Quora, the next big social media phenomenon?

A new social media website is creating waves in cyberspace: Quora, the self-described “continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it.” Basically, Quora works like this: you ask a question, and other Quora users answer it.

How does Quora differ from other question sites like Yahoo! Answers? For one, users are allowed, and actively encouraged, to edit the questions that are asked and the answers. Think of it as Wikipedia meets Jeopardy! A user asks a question, and an army of web-geeks supplies and edits the answers to it.

All questions are organized by detailed topics such as marketing, outdoors, or even Australian politics. Users can add new topics to each question to better index it; for example, a question about the stock market “flash crash” in May 2010 is indexed under “stock market,” “high frequency trading,” and “investing.”

In addition, users can “follow” topics or even particular questions, allowing them to receive a continual feed of information or help developing a particular question to the ultimate source of information about a specific topic. And indeed, that’s the goal of Quora, as stated on the website: “The most important thing is to have each question page become the best possible resource for someone who wants to know about the question.”

Quora has apparently attracted some big names, including Ashton Cutcher, Steve Case of AOL, Netscape founder Marc Andreessen, and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, all of whom have been using Quora, according to a recent Newsweek article on the topic.

Still, you may ask, what’s the real utility of Quora? Can’t you find the same information on Wikipedia, or just with a Google search? Maybe. Wikipedia is well-known for its notability standards and authoring limitations. Bob, owner of Bob’s Manufacturing, can’t create his own Wikipedia page without being mercilessly shot down by a Wikipedia geek. But Bob will face no such restrictions on Quora. And while a Google search may not rank Bob’s Manufacturing very high on its results, Bob might hold his own on Quora, where all topics seem to receive equal billing.

Who knows if Quora will take off? Keep an eye on this one and for the impacts it may have on marketing your business.

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