Picture This: When Consumers Have Questions, Do Brands Have Answers? by briansolis


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									Picture This: When Consumers Have Questions,
Do Brands Have Answers?
By Brian Solis, blogger at BrianSolis.com and principal of FutureWorks, Author of the highly
acclaimed book on social business Engage!

I pay attention to emerging technology and trends on a daily basis. While I track many networks,
tools, and services, I take the time to share those that appear to gain traction or offer interesting
prospects for tomorrow’s business, today.

Two such services are quickly becoming the darlings of the blogosphere and brands
alike, Instagram andQuora. Not a day passes us by where someone isn’t analyzing Instagram’s rise
to imaging stardom or Quora’s domination of social engagement around questions and answers. Did
the world need another imaging application? Probably not. Do consumers need another question
and answer site? Hardly. Instagram and Quora, however, appear to have executed a “thin edge of
the wedge” strategy, which is akin to the “tip of the spear” strategy where the services attack a small
problem first and then expand once traction and momentum are underway.

Instagram wasn’t the first service to help you share pictures from your mobile device to your social
graph. Services such as Twitpic and yfrog connected pictures to the Twitter stream. With Facebook’s
mobile app, users could simply upload pictures to their Wall. Instagram however, solved two small
challenges with an all-in-one app. It became the focal point of visual sharing. Rather than take a
picture and then upload socially through a separate service, Instagram became the dashboard for
capturing, editing, and sharing the image without leaving the app. And, Instagram served as an
integrated distribution network connecting users to their respective egosystem including, Twitter,
Flickr, Tumblr, Posterous, Facebook, and Foursquare. The answer to what’s next lies in the
company’s business plan, most likely described as the wedge strategy. Or, the answer could already
exist in Quora, the social Q&A network.

(cc) Brian Solis, www.briansolis.com - Twitter, @briansolis
Quora seems to baffle the sharpest of the pundits. Essentially it is a question and answer network,
not unlike Yahoo Answers or Mahalo Answers. But, the fledgling service solved a couple of
problems very well that existing solutions and budding entrepreneurs neglected to see. Much in the
same way Foursquare applied game mechanics into geolocation and Facebook introduced the
social effect into the News Feed, Quora is designed to engage, challenge, educate and reward its
users. But that’s not all. The foundation for the questions and answers are driven by a hierarchy and
social ranking, much like Twitter and blogs. The number of followers, following and total mentions is
prominent for all to see and judge.

Quora evokes the essence of social capitalism and in the process, introduced a new category of
content creators. The system was initially closed, and through a strategic round of private beta
invitations, the early rounds of users such as digerati, silicon valley elite, bloggers, celebrities, et al,
set the stage for exclusivity as well as focus. Those on the outside wanted in and those on the inside
desired recognition. I am not name dropping, but I am making a point. I was introduced to Quora by
Ashton Kutcher. And, when I sat down recently to discuss Quora with uber blogger Robert Scoble,
his response was as telling as it was validating, Quora is hot because, “all of the cool kids are using

The thin wedge of Quora’s strategy may already have traveled further from the left to the right than
Instagram. As new users are invited into Quora, the game mechanics seem to only grow in
prominence. People are investing in asking and more so, answering questions to boost social capital
in an uncharted and unconquered network where the reward is distinction and stature.

(cc) Brian Solis, www.briansolis.com - Twitter, @briansolis
Are Businesses Using Instagram and Quora to #Engage?

If it’s one thing that I’ve learned over the years of studying social media, business, and the pursuit of
influence, it’s that we are competing for the moment in order to earn and maintain a semblance of
relevance. For businesses struggling to gain traction through Likes, RT’s, comments, clicks, friend
and follower counts, the moment for which we compete, never really comes. It is perpetual.

The reality is this, Quora and Instagram are inviting participation among brands as they experiment
in earning relevance.


While brands are currently not invited to the Quora party, listening and monitoring are important
within Quora if it is indeed where your community is asking and answering questions. Like Yahoo
Answers and Mahalo Answers, answers to brand related questions are already populating the top of
search results inGoogle.

Brands, if possible, can follow topics related not only to their company, but also their markets. For
example, there are hundreds of questions related to Apple in Quora right now, 335 of which are
open. If we take a subset of Apple’s business and follow the topic around “tablets,” we would see
that our time (defined by any number of tablet manufactures) would yield a great deal of insight.

But why Quora? Robert Scoble eluded to the value of the network earlier. The community as it exists
today is rich with influencers. Their perspective is worthy of attention. If for nothing else, insight into
the perception and experiences of noteworthy individuals can help inspire future experiences
through adaptation.

By the way, if you want to continue the conversation on this topic, it should come as no surprise, that
aquestion already exists…and it’s awaiting your response.

On the other hand, Instagram is already attracting brands into the popular mobile imaging network to
help visualize their stories. In November of 2010, National Geographic was amongst the first to
demonstrate how a brand’s image could quite literally tie to images within a mobile photo
sharing network bound by imagery.

(cc) Brian Solis, www.briansolis.com - Twitter, @briansolis
Since then, CNN, Grammys, NPR, NBC News, Playboy, and Pepsi signed up for Instagram. When
Starbucks introduced its new logo recently, the company did not wish to repeat the Gap’s social
backlash. Instead, Starbucks shared the logo across the social Web, Instagram included, to seek

(cc) Brian Solis, www.briansolis.com - Twitter, @briansolis
NPR uses Instagram to not only extend the reach of its stories, but also tell stories through modern
form of photojournalism. In fact, media certainly has a play here and in any other active imaging

(cc) Brian Solis, www.briansolis.com - Twitter, @briansolis
To learn more about brands using Instragram, you might want to watch this thread as it unfolds on,
you guessed it, Quora.

We’re early on both fronts, but these trends are inciting notable activity on both sides of the brand
equation. It’s not just businesses that gain from the intelligence and community within each network,
media organizations can also keep their fingers on the pulse of not just new, but also emerging
networks that can modernize and reinvigorate news distribution networks.

The networks that gain greatest prominence in these times are those that people choose to support.
As such, it is up to businesses and organizations with a story to tell and those with true intentions
of communityto survey the horizons for the next opportunity to earn relevance.

Connect with Brian Solis on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook

(cc) Brian Solis, www.briansolis.com - Twitter, @briansolis
Brian Solis is globally recognized as one of most prominent thought leaders and
published authors in new media. A digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, Solis has
studied and influenced the effects of emerging media in business, culture and the
convergence of marketing, communications, and publishing. He is principal of
FutureWorks, an award-winning business management and New Media consultancy in
San Francisco and has led change management and social programs for Fortune 500
companies, notable celebrities, and Web 2.0 startups. BrianSolis.com is ranked among
the top of world's leading business and marketing websites.

Solis is the author of Engage! The complete guide for businesses to build, cultivate and
measure success in the new Web.

Connect with Brian Solis on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook
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(cc) Brian Solis, www.briansolis.com - Twitter, @briansolis

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