Paul M. Banas on Consumer Insights, Marketing Research, and the Digital Media Landscape
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Levering The Power Of Social Knowledge Networks

Social Knowledge Networks, as seen in something like Yahoo! Answers, are one of the fastest growing forms of Social Media on the web.

According to Hitwise Intelligence, these type of sites have seen visits growth of 889% since February of 2006. In their most basic form, these are community sites were users post questions and other users provide answers.

The reason for their success, according to Heather Dougherty, research director at Hitwise, is because:

“Online users are increasingly seeking advice from question and answer websites that leverage shared knowledge contributed across a community of experts and enthusiasts. The popularity of user generated media has helped to establish a category for social knowledge where consumers can obtain answers from a single aggregated source developed through others asking similar questions.”

Social Knowledge Networks are all about Reciprocation, which is one of the core principles of Persuasive Social Media Marketing. And levering Social Knowledge as a form of engagement isn’t just being practiced by big portals such as Yahoo!. Other content sites, such as blogs, are also benefiting as well.

Jeff Lash, whose blog provides tips on best practices for product management at Good Product Manager, has recently launched a Q&A site at ask.goodproductmanager.com. He was kind enough to answer a couple of questions about why he launched his new site and how he feels about the initial reaction.

What were your reasons behind launching the Ask page for Good Product Manager?

Many readers of my blog How To Be A Good Product Manager would send emails asking for advice on product management questions and challenges. Ask A Good Product Manager was created as a way to answer more of these questions and share the answers with other product managers who have the same questions.

How has the feedback been on the new site? Is it doing what you planned?

Feedback has been very positive. It is designed to be a resource for the community, and people seem to appreciate that. We’ve been getting a good set of questions, and those who ask the questions appreciate that there is a way to get their problems answered. Those who have answered questions help promote the site, and they’re willing to contribute because they get something by “giving back” … and by getting some traffic to their blogs.

What advice would you give to someone who was considering developing a Q&A page for their own niche?

Leverage others to get the word out and to help contribute answers. Don’t try to make it too commercial. Position it as a genuine service to the community and you’ll reap the benefits. “Seed” the site with some answers before you launch it… don’t launch it if you don’t have any content — and make sure to have some content planned for after you launch, in case the submissions aren’t coming in as quickly (or as good) as you expected. Also have some people queued up to answer questions — don’t expect them to answer themselves!

By giving visitors something of value by providing a forum to answer their specific questions, the host site not only gains the strong engagement benefits of reciprocity, it can also help to establish the site as a strong authority site in its niche by becoming a resource that visitors will come back to again and again.

4 comments

1 Jeff Lash { 04.17.08 at 7:33 am }

Thanks for letting me respond and I appreciate the plugs for my site(s).

FYI, it looks like others are jumping in on the trend as well — Joel Spolsky just announced the launch of stackoverflow.com, describing it this way:

Programmers seem to have stopped reading books. … When they can’t figure something out, they type a question into Google. … You’ll get a bunch of responses typed by other programmers like you. Some of the responses will be wrong, some will be right, some may be out of date … Jeff Atwood and I decided to do something about it. We’re starting to build a programming Q&A site that’s free. Free to ask questions, free to answer questions, free to read

2 Paul M. Banas { 04.17.08 at 7:34 pm }

@Jeff
Thanks for the lead to stackoverflow. I really do think that Q&A is an innovative way to way to give back to your readership community.

3 Andy R { 04.20.08 at 8:18 pm }

Your article is very interesting. I founded a company called Social Knowledge a few years ago. We operate a small network of niche online communities that are all authority sites on their topic. The members are typically well informed on the topic and come to our communities to exchange knowledge with other like minded folks. The active members are typically influencers among their peers (online and off line).

You might find our site http://www.DiscussCooking.com to be interesting with your past work with Kraft. It would be great to see manufactures connect with consumers in a more social way.

Here are some interesting articles about forums and communities that you might find interesting.
http://www.socialknowledge.net/?page=news

(FYI – I hope you don’t regard this as spam. I felt bad adding the links but thought you might find them interesting. If you don’t allow them, please feel free to remove them from my comments)

4 Paul M. Banas { 04.21.08 at 7:06 pm }

@Andy R
Thanks for stopping by. I also welcome the links to the articles (although it seems the links to the older articles are now broken).

With social knowledge networks, both you and Jeff seem to have hit on something that resonates well with the broader social media crowd.

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