DoNanza: The easy way to establish your expertise using Quora

DoNanza - QuoraThe 15th April saw my first article published for DoNanza. DoNanza is an online service that helps freelancers find work, providing a range of tools to help them get noticed by potential employers.

“The easy way to establish your expertise using Quora” covers the basics of using Quora to demonstrate your expertise and knowledge across multiple subject areas, and highlights how you can use this effectively in creating your own personal brand – opening up job opportunities.

As well as the website, you can find them on Twitter or on Facebook.

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What is Quora? And what does it mean for B2B marketers?

Quora logoJudging Quora is going to require some distance and objectivity, as we’re in the middle of a huge amount of hype right now which is liable to distort the arguments around it. Given that, here’s my take.

Why has Quora been successful?

Quora’s initial audience was very closely related, coming from a small set of industry verticals centred on tech start-ups and the tech industry in the US. At the same time, the tech journalists who follow start-ups also came on board and were able to get access to a group of very influential Silicon Valley VC investors and start-up CEO’s. So, the questions being asked were getting answered by the key people in a position to answer them.

Great, so it’s the new Twitter then?

Well, no, what remains to be seen is if the site can remain relevant with a much larger and more defocussed audience. If the majority of questions remain unanswered, or if the answers supplied become less authoritative, the site will suffer as a result. This is their biggest challenge.

So, what is it then?

Quora is indicative of a new approach to information search and retrieval on the web. Users are looking for more defined pieces of information that are authoritative, short and to the point, and crucially, that come from people that they trust and are within their social circle. In this respect it is a next generation approach to the old ‘Q&A’ sites, such as Yahoo Answers, hooking into the fact that we weight our opinions based on those around us.

Qwiki takes the same approach to information creating short visual wiki presentations.

And that means what for B2B?

Should it take off and continue its massive two-month growth, then it will become part of the social media landscape for most B2B companies. Monitoring the topics and questions that are being asked online, ready to step in and provide information openly and quickly. It also provides the opportunity for thought-leadership.

Okay. But what if I don’t like it…

No problem; for a more light-hearted view on Quora, you can always go to Cwora (http://www.cwora.com). Enjoy!

Whitepaper anyone?

Following on from my previous blog about the future of the internet not being mobile, it seems fitting to stay on a related subject: content. Why related? Simply because as we change the way we interact with the internet, so we also change the way we interact with content.

In the past, B2B marketing has leant heavily on the crutch of the whitepaper – or something very similar – as an incentive to engage with an audience. In return for your data you get a big impenetrable chunk of copy in PDF format. As a consumer it takes time and effort to sit down and consume, and you’re probably lucky if 25% of the information is completely relevant. That’s if you can read it; have you tried reading a designed-for-print PDF on a mobile device? It just doesn’t stack up any more.

We’re now more sophisticated in our approach to information gathering; we consume information in highly relevant, but smaller chunks. We want access only to the key information and we then build outwards from there to find the supporting information that is right for our business. And what is this information? Opinion pieces, articles, news items, blogs entries, tweets: all from different sources. Rather than accept a single viewpoint we create a mesh of information ‘chunks’.

There are a couple of good examples of this approach to information gathering that are coming online: QWiki creates short illustrated presentations from multiple sources of information and plays them back to the user. It’s definitely worth checking out – if you can get an invite to the alpha. Quora is a user-created bank of questions and answers that are short and straight to the point. It’s already being seen as an essential tool for journalists in the technology arena, but will surely make the jump to a broader audience based on its initial success.

So, as B2B marketers, what do we do to create great digital content?

I believe it’s important to have a clear content strategy, based on three principles:

1. Present information in a format that is designed for screen, not print.
You wouldn’t dream of putting the ceiling of the Sistine chapel on a postage stamp and expecting people to engage with it. Digital data should be presented in its natural form: text-based, searchable and linkable. ‘Chunking’ data makes sense for information consumption, information display and information linking. By breaking down our whitepapers into small easily-digested elements, we can increase relevancy and display it more clearly on a wider range of devices.

2. Use multiple channels to reinforce your message.

The internet has freed users from the shackles of a single opinion. Take advantage of the fact by making sure that you are spreading your message across multiple communication channels. This should include user-generated content, ‘official’ content and journalistic content for a blend of opinions. If it is done right, this builds trust in the message through weight of – hopefully – positive opinion.

3. Create your own mesh of information for the user.

Don’t let your content live alone. Let your consumers explore your content at their own pace and in their own order. Make sure you include external content in the information web you build so as to reinforce your own messaging, and don’t be afraid of what you don’t control.

Creating content will always be a challenge, but we now have the opportunity to provide a much richer and more convincing experience for our consumers and clients. No more whitepapers for me…