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I’m consistently amazed at how small Quora is – or at least how small it seems to be. When I use the site, I keep seeing the same small group of people answering questions in the topic areas that I’m interested in. To me, this is indicative of three things:

  1. The Internet is full of cool stuff, and it’s hard to know where to spend time
  2. Quora has a lot of room for growth
  3. Online marketing people (be they in PR, SEO, content, whatever) haven’t figured out how powerful Quora is

If you’re a person working in online marketing, this post is for you.

First, Why Anyone “Pitching” Should Be Using Quora

Quora is training for pitching

Quora is a Q&A site, but unlike Yahoo! Answers (perhaps the most popular Q&A site), it’s all about quality. Spam isn’t tolerated, and everyone answering has to attach a real name and likeness to whatever they say. Therefore, Quora tends to be chock full of useful, helpful, and honest information. It’s a great place to demonstrate expertise, gain recognition, etc.

Sidebar: You can ask and answer questions anonymously, and some people do…but you must create a real profile to do so.

However, Quora is also a writing tool, as it rewards answers that are both concise and detailed; funny yet factual; authoritative yet self-effacing. A great Quora answer – like this one, this one, or this one – takes you deep inside the topic without drowning you in details. It conveys expertise without forcing you to suffer thru a lot of verbiage. It’s both “heavy” and “light,” if that makes sense.

If you’re thinking that writing a great answer on Quora sounds like writing a great pitch, you’d be right.

Journalists and bloggers respond to good email pitches, especially when those pitches engender trust and epxertise, convey all the information they need to respond, and don’t take up a lot of space. If you want to improve your pitching ability (not to mention your blogging ability, memo writing ability, etc.), write answers on Quora.

Tips for Quora Newbs

My tips for anyone new to Quora:

  1. Set a time limit. I can waste an hour on this site if I’m not careful.
  2. Answer questions in any area you have expertise. While there’s a lot of activity in areas related to marketing, programming, technology, etc. anyone with any sort of experience or knowledge can participate. If you’re passionate about gardening and know some things, answer. You might not offer the best or most accurate answer, but you can be helpful.
  3. Promote answers that seem to get a good response on their own. My rule of thumb is to promote any answer that seems to get a good response quickly. If, for example, you answer a question and get half a dozen upvotes in the first couple of hours, spend some of your Quora credits to promote it. That will help you build up a profile, get more feedback on your answer, and give you a chance to make it to Quora’s “top writer’s” list at the end of the year.
  4. Be prepared for criticism and critiques. This is one of the best aspects of Quora – it can really help you refine how you offer info. If you’re not careful about what you say (and how you say it), someone who’s smarter than you is going to comment on your answer and make you feel dumb. As painful as that is, it’s excellent experience.
  5. Commit to it for a period of months. If you try answering a few times and nothing happens, don’t just give up. It can take months of work to get to a place where your answers are well received and up-voted.

Speaking of up-votes, they’re only important in terms of refining your skills. They have no monetary value…only they do give you credits that you can use to promote your answers.

If you find that no one is up-voting your answers, you either need to refine your technique or you need to try answering questions in more popular topic areas.

If you do it right, you’ll find that your pitch email response rates improve, and also that your blog posts, emails, and any other written communication will improve as well. I’ve certainly noticed the effect since I started participating on Quora a couple of years ago.

NOTE: Not to toot my own horn, but I was a Quora Top Writer in 2012 and 2013 – you can see my profile here.

Bonus: Promote Your Work and Your Clients on Quora

While I don’t really look at Quora as a promotional tool, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t mention my own projects and/or our clients on Quora from time to time. While I can’t say that any of the links or mentions I’ve made for clients/projects have generated tremendous benefits, I doubt that they’ve hurt.

In fact, my participation on Quora has been great from some of my projects, as it’s helped me secure interviews, mentions on Forbes, the BBC website, Huffington Post, etc. This isn’t the reason I participate on Quora (I think it’s mostly about improving my communication ability), but it’s a very nice benefit.