Write On: A Writer’s Guide to Quora

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If you’ve ever been within 10 feet of a speaking toddler, you may be familiar with one of their favourite hobbies—repeating the question “why?” to the point of meaninglessness. As adults, we still have this deep-seated curiosity and yearning for knowledge, but have mostly learned to be more subtle in our quest for answers (there’s always that one person). One of the best and underrated resources available to help satisfy this desire for learning is the question and answer website, Quora.

With Quora’s mission to “share and grow the world’s knowledge,” the social network is an especially valuable resource for writers. From grammar tips to topic ideas, here are some ways Quora can help you if you are looking for some guidance with your writing and content marketing efforts.

What is Quora?

When I first heard of Quora, I didn’t initially understand what made it different from other popular question and answer sites such as Yahoo! Answers or Wiki Answers. After logging in, I quickly found that what truly sets Quora apart is the dedication to quality content, mostly due to the influential and trusted users who use it (estimated to be around four million active users as of 2015). These users have asked hundreds of thousands of questions, ranging in topics from engineering, marketing, and art, to politics, cooking, and social media. Classified as a social network, Quora enables you to follow and connect with users who post content related to topics you are tracking, or those you are connected with through your social media networks, enabling a curated feed that aligns with your interests.

When a question is asked, experienced users will answer based on their authority and knowledge. Answers are “upvoted,” so that the best and highest quality of answers are shown and chosen by other users. An example of a highly upvoted answer is seen here, where Barack Obama posted an answer to a question regarding foreign policy. Answers which are uninformative or incorrect can receive downvotes, or will be hidden.

Furthermore, users can collaborate on answers to ensure the best possible responses are posted. This high level of quality is also established through the “real names” policy, which requires users to sign-up and post using, you guessed it, their actual names. There’s no hiding behind anonymous screen names, meaning all users are accountable for what they post. Additionally, Quora is much more of a social networking site than a simple website, with users able to follow and join groups with similar interests and expertise, as well as follow topics of relevance. Thanks to this, it’s a great resource to turn to when conducting research for your writing projects.

Idea Generation

Any writer knows that sometimes thinking of a topic to write about can be the most difficult part of the process. While we love a good brainstorm session, Quora offers new ways of finding ideas and inspiration that have proven quite helpful.

As a writer or content marketer, one of the easiest ways you can use Quora to generate ideas is to see what others are saying about your brand, service, or product. If you are a smaller business who may not necessarily have this kind of buzz yet, you can check-in with what experts and users are saying about your industry. Find out what people are asking and want to know about your sector, and use these questions as jumping off points for your writing. Envision Technology Marketing Group also suggests looking for questions with few answers but a high number of followers, and then writing a blog post answering the most popular. They also suggest to “provide a link to the Quora question and in the Quora answer field, link to your blog.” Recognizing that users who constantly just link back to their blogs without providing valuable answers are considered spam, if your answer is genuinely helpful you can possibly gain new audience members and customers through the backlink.

Another way to help get those brain juices flowing through Quora is to take note of influential users who are consistently answering questions and receiving upvotes on your topic, and connect with them on the site. Follow them to see the content they find interesting and worthy of engaging with, and you will undoubtedly be exposed to new ideas and intellect that can spark inspiration and insight for your writing.

One of the simplest ways Quora helps with the generation of ideas for your writing, is through the fact that when using it, you are actively reading. Quora’s About section declares the site the “best place to read online,” as the content is curated for you based on your chosen interests and tastes. Reading ideas, opinions, and thoughts from others, especially experts and influencers exercises your brain, which has obvious effects on your ability to not only think more deeply in your idea creation process, but your writing efforts. As Dr. Ken Pugh, president and director of research of Haskins Laboratories, told Oprah Magazine, “Whether you’re absorbed in a page-turner or simply scanning an instruction manual for your coffee maker, parts of the brain that have evolved for other functions €”such as vision, language, and associative learning €”connect in a specific neural circuit for reading, which is very challenging.”

To sum it up, these are the key ways Quora helps with ideation:

  • Searching for your business, brand, or industry to see what others are curious and asking questions about

  • Following influential users to see the content they find interesting and useful

  • Offering a platform for active reading and engagement

Research

For most writers, a large amount of time is dedicated to the research that goes into any project. From checking facts to understanding context, research is undoubtedly a crucial part of the writing process. For me, Quora has been an incredible resource for this. Whether I am about to begin a writing project, or am feeling stuck in the middle, I’ve found that I can turn to Quora to answer any question I may have. For example, when trying to find general information about Instagram for a recent piece, I was able to quickly see all of the question and answer posts related to the app, thanks to the topic sorting capabilities of Quora. These included countless questions, from “What is Instagram?” to “Who are the most interesting people to follow on Instagram?” Of course, you want your research to be valid and accurate, so the fact that these questions are being answered by users who are authorities in the field of said topic is extremely valuable. Some examples of such experts include the CEO and co-founder of Instagram Kevin Systrom, who answered this question regarding how the app got its name.

While there are hundreds of thousands of questions that have been answered on the site, if your research calls for a specific question that hasn’t been answered, you can post it and have the Quora community help you out. Simply by posting on the board most closely related to your topic or theme can generate numerous quality responses from experts and users, which, as mentioned above, is a key feature that sets Quora apart from other Q&A sites.

As discussed, Quora helps with research by:

  • Sorting questions and content into topics for easy access to information from top sources

  • Enabling the user to ask questions about anything they need further information on

Writing

Quora’s focus on community and quality means that you can really get the most out of the site by contributing and engaging whenever you feel you have something valuable to add. If you possess a lot of knowledge about a subject, this is the place to share it. Quora explains “Whether you want to get an instant audience with your expertise or to help others learn from your life experiences, Quora is the best place to write online.”

If you are responding to a question from the viewpoint of your business, this is a great opportunity to gain credibility and authority in your industry, while demonstrating expertise and building awareness around brand. With this purpose in mind, you definitely want to ensure you are writing answers in a smart manner. Use proper grammar, spelling, and an informative tone, rather than casual text-speak. Answer a question in a way that you would find valuable yourself, and stick to the topic at hand. Remain authentic and engaging, and don’t insert your brand unnecessarily in your answer. Thankfully Quora’s writing tools make the process easy, so you’re able to concentrate on the content rather than a complicated publishing interface.

In September 2015, Quora established itself as an even bigger player in the writing and publishing arena when they introduced “Blogs.” Stating that the average active writer on the site receives approximately 30,000+ monthly views, Quora’s Blog section allows for those who don’t have time to create, maintain, and market their own blog to have a user-friendly platform to do so. Although “Blogs” doesn’t use the question and answer format the site is built on, Quora explains “If you are a good writer but don’t have thousands of Twitter followers or a big audience for your blog, Quora is an ideal place to write. Your blog will be discovered quickly without you having to do any work besides writing. Writing one great post on Quora will attract a big audience, no matter how many people already know or follow you.”

Quora’s introduction of Blogs is also beneficial for established bloggers with large audiences already, due to the distribution process. When introducing the Blogs feature, Quora explained “Quora can provide you with more quality distribution from an audience who we know shares an interest in the topics you write about. We have a built-in audience for just about any topic you write about.” If a user is following a question or topic that is related to your blog post or posted answer, it’s possible that they will see your writing. This is great for writers looking for exposure, as your audience is not “dependent on how many people follow you personally.” In other words, your writing is judged by quality not quantity, making Quora less of a popularity contest and more of an informative bank of valuable resources.

Essentially, Quora can contribute to better writing through:

  • The easy to use publishing and writing tools

  • Allowing your writing to help boost your brand awareness and authority

  • The Quora Blogs platform which allows easy discovery for your writing

Resources

One of the most actionable ways Quora has been helpful for my writing process, is through the countless amount of resources available. Everything from questions about grammar rules and vocabulary, to writing resources and top websites for writers can be found on Quora, with top International writing experts chiming in. A list I find myself returning to constantly, is the “What are the best questions about writing on Quora?” by user Deepak Mehta. Mehta has curated an extremely thorough list of questions that have been asked on Quora regarding writing and the writing process, with links to each. He has organized the list into a number of topics including “Becoming a better writer” (overcoming writer’s block, grammar tips and advice, etc.), “Different types of writing” (Fiction, academic, screenwriting, blogging), “Book writing” (editing, publishing, etc.) and “Not Questions” (blogs to follow, etc.). I can’t count the number of times I’ve turned to this list for advice and tips, and some of my favourites from this collection of resources include:

To sum it up, key resources Quora provides for writers include:

  • Curated lists such as user Deepak Mehta’s, with common questions relevant to writing

  • Grammar tips and vocabulary answers

  • Influential experts to guide and advise writers

Overall, Quora allows for the exchange of ideas and information in a way that can be extremely beneficial for beginner and expert writers alike. Whether you’re looking for inspiration, resources, influential writers, or just want to know what people are talking about, Quora is an incredibly valuable resource.