Another quarter, another social media phenomenon IFAs will be told to get onboard with. This time around, it's Quora. It isn't, as one asset manager thought, a vegetarian meat-alternative. It's a social answering service that's causing all the fuss.
Quora went into beta a year ago. Since December there have been two large influxes of members leaving the site with 500,000 users at present.
Now, forgive a jaded online journo, but it's getting harder to be excited about these flashy sites. For every Foursquare there are a hundred other ideas which are similarly functional, but have failed. Why?
Well, because social media only works socially, i.e. if there are other people on a network, and we may be getting tired of endlessly updating four or five different profiles constantly, so we stop joining networks.
People have been saying for years the appetite for new and better social networks will run out, claiming users will become saturated with all the choice and simply stick with what they have got. The key for a successful social network is to create something that is unique and satisfies a need, like any product.
Facebook brought together several different ways of communicating, plus pictures, video and music, beating MySpace, which allowed most of those things, but was clunky to operate.
Twitter was the ideal tonic for users with tiny attention spans who are bloated with other people's information and looking for a pithy and constantly-updated stream of random information (yes, I am addicted to it).
Foursquare is for people tired of the virtual world looking to tie in their online presence with their actual presence, and get free lattes from Starbucks.
So Quora needs a similar niche if it wants to survive.
Has it got one? A fellow journo remarked: "Surely Google and Wikipedia has all the information we will ever need?" Perhaps that's part of the appeal; googling comes up with millions of results, even when you are as specific as you can be, and trawling is time-consuming. Even when you find a body of information, you might not be able to apply it to the question you need answered.
Ah, but what about Yahoo Answers and eHow? Yahoo Answers has been providing the same thing for years; a forum where people can ask questions and others can answer them. However, it looks outdated, doesn't allow as much profiling of users, and doesn't encourage as much interaction between members.
eHow allows questioning and answering as well as other interaction between members, but is diluted a little by its expert and news articles. Quora is a purer form of crowdsourcing information.
Quora might just about have scraped a niche, combining the mico-blogging feel of Twitter with the profiling abilities of Facebook, the answer-any-question appeal of Yahoo Answers and the crowdsourced feel of Wikipedia.
But what Quora's strength will be is maintaining great standards of answers, from people who are experts in their field.
The financial services section of the site is testament to this. Browsing it, I can already see several IFAs, accountants and other professionals directly answering questions from people looking for guidance (note: not advice, before anyone starts frothing at the mouth).
This could be the key to Quora; people can communicate with service providers and receive answers, not from the press officer flunkies that run corporate Facebook sites, but from real providers, who are attracted to the business-like feel of Quora over the fun-if-slightly-spammy atmosphere of Twitter or Facebook.
The answer to the big question over whether IFAs should bother with Quora is a cautious yes. Waxing lyrical about it looks like too much talking about communication rather than communicating. On the other hand, railing against yet another social media site to get to grips with makes a perfectly tech-literate IFA look like a Luddite.
Simply being there on the site, with a professional, thought-out profile, ready to answer questions and earn trust, is probably the best move.
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