The Rise of Q&A Social Media Sites

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There is a quiet trend in social media that has been growing very rapidly lately. And no we are not talking about Justin Bieber. It hasn’t stirred up too much buzz; certainly not quite as much as say, location based services or augmented reality. But it has been building in popularity and success for some time. And is worth taking note for any business that is serious about using social media to connect to their customers. It is the Question and Answer. I know, it’s not new… not by a long shot. We’ve seen question and answer based information sites for a long time (remember that old bugger jeeves?). But it’s evolved, and slowly but surely, it’s spreading. Ask.com, originally known as Ask Jeeves (still is in the UK), introduced one of the first Question and Answer hubs online. Ask.com is a search enginge intended to allow users to find answers by asking questions in everyday language. Evolving since Ask.com, 8 Q&A sites have really defined this new ecosystem of sites. With the rise of social media, businesses and consumers are beginning to see more and more value in this more closely defined social interaction.

1. Yahoo! Answers

Yahoo embraced Q&A by starting Yahoo! Answers, implementing the first large scale crowdsourcing of answers. This has a lot of value from a site as large as Yahoo. Their answer pages show up very high in Google search results but the actual answers can often lack a certain standard of quality. Yahoo rewards users with points and higher user levels when they supply the best answers to a question.

2. LinkedIn

LinkedIn Q&A has also began to creep into other sites as a social feature. LinkedIn’s Q&A became a great resource for professionals everywhere.  It provided them not just with answers to their questions, but also a way to establish themselves as “experts” and network with other professionals. It is consistently one of the more popular features of LinkedIn. LinkedIn stepped up the incentive to a bigger social reward than Yahoo, allowing users to raise their prowess in a professional setting, possibly leading to a job, new client, or new business relationships.

3. Tumblr

Tumblr Tumblr, a blog service designed for sharing smaller content snippets and images, launched a Q&A feature that has been slowly embraced by their community. Of all the blogging platforms Tumblr has very few businesses using it as a marketing platofrm. But as Tumblr slowly grows and the power of their audience becomes clear that will change.  Their Q&A feature is very user friendly, integrates with other content types easily as you can see with the above Gary Vaynerchuk video post, and as with most of the content on Tumblr is simple to share with likes and reblogs.

4. Quora

The newer Q&A focused site, Quora, was launched by Adam D’Angelo, former Facebook CTO. Quora revived an old concept with a sleek new look and user interface. Quora users can continue LinkedIn’s social reward by “endorsing” an answer, establishing the user who answered the question as an expert in different categories.  Quora recently announced that they’re starting to “open up” their content, which means you’ll start to see their content in search engines just like Yahoo! Answers.
“We are opening up because we are trying to make high-quality knowledge available to as many people as possible”, said D’Angelo.

5. Facebook

Even more recently, Facebook came out with their own Q&A service. Facebook has not added any incentives, but they did give their new “Facebook Questions” feature top billing by including it as one of only 5 options for the user’s Status update.  Many called this the end of Quora but it’s too soon to tell. So far it still seems like Quora is the clear leader as Facebook is still working out the kinks.

6. FormSpring

Formspring Want Q&A on your own site or blog, but don’t know where to start? No problem. FormSpring, a Q&A site that evolved from a web forms application, allows you to add a widget to your site that tells users to “Ask me anything”. Along with the FormSpring iphone app, all the questions and answers from the widget are synced up with your account on the website.

7. Aardvark

Aardvark Aardvark was started as a social Q&A site. You can ask questions from Twitter, email, text, chat software and more. The answers go out to your friends on social networks and experts from the community. These experts and your friends can also answer your question from multiple services, so it can be a less intrusive system. Google purchased the service early in 2010 but has yet to let on how they plan to use the technology.

8. Hunch

Hunch takes a very unique take on using questions and answers to give more value to the end user. You answer a series of generic multiple choice questions and Hunch learns your preferences. It takes your answers and the answers from thousands of other users and learns to predict what products you prefer. Some users have described the resulting predictions as freaky because they can be so accurate. The ultimate implications for product recommendations and online retail are very interesting.

The Continued Rise of Q&A

The startup community has dived into Q&A as well.  The recently launched Q&A feature on inc.com allows entrepreneurs to ask questions about anything they want.  Sprouter, a resource community for start-ups launched an answers site of their own, where “experts” will answer your questions. Sprouter’s Q&A system provides a unique service to their niche.  Sprouter’s Community Manager Erin Bury shares their experience:
“Q&A makes sense because the questions are each housed on a unique URL, and so people can share awesome answers, and bookmark them for later… Our goal is to be the go-to place to have your entrepreneurship questions answered”, Bury explained.
Since launching the new tool, Sprouter’s experts have answered over 500 questions on topics ranging from product marketing to raising funds. Had enough? We also have Just AnswerAnswers.comBlurt It, Fluther, Answer Bag… and the list goes on. These types of Q&A systems are perfect for sites that aim to provide users with advice.  It seems that often, people would rather ask a question to real people, than Google for the answer. Where will Q&A sprout up next? (<– Follow the Question to Answer it) Photo credit: Tom Magliery]]>

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