To quote that old chestnut, "knowledge is power". And the Internet is rife with countless possibilities to obtain that knowledge. But one genre which is fast gaining traction online is the concept of "crowd wisdom." You see it on Twitter, where people opine on every subject under the sun, and you're now also seeing it now on Quora.
This rapidly expanding popular question-and-answer online messaging board (and now smartphone app) allows people to ask and answer questions on virtually any topic, and of course ecommerce is no exception.
So how can you use Quora to your advantage if you are an online seller? Let's take a virtual tour to find out.
Upon signing up for an account (which you can do via Facebook if you are tired of signing up for yet another account), you only have to enter terms such as "e-commerce", "online selling" and "eBay" to get topics to follow.
Upon clicking the "follow" button, you will receive all future questions and replies to questions on your Quora front page. You will receive notifications whenever a new reply is posted to a question (these notifications can be disabled in your account preferences if you want).
Unless you have some overwhelming urgent need to ask a question on something important, I would spend a few days or weeks just lurking on the boards to learn how things work. Concentrate on finding people that you know, add them as contacts, read replies, vote them up and down, and generally get a feel for the place. Dip your toes in the water and test the temperature before jumping right in.
So when you are ready to jump right in, how does Quora help you as an online seller? Simple - networking and problem solving. Quora has a huge number of active users, people who work in lots of different professional fields. And ecommerce is just one of them. Whether it's someone who has their own small eBay store, or someone who works in an Amazon fulfillment center, you're bound to find someone who works in your area of expertise.
What makes Quora unique though, in my opinion, is that it is not just populated by the little people in a company. CEOs come to hang out too. For example, if you ask a question about Wikipedia, there's a very high chance that Jimmy Wales himself will personally reply to you. Or perhaps you might bump into a celebrity or two? The British comedian and TV presenter Stephen Fry is a huge fan of Quora and answers a lot of questions on a very frequent basis.
Answering questions with thoughtful unique memorable replies and voting those questions up will get peoples attention. Then add them as a contact and continue the professional relationship.
Obviously these kinds of connections are not made overnight. You need to give and take, answer their questions and show them that you have something to offer, that you're not just some spammer from Nigeria with a truckload of viagra to offload. But done right, Quora is a goldmine of contacts and information that will make your head spin.
As for the "problem solving" part? Well, if you have a work-related issue you would like an opinion on, or a burning question that is torturing your curiosity, then why not ask the millions of people on Quora who may very well be facing the same issue as you?
Obviously I would not rely on Quora for things like legal questions, as you never know who is on the other end of the computer, answering your queries (people like me for example!). So sensitive matters like that are best left to the old-fashioned offline methods of consulting a real professional. But for more general queries, you can use the Quora search engine to see if anyone else is asking the same question and you can read what replies have already been posted (if any). If there are no replies, maybe you could leave the first one and kick-start the conversation?
For example, do you want to know if a particular dropshipper can be trusted? Do you want to find out the best wholesale sources for shipping supplies? Or maybe you have a difficult customer problem and you want to ask the opinion of the Quora community without getting into too many specifics? These are just some examples of how Quora can help you. And the best part? Membership of the site is absolutely free.
So join up, browse the boards and let us know if Quora managed to help you out in any way.