” of sorts depending on the topic.
Perhaps my favorite bio is from Jonas M. Luster, a self-described “uneducated southern hick.” If that doesn’t make you smile and want to read more about him (he’s an executive chef at a restaurant in Dallas), I don’t know what will.
11. Create Topics.
Many topics already exist, and as mentioned they are good starting points to read and participate in active conversations. If you don’t find a specific topic in the search, just add it. A quick way to do this is to click on your profile link, then click on Topics and search for a topic to follow, where you can add it if it doesn’t exist.
12. Add your cell phone (settings).
Look under account settings to activate your cell phone. You can then use it to ask or add questions by SMS. There’s also a good iPhone app and allegedly an Android app in the works.
13. Set your contact permissions to allow incoming inbox messages and comments on your answers and posts.
Make sure you allow others to contact you, along with getting comments delivered to your in-box. I have rarely gotten spammed through Quora, so it’s not a big concern for me. Maybe if you are a marquee name, it’s a bigger issue. (I’m still waiting for a response from Tim Westergren of Pandora…sigh).
14. Invite your contacts to Quora.
Invite your co-workers, clients, vendors and other business associates to join Quora.
15. Add Quora to your Google+ profile under Recommended Links.
As mentioned, Quora is powerful when combined with Google. Check your Google+ profile to make sure your Quora account is set to be discoverable in search.
Any Questions Or Comments?
So there you have it—my answers to how I recommend using Quora on a regular basis. What about you? Do you have any tips to make Quora even better from a business standpoint? Or questions on using Quora? Please let them in the comments below.