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Quora – the new online network you’ll be tempted to use

The buzzword of this year so far has been Quora. Quora, Quora, Quora. Either you’ve ignored it, you’ve been busy or you haven’t turned your computer back on since new year’s eve. Quora is a “continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it. One way you can think of it is as a cache for the research that people do looking things up on the web and asking other people.”

Quora is what would happen if Twitter, LinkedIn, Wikipedia and Yahoo! Answers hook up and made a baby. Quora is referred to by some as a social network but I would argue that it is NOT– it’s an information network (which is why it’s no threat to Twitter or Facebook). Sure, you can follow people and they can follow you back, but the emphasis is on information which many argue is the missing piece of Twitter.

Quora isn’t new, it’s been around.

But wait, how can that be? I’m just now hearing of it and everyone’s just now talking about it! While that may be true, it came out of private beta a year ago and saw a Series A round of funding for $11M in March of last year. The truth is that it wasn’t chosen as a media darling back then, so it was a quiet community of power users, people that you wouldn’t expect to grace the pages of a website they didn’t own (CEOs, investors and the like). But here we are in 2011 and it’s all the rage.

Don’t go signing up quite yet…

From what you now know about Quora, you’ve signed up before finishing this article, haven’t you? I mean, a value proposition of a Realtor is information, right? So why not? Pump the breaks, buddy, there’s work to be done before you start being smarmy in the Quora community. I’ve personally been on Quora since October, but I only started answering questions this January. Why? Lurking. I wanted to know the community well before I linked all of my profiles to it or began answering questions. There are already agents there, but it’s mostly those involved in startups or that are in the Silicon Valley and it is natural that they’re part of the conversation.

We challenge you to be quiet for a month

I challenge everyone in real estate to approach Quora mindfully. Sign up for an account, but don’t link it to your other accounts yet and don’t start following everyone. Set yourself apart and actually study the space for a month. We challenge you to study the space for one month- don’t answer any questions, just follow questions and get to know the tone. “Now is the best time to buy” isn’t going to cut it because this isn’t Yahoo! Answers– it’s still a relatively intellectual community of tech-driven people that can see bullcrap from a mile away.

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When you sign up, the first thing we want you to do is read “Welcome to Quora, do yourself a favor and slow down,” a Quora post by our friend Lucretia Pruitt. We believe it should be required reading of all Quora users and who knows, maybe some day it will be?

Your challenge:

So for those of you not yet on the information network disguised as a social network, what are you going to do? Your challenge is to sign in and don’t answer anything for at least a month. Just read. Read as much as you possibly can and get to know the culture. You’re going to read Pruitt’s welcome note with instructions. Quora isn’t the wild west like Twitter was back in the day- there’s an existing culture and it will reject any agent who appears on the pages to spam them with sales pitches. Quora is not on a point system, so simply study the space, then be a resource, but most of all, just slow down!

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Mike Mueller

    January 7, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Totally agree, almost!
    I’ve dipped my toe in, answered a few questions that made sense for me to answer, had a conversation with you (Lani) and am still scratching my head wondering where the value is to me.

    BUT…

    I did jump in right away for one reason. I wanted to secure my name just in case it goes mainstream. I didn’t want to be “MikeMueller123” I wanted “Mike Mueller”.
    quora.com/Mike-Mueller

  2. Drew Meyers - Virtual Results

    January 7, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    I’ve been bombarded with Quora follow notifications the past week or two, but have only answered a few questions thus far — and haven’t seen many real estate conversations. That said, I’m sure real estate will explode soon on the platform as it grows and the RE.net flocks to it. hmm….wonder when the entire RE.net will be on Quora instead of Twitter?

    • Lani Rosales

      January 7, 2011 at 2:23 pm

      The most interesting RE related post I’ve seen so far: quora.com/Do-real-estate-agents-ever-say-now-isnt-a-good-time-to-buy

      RE will definitely explode on Quora because information is currency in the industry, but it will be interesting to see how the community reacts to the Realtor influx.

      Do you think that the flock will ditch Twitter in lieu of Quora? I don’t because it’s hard to have an ego boost on Quora but easy on Twitter, but that’s just my theory… thoughts?

  3. Kevin Tomlinson

    January 7, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Pat Kitano mentioned it New Year’s eve or day. I’m not doing it …But I’m sure the re.net #snakeoil group is all there. Proclaiming that they are the “in group.”

    I have to take a dump, now.

  4. Bryan Thompson

    January 7, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Lani, I’m intrigued and anxious to see what the community is like. Interestingly enough, in 2008, I interviewed for a company in St. Louis that was trying to do the same thing. A network about “not who you know, but WHAT you know.” In retrospect, I may have interviewed for the wrong company. I could have interviewed with Quora! And I might could’ve GOT that job! DOGGONE it, Lana! Now I’m all depressed… 🙂

    • Lani Rosales

      January 7, 2011 at 2:44 pm

      Bryan, you’re right, there have been several of these that have come and gone, but none had all of the pieces Quora has, so I suspect this one will stick around… it will be interesting to see what it morphs into because for the last year it’s been basically a Silicon Valley board.

  5. Brian Tercero

    January 7, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    I just got an invite from a twitter friend to join this past week. Jumped in and was surprised at all the familiar re names already into it.

    Going to take your advice Lani, going to take it slow. Thanks for the article.

    • Lani Rosales

      January 8, 2011 at 12:45 pm

      Brian, we’d love to know when you start getting involved and where you see yourself fitting in!

  6. Lucretia Pruitt

    January 7, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    You were far more patient than I was my friend! I could only last two weeks before I really, really wanted to be a contributing part of the community!

    I would caution your reader’s that my post was written in an incredibly frustrated tone and if I had any idea it was going to escape outside the ecosystem of Quora & my followers? I would’ve probably edited, re-edited, and then re-edited three more times to take all of the things out that have come across to some folks as arrogance, bossiness, elitism and a number of other words most of us never want to see applied to something we wrote. It was a *really* good reminder for me that vocal inflection is lost in text. Some people hear advice, others hear much more offensive things. I’m willing to bet that answers and comments there have similar ‘issues’ with lack of context.

    I have considered numerous times going back and ‘editing for tone’ as I would if it were simply a blog post on my own site. But it seems, somehow, disingenuous to change it after so many people have already voted on it. I wouldn’t want to upvote something myself only to later realize that it had been edited to something different. I’m torn, but just accepting that some people will hate it for perceived tone while others find useful information in it. It’s a serious reinforcement to me that it’s shark-filled waters over there and the best chance to avoid bloodshed is to check before jumping in.

    p.s. I learn more about Social Media as it applies to Real Estate from you guys than anywhere else. Looking forward to seeing what the RE communities do over there! 🙂

    • Lani Rosales

      January 8, 2011 at 12:50 pm

      I think tone is an important part of Quora, because it’s less about the personality and more about the information, so I believe that editing for tone is actually appropriate in the quest to nail down the best info on the web possible. No? 🙂

      ps: can’t wait to see you in March!

  7. BawldGuy

    January 8, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    I’m curious — do any of you who’ve spent time there, have a take on how much ‘opinion’ is put out as ‘knowledge’?

    • Lani Rosales

      January 8, 2011 at 12:53 pm

      Jeff, I think there is certainly a risk of that but because it functions as a wiki and people can suggest edits on others’ answers, vote them up or down, etc., it ends up being a self-policing society. I don’t know if that culture will remain in the long run, but they have a lot of site moderators that read every single question (for now) and manually edit as they see fit to help facilitate the best information possible.

      That said, the influx of “personalities” could alter this temporarily but as people realize they won’t be Quora Famous like they are Twitter Famous, they’ll tire of it and go back into a spotlight somewhere at a barcamp or on Twitter.

  8. Amy Shair

    January 9, 2011 at 7:54 am

    Lani, I like your article. I’ve been lurking on Quora for a while but haven’t jumped in just yet. I’m wondering what will separate Quora from venues like Trulia voices where a question is asked by a consumer and a number of agents dogpile to try to be first to answer the question in an attempt to capture the lead. While the average homebuyer or seller is not going to post a question on Quora today, it’s hard to see whether they might in 12 months.

    • Lani Rosales

      January 10, 2011 at 1:26 pm

      Amy, I suspect that the dogpile will happen, but there are two important differences between Quora and other communities:

      1. Quora is not a lead generator and is not points based. Its true mission is to gather and index the “best” information possible. I believe that most users will be the techie/skeptics anyhow that are looking to bypass a Realtor which is why finding a specific niche will be important for agents.

      2. Quora is not a media company and they’re funded- they’re not going to sell your data back to you at a premium, they don’t care about real estate.

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