First off, let me say that I am not a social media fiend. There are some social media tools who’s value I see and there are others that I just don’t get. Out of fear of being labeled a luddite or a relic in my generation, I am trying to get to know social media, to embrace constant connectivity and the perceived need to always tell someone what I am doing and getting over the assumption that no one cares. Then, I discovered Quora.

Until last week, Quora was, far as I knew was a high end purveyor of beauty products in Calgary. Quorra, with two rs has a beautiful store in the building in which we have our offices. Quora with one r, is quickly becoming a key tool for me in doing competitive intelligence inside those offices. Let me explain. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Quora, it is defined on its site as “a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it.” It’s a giant online Q&A site about everything you could ever imagine. People ask questions and other people respond with their answers, or opinions. The Q&A audience, can then rank answers, comment on answers and collaborate to make each Q&A page the best it can be. And of course, you can link your own questions or answers to your Twitter pages and other social media tools. Quora is like the love child of Wikipedia and Ask Jeeves. Some savvy social media people might be wondering how that is different from the Q&A on LinkedIn. The primary differentiator as far as my two week experience with Quora is concerned is that in Quora, any question and any answer is open to anyone. And while that may lead to some ill informed responses, such as one would find on a traditional message board, it also opens the collaboration for those who may be knowledgeable about a topic to respond to something they otherwise wouldn’t have replied to. For example, a friend who I am following on Quora, answered a question about the city in which we live. He is a Director Insights for a local market research firm and he has lived in several world class North American cities so his response has value. But as I read the string of other answers, it occurred to me that there were several other things about our city that were being missed by those responding. I don’t at all consider myself an expert on the city, I would never join a LinkedIn Group for urban theorists nor do I follow the tweets of Richard Florida, but I did chime in with an answer and felt I had contributed in a meaningful way. Okay that’s lovely for me, but how can we use this tool a competitive intelligence capacity?
The following week, one of my lawyers asked me what we knew about a certain topic – aside from responding with our traditional sources, I checked out Quora. I simply put the topic keywords in the search box and got back a sampling of chatter . I was able to read through all kinds of questions and answers relating to the topic at hand, and while some of the Q&A was more helpful and on point that others, it certainly provided a snapshot of the current issues related to the topic and what the “water cooler” type conversations centered around a particular question or issue were.

I have fallen for Quora. It’s a great way to find out what’s going on, who’s asking what questions and then to pin point issues or answerers (people) worth following in your industry, city, profession, etc. or in a client’s without having to join groups or pay membership fees or otherwise commit to anything. As for Quorra, I will still visit the lovely store whenever I am next in our Calgary offices.