Over the past year, various question and answer interfaces have been popping up across the Internet, including Quora, Opinionaided, and LinkedIn Answers. The concept of Q&A isn't a new one, but the application has shifted from general topics to business applications. The original players in this field, Answers.com, Ask.com, Quora, etc., were used for general questions such as “What are the odds of winning the lottery?” and didn't focus on social interaction. The new interfaces, however, have transformed into places not only to get information, but make important social connections and learn more about industry practices as a whole.
Overall, Q&A services have changed in three major ways:
1. Social Component
Unlike earlier Q&A sites, the new applications allow users to connect with their friends, as well as people they don't necessarily know, but would like to. For example, I can see questions from people that I don't follow on Quora who posted questions in topics that I follow. The social component has instilled more of an emotional response for people because it allows them to interact with others, instead of just simply waiting for an answer. It seems that people also trust more of the answers on these sites because we can associate these answers with a face and a name.
2. Categories & Topics
I am thoroughly impressed with the search capabilities of all of these sites, as well as the filtered categories & topics. While there are tons of topics on these sites to choose from, your feed can be tailored to the topics you want to know more about.
3. Openness & Research
Not only are people answering important questions, but they are offering information that would not have been given up even ten years ago. People like to answer questions, and they like to provide value. Even if you aren't active on these sites, you can research what the industry is doing, what your competition is saying, and how it is perceived in the marketplace.
If you aren't present on these networks, think about it and soon.