Everyone’s analyzing Quora from this angle or that, looking at what sort of networks are being built up there, how it’s working to determine user authority and quality and so on. Jeremiah Owyang has a good overview that points out that while corporate accounts aren’t part of the equation right now there are opportunities for corporate ambassadors to be stationed there as part of a publishing and outreach strategy.
While there are certainly reasons to pay attention to Quora (or Formspring.me or any of the other similar sites that are bound to pop up in the next six months) there’s also the need to ask this question:
What can Quora do that existing online platforms can’t?
Quora and other sites like it are feedback mechanisms that are meant to connect those looking for answers to those who can provide them. But that relationship should be part of a corporate publishing program already. A blog, a Twitter account, a Facebook profile, a YouTube channel – these should all be ways that an organization is providing knowledge to its audience and soliciting feedback. There should be ways that questions can be asked directly to the organization on all those platforms, whether it’s through an email contact, blog comments or in any other way.
Monitoring programs should be in place that discover what sorts of topics people are discussing and then strategic guidance should point out how to participate in those conversations and provide insights that only that organization can give.
Again, Quora may turn out to be a valuable tool. But a give and take between a publisher and its audience should already be part of an online program, even without an extension that’s specifically for questions and answers.