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Writing

My Writing Experiment on Quora - The Incredible, The Bad, The Eye-Opening

Tim Denning Quora

Photo by Onur Binay on Unsplash

I’ve always hated Quora.

Then my brain struggled for a few weeks to come up with writing ideas. I fired up my good ol’ Quora account again. That’s where I found a bunch of awesome questions that triggered some of my most successful writing.

Quora is notoriously hard to use. The layout isn’t pleasing to the eye. And, well, the users, I’ll tell you about them shortly.

What put Quora back into the spotlight

Quora has gained attention again after they decided to turn on multiple ways for writers to earn money.

Many writers I admire started to publish on there again recently. They offer paid memberships to Spaces (publications) and answers, and a share of the revenue from ads on the platform. It’s not a lot but for writers who are desperate to quit their jobs and do it full-time, Quora provides yet another income source.

My Experience with Quora

200-word content is so refreshing

On Quora the word count of a blog post can be a lot lower. I typically see between 200–500 words as the norm. It’s nice to write short-form again. Writer Michael Thompson gave me some critical feedback about my writing when I asked him for it.

“You try to say way too much in your articles.”

Now I aim to say one thing clearly in every Quora answer. It’s made my work a lot more focused. Instead of ranking ideas and trying to choose my darlings, I simply choose one idea.

No headlines to write

Headlines are crucial to online writing. Quora doesn’t have them.

The question asked by a Quora user acts as the headline. This is a lot of fun for me. I’ve noticed that I spend more effort on the subheadings now because of it. Fellow writer Ayodeji Awosika regularly preaches about the importance of subheadings. (This is the resource Ayo recommends here.)

Ask your own questions

I never knew you could do this. Quora writer Sean Kernan is cheeky and asks his own questions and then answers them. Through the process of asking your own question, you can come up with some wild content. Questions are the source of some of the best tweets of all time. Questions make us think. Questions help us look at both sides of an argument.

Give headlines a rest. Try asking phenomenal questions on Quora.

Answer a question with a story

The most popular answers to questions are stories. The most popular stories on Quora are personal stories. This is great for us writers. We’ve all got tonnes of personal stories.

The problem is we often don’t think our stories are valuable or we don’t know how to frame them properly as a written article that people want to read. That’s different on Quora.

In a way, Quora has lowered the barrier of entry for writers by allowing personal stories to be seen more than any other type of content. This excites me. I have hundreds of personal stories. The trouble is many of them don’t require a full-length blog post, and a tweet doesn’t allow enough space to share them. Now I have another option.

Personal experience matters

Quora has credentials. But they don’t have to be traditional credentials. You can customize the credential featured on every piece of content. For example, I answered a question about vaccinations and put my credential as “took the Pfizer vaccine last week.” The answer doesn’t offer medical advice. It offers advice on what the experience is like for those who haven’t done it yet.

By redefining credentials, you start to believe as a writer that you’re qualified to write about more topics. Credentials give readers perspective on where your writing comes from. That gives the reader the option to choose the angle of the perspective they want to read, rather than a decision about which headline or byline they like.

The secret to Quora

There’s one skill you need on Quora that you don’t need anywhere else: you have to get good at finding what questions to answer. Here are the factors you must consider to have your writing seen:

  • How old is the question? Questions that are more than two years old often get no traction.
  • Has a top writer already got the first spot on the question? Below every question is all the answers. They’re ranked based on views. If Sean Kernan has answered the question and got a million views already, you’re probably not going to beat his answer. Quora works the same as Google. Do you want the first search result in Google or the 8th? If you want the first result then choose questions without superstar answers.
  • How many followers does the question have? This isn’t an exact science. You can answer a question with one follower and do okay. I’ve had better success when I find a question that has 5–10 followers. Followers tell me people care about the question. One follower tells me nobody cares.
  • Does the question appeal to you? The smartest questions to answer that do the best are the ones that instantly speak to you. I saw a question about Game of Thrones and straight away thought of my fiancé who forced me to watch it on our second date. Questions that speak to you will produce better writing.

The Dark Side of Quora

Not everything about Quora is champagne, horderves, and high-fives. Let’s explore.

Moderation sucks

There’s a lot of garbage content on Quora. The worst type is memes. The platform is drowning in them. People who are not content creators post them because they get a lot of upvotes (likes). They drive me nuts. Quora would be significantly better if moderators removed a lot of the spam.

Many top writers have disappeared

An Aussie friend of mine has been on Quora for years and amassed a sizeable audience. I got him to put together a list for me of the best writers on the platform. The list was incredible, but as I went through each person I noticed more than 50% of them had dropped off.

Content creator retention is something many social media apps overlook.

They simply think new creators will keep popping up so it doesn’t matter if they destroy the veterans. What they fail to understand is the veteran writers motivate the beginner and intermediate writers.

When top creators disappear the content on the platform starts to go downhill. From there, paying subscriber numbers start to fall off a cliff because their favorite creators are elsewhere. Before they know it, they’re adding loads of features nobody wants in an effort to regain dominance.

I’ve noticed this phenomenon (slightly) through my Quora experiment. It’s nobody’s fault. The only way to overcome it is to have a few content creators on the platform as employees or consultants. Us content creators are a weird bunch. Platforms like Quora think we’re solely after money. When you dig deeper you realize that’s not a high priority.

We want to write and build an audience. Whoever helps us do that is our high priest that we worship.

Quora users

There are some really smart users on Quora. The platform seems to attract the intellectual type. I don’t find that a lot of the content has links to research and evidence, though, which sometimes detracts from the credibility.

There is a NewsBreak vibe too. Anyone who has written on NewsBreak will tell you the sheer terror of the comments section. The racism, harassment, and bullying is wild. You literally can’t read a single comment on NewsBreak if you like yourself even one bit.

Quora comments can be pretty crazy too. There is less moderation these days on the platform since they laid off a large number of staff a while back (probably to cut costs and refocus). Treat every person you encounter on Quora with an open mind and respect, and you can’t go wrong.

What you don’t want to hear about writing on Quora

Can you handle two ‘likes’ (upvotes) on Quora for a year? That’s the real question that slaps writers in the face. You’ll likely get very few views and upvotes when you write on Quora. (My best post is like six upvotes…haha.)

Quora — like most platforms — rewards time in the game, the number of answers, and the engagement you get on your content.

You won’t simply be able to post answers and get 10,000 upvotes tomorrow. That occurrence is rare based on my research. So it comes down, as always, to whether you’re willing to put in the work and be patient. I am. Look at writers like Mark Manson on different apps — he is.

No social media platform will work for you as a writer unless you stick at it for more than a year. Writers hate hearing this but it’s the brutal truth.

Should you write on Quora tomorrow?

After my experiment with Quora, here’s my conclusion.

  1. Use Quora to get questions you can utilize for writing ideas.
  2. Publish a 200-word answer on Quora here and there if you have time.
  3. The Quora+ memberships that earn writers money have just started. Look at the results first from other writers before seeing Quora as a way to earn money from writing.

Bottom line

Quora is an old platform. It’s had lots of issues over the years. Their employees are trying lots of new things, but nobody knows if any of them will work.

At the same time blockchain is fixing the problems of centralized social media apps that run on ad models. Apps like Bitclout are questioning the follower model, where writers have no email addresses of their readers. It’s an interesting time to write online.

I’ll leave you with this: there has never been more opportunities to make money from writing and not work a normal job if you choose. Stay open-minded. Experiment with where you write. Focus on writing for the long-term and the quality of your work. You’ll succeed wherever you write when you do.

Tim Denning
I am an Aussie Blogger with 500M+ views — Writer for CNBC & Business Insider. Inspiring the world through Personal Development and Entrepreneurship. You may have seen my work on Medium, LinkedIn, Bitclout, or Twitter.

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