Something happened over Christmas. A hitherto quiet little start-up social network, that had gained a little traction in H2 2010, suddenly exploded into life. In the first week of 2011 every second tweet and all the headline technology articles seemed to be about Quora.
So what is Quora? It's slightly more complex than your average social network, but has been described as a combination of Twitter, Linked In Answers and Yahoo Answers. You can find out a little more here or here. Essentially the promise is, that it will build communities around core specialities, meaning that if you are looking for an opinion or just a straightforward answer to a question - about anything - those questions can be addressed by 'experts' as opposed to an amorphous mass with a passing interest in the subject. So far, so good.
However, as Vikki Chowney pointed out this week the low volume of users and sheer volume of content that is being posted is leaving an awful lot unanswered, or alternatively there can be a similar echo chamber feel that can sometimes come from spending too much time on Twitter, and as a result the service maybe just requires a watching brief at present.
Interestingly though where brands are engaging in this new network the content is becoming very rich and there are a couple of financial services brands that have thrown themselves in to it. Bank Simple has really embraced it with open arms, with a strong presence and engagement in some tough and complex questions around its place in the market and its offering. Similarly Mint.com has engaged with the site tackling challenging questions head on.
Both of these engagements hint at the possibilities of effectively tackling extremely challenging customer issues online in a way that possibly couldn't in some other online forums. The site therefore holds a new potential for more direct online reputation management.
Quora is undoubtedly more transparent than the vast majority of social sites and therefore arguably, quality and consideration of answers is higher than some of the throw away comments that can occur in other online destinations. Whether it's successful or not is the million (actually, probably billion) dollar question, but it certainly seems one of the strongest new social network contenders for some time.