How I Use Quora

A Quora redesign I did once

Photo credit: A Quora redesign I did once

Depending on who you ask, Q&A site Quora is either the next big thing, or an overhyped waste of pixels. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, but in any case the site can be very useful for freelancers, bloggers, and entrepreneurs. Let me show you just how I use it.

But let’s make one thing clear first: these tips should not be abused. So I’m trusting you to follow Quora’s community guidelines and be a valuable contributor to the site.

Asking Questions

The most basic way to use a question and answers site is… to ask questions! For example, I personally often use Quora to research blog post ideas. When I was writing a post about design case studies, I also asked about it on Quora to get some suggestions.

And before launching my newsletter, I also used Quora to research design and tech newsletters.

Don’t be shy about asking questions. Quora has a pretty good search function, so if you can’t find your question on the site, chances are good that nobody’s asked it yet.

Giving Answers

Of course, the other side of the equation is answering other people’s questions. Answering questions can help you establish credibility in a domain or promote your products or blog posts.

The key here is that even when promoting something, your answer still needs to be informative and self-contained:

Bad:

  • Q: What is the best way to streamline widgets?
  • A: Our app WidgetStreamliner is the best way to streamline widgets!

Good: 

  • Q: What is the best way to streamline widgets?
  • A: There are many ways to streamline widgets. For example, you could […] or […], or even […]. And by the way, our app WidgetStreamliner will help you automate a lot of these tasks.

Providing helpful answers not only makes the site better, it’s also great marketing since you’re demonstrating your competence on the topic.

The Double Kill

You can asks questions, provide answers… so why not do both at the same time!

As long as your question is interesting and your answer helpful, there is nothing wrong with both asking the question and answering it yourself.

For example, if you write a book about app design, you might ask something like “What are some good resources for mobile app design?” and provide an answer mentioning your book yourself. Of course, be sure to include other suggestions too, to make your answer truly useful.

Being the one who asked, you’ll also be the first to answer, which mean your answer will have a good chance of staying near the top.

Wiki Wisdom

Another little-known Quora trick is the question wiki. This is simply a crowdsourced summary of a question’s answers, and anybody can edit it.

For example, I personally compiled the wiki for this question, and since it was relevant I added my own startup, Folyo. Note that this is not just self-serving marketing: the info I compiled actually improves the usefulness of that page (which should be your guiding principle whenever posting on Quora).

Ask to Answer

One of my favorite Quora feature is the ability to ask a specific person to answer a question.

It can be a great way to get someone’s attention about a specific topic, get them to provide a quote that you can reuse in a blog post (with their permission, of course!), or just make first contact (since they will see you’re the one who asked them to answer).

And sometimes, even just seeing who Quora recommends to best answer a question can be interesting. It’s a great way to quickly find experts on any given topic, and in my own experience Quora rankings are much more reliable than Twitter followers or Klout scores.

Conclusion

Unlike posting to Twitter or Facebook, posting on Quora will never get you thousands of pageviews. But the site’s strong focus on specific topics means that the people who do see your questions or answers are probably much more relevant to you.

So although the site can seem a little opaque and unfriendly at first, it’s definitely worth a look. And hopefully, these tips will help you make the most of your Quora experience.

Note: this article was originally sent out in my newsletter. Sign up now to receive design tips like this once a week, and in addition you’ll also receive my Color Theory for Startups eBook for free.

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