Internet users generally have one thing in common: they want more information. In particular, they want information that answers questions, and the proof of this is in the popularity of a wide range of question and answer (Q&A) websites. As a small business owner, you can use this thirst for information to your advantage since Q&A sites often provide an inexpensive (as in free, apart from your time) way to communicate with potential customers. The most difficult task is to find a Q&A site that best suits your business and your expertise.
Q&A websites take three formats – general questions and answers, specialist (as in genre) and the newish kid on the block – local question and answers. General sites include Yahoo Answers and Quora, and they do receive the bulk of the traffic. However, specialist Q&A websites are appearing in search results in increasing numbers and it won’t be long before the local sites join them. One of the easiest ways to find a suitable Q&A website is to use both Google and Bing – enter in a range of questions related to your field to see which Q&A sites appear in the search results.
Finding a Q&A site is one thing; using it effectively is quite another. If you are able to build a profile, make it as professional as possible. Users need to be able to see that you are an expert in your field, and not just an amateur who’s shooting off at the mouth. You can further develop your standing by answering questions in a professional way, no matter how mundane they appear. Always bear in mind that, to the asker, the question asked is very important to them. You should also try to answer the question is non-technical ways, often difficult, however, you are generally talking to potential customers, not fellow experts.
Specialist sites are generally much smaller and don’t receive as much traffic as general sites. However, the traffic they do receive is often more targeted and more likely to visit your website. If using a specialist site, you can become a little more technical, however, you will need to assess the questioner’s knowledge based on their question – if they use technical information correctly, then use a technical answer.
Local Q&A are an interesting development. Askalo, CrowdBeacon and LocalMind are three that are becoming popular. These sites allow users to ask questions related to specific areas; for example, “where can I get a pizza at midnight in Wayzata?” These are as useful for businesses too – still, some questions go unanswered for several hours.
Q&A sites allow you to develop your brand and build a reputation whilst also working to funnel traffic to your website. They also have SEO benefits delivered through any links you include. Just remember to link to related content on your website, and not to a sales page – that will drive visitors away as soon as they land.