Sunday 22 April 2018

In Which Brands Enter Quora and Formspring

This post originally appeared on Zach Cole’s blog  at

Along with the proliferation of social media channels to manage came the inevitable rise of social media customer service/support. Tired of recycled call centers and roundabout hold music loops, consumers took their questions and support issues to social channels – Twitter, Facebook – because community managers were often able to provide quicker answers. This is natural behavior from consumers, as they are simply seeking the path of least resistance (or rather, the path of least annoyance).

But from the marketing side, this is a problem. An overflow of support questions on Twitter and Facebook means that community managers, social media strategists, etc. get to spend less time actually delivering fun, creative surprises to consumers and spend more time moderating for support issues (this of course, varies by brand). Twitter and Facebook were never intended to be based around question and answer.

The Exchange of Knowledge with Quora Formspring

Enter Quora and Formspring – two social media platforms that are built around the exchange of knowledge via question and answer. Quora is basically a smarter version of Yahoo! Answers, while Formspring works better directing questions directly at specific brands or people. Seems like marketer’s gold right? Let’s host our own QA exchange right here and get all these pesky support complaints off Facebook and Twitter!


So why are there so few brands using these channels. And what can brands actually do that’s valuable here? Let’s begin with Quora.

Quora: Profiles and Strategy

Regular people can create profiles on Quora, so why don’t we just create regular profiles but use a brand name instead? Ah, not so fast. That’s been tried before, and Quora will disable but not delete the account.

However, there are great ways to watch and participate in the conversations and questions on Quora. The most glaring best practice here is simply just to have employees actively engage with consumers on the site, under full disclosure of course! But this is simply a reactive measure. What if you want to push more people to your Quora topic? Earlier in 2012, Quora released Follow buttons for topics and people, allowing brands to direct users to their brand topic or to key employees who are acting on the brand’s behalf on Quora. As an aside to marketers, you may want to also note Quora’s TOS, which lightly touches along the topic of brands on its platform.


And now onto Formspring, which is a bit more problematic at the moment. Part of the problem here is that it’s difficult to find brands on Formspring. The easiest way that I’ve been able to do so is by first following a brand on Twitter, then searching through my Twitter connections on Formspring to follow the brand there. That’s one too many steps. But okay, let’s say I put in the effort to do so (I have). What do I find? Oh, here’s Twilio! (For the record, I LOVE what Twilio does.)

As the image on the left shows, there’s been no activity on Twilio’s page for about a year (I certainly cannot blame them for that). Part of the problem is that the questions being asked here aren’t really relevant to Twilio’s brand. On the left, you can see a question that I can ask directly to Twilio (currently awaiting response). Ultimately, Formspring’s issue for brands is that there is no relevant content, and the users simply aren’t there – especially for smaller companies like Twilio.

Worth the Investment?

So what’s a brand to do? If a brand does want to use Formspring, it would likely require some heavy external promotion in order to get the account found in the first place. It might require some calls to action on Twitter, Facebook or the blog to ‘Find us on Formspring!’ or something along those lines.

Also, Formspring has a nice Tumblr integration that is still not entirely dead, even after Tumblr added its own proprietary QA feature. The point is, there are a few possibilities.

Lastly, we have the emergence of hyperlocal QA services such as Localmind. It is still to be determined the exact role that brands will get to play here, but it’s certainly one to keep an eye on.

I want to hear from you! Where do you think question and answers should play a role in the social media spectrum beyond Facebook and Twitter?

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