Jun 03, 2011

Using Quora for PR

A Quora screenshot, displaying the options users have to vote on or flag answers.

Third in a series: Integrating Social Media and Public Relations

Quora is a social media site of a different stripe – it’s a Q&A site that is subtle and intellectual, rewarding thoughtful discourse, and dispensing with badges and scores as measures of influence.  The crowd votes good answers up, and can express their thanks for answers.  They can also vote answers down, or flag them for a variety of reasons.  Content is judged by a jury of your peers.

The vibe is different too.  Quora is more focused and crowd isn’t terribly tolerant of flippant answers, and unlike many sites, Quora isn’t terribly conversational – at least, not in the Q&A section.   A friend of mine found a blog post she penned was being discussed favorably on Quora. Delighted, she posted a note thanking the person who originally mentioned the blog.  To her horror, she was told in no uncertain terms that such things simply weren’t “done” on Quora.  The crowd truly wants the Q&A to remain pure and focused.

In a nutshell, Quora combines potent content and discussion with an element of social networking.  You can really get a handle on a person’s style, professional know-how and intellectual bent by perusing their answers.

Using Quora:

Quora is easy and straight-forward to use.  Take the time to fill out your complete profile, and post a picture. Then follow the topics that interest you, and add a few lines describing your expertise where indicated.

As with any social network, the look first/leap later approach is a good one to take in Quora.  Browse the discussions underway in your areas of interest.  Look at popular answers, and compare them to those that are voted down.  In many cases, popular answers offer sophisticated perspective and robust detail.  This is not the place for chat shorthand and LOLs.

Applications for PR:

Quora does offer PR pros some specific opportunities – but none are easy or automated.    Quora demands a high touch approach – and it offers a specific and focused audience.

  • Getting to know peers and influencers:  Time and again, I’m struck by the level of discourse on Quora, and that is due in part to the fact that the Quora community is populated by savvy – and often senior – people.  Quora is a great way to get to know them – and you’ll find that many are influential within their areas of specialty.  In my mind, Quora is a good way to learn more about the interests and expertise of key influencers.
  • Ideas:  One of the coolest things about following a topic on Quora is seeing the questions people pose.  Some generate discussion, others go unanswered, and both types offer opportunity for PR pros.  In addition to participating in the discussions, a thoughtful thread can also be the basis of a pitch, in which you offer your company’s take.  If you’re charged with content production, threads can also be the basis of a blog post or articles.  Here’s an example of one I wrote in March about getting PR for startups. The discussions – and the questions sparking them – are an ongoing source of ideas available on Quora.
  • Search engines: Quora has a very search engine friendly design, and content from the network is indexed by search engines.  It’s not uncommon to see a discussion thread listed in Google results, and little wonder – discussions are as real and authentic as content gets, and are loaded with the common vernacular (versus incomprehensible jargon) that are also used in searches.  While being relevant and adding value to a conversation is absolutely crucial, it’s perfectly OK to reference a blog post or other web page in your answer – as long as the context is there.  And doing so will help build visibility for key messages within search engines.  You can gild the lily by tweeting or sharing your answer, too.

Many of the same rules you learn from using Quora also apply to the forums and discussion groups that are so popular today.  Mastering the art of engagement on Quora will stand the communications pro in good stead in the future, and will generate important contacts and ideas in the present.   Have you found other ways to use Quora?

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media.  Follow her on Quora at: http://www.quora.com/Sarah-Skerik

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