Should a Part-Time CFO Write on Quora

To Quora or Not to Quora, That is the Question

Mark, should I write on Quora? Will it help my business?

I write on Quora where I have more than 2 million answer views. I have around 600 followers. But I don’t write on Quora for the reasons you may think.

Mark Gandy Quora ProfileThe Only Reason I Write on Quora

I’ve been writing on Quora seriously since early 2016, but only to practice my writing skills–not to get business. I recognize I’m both a weak writer and a lazy one. Quora allows me to be helpful and to improve this skill at the same time.

I did not reach 250 followers until I had completed 700 posts and garnered nearly 900,000 answer views. If your goal is audience building, the process could be slow unless you’re famous.

For me, obtaining followers is the not the goal. Followers, however, are icing on the cake. More importantly, I’ve written content I would otherwise never have given much thought too (due in part to the curse of knowledge).

Quora Eliminates Writer’s Block

If you have a website, you know you should be writing, right?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. A number of my peers think writing comes easily to me. It does not. I also hit stretches where writing is the last thing I want to do.

The last time that happened in a big way was in early 2016. I went to Quora to get unstuck. It worked.

Unless you keep a journal to track your writing ideas (I have close to 300 topics documented in about 3 different Moleskins, in emails I’ve written to myself, and in Evernote), attempting to write a 500-word post can be daunting without a topic in mind.

In Quora, you don’t need a topic. You only need a question or two to start the writing process. That’s the secret to getting into a writing habit. You no longer need to dream up topics to write about. Instead, just find the questions that need an answer.

As I look at some of my top answers, I would have never dreamed of writing about those topics on another platform. “What is the meaning of true-up?” You’ve got to be kidding–nearly 75,000 answer views.

Can’t write? Don’t have time to write? Have writer’s block? You can answer a question, can’t you?

Quora Top AnswersBuilding Meaningful Connections

Recently, a Nashville IT firm needed help on restaurant analytics. They noticed my answers on QSRs and wanted more feedback. We had a quick GoToMeeting and we’ve exchanged a few emails since.

I recently coached another CFO who follows me on Quora, but I don’t think that made the difference. He also found me on LinkedIn and sought me out there.

Look up a guy named Peter Lynch from Texas. This guy is brilliant and he is a great writer. He sells an Excel-based financial modeling tool. We upvote each other periodically. Through various comments back and forth, that has become a good connection and I now plug his product every chance I get–on Quora and beyond.

I’ve become a huge fan of Zach Pinnell who writes about digital commerce of varying kinds. He’s got a ton of energy and just gives, gives, and gives in his responses. Full disclosure–he’s also from my home state.

There are more, but these two guys simply rock.

6 Tips When Writing on Quora

Focus on Your Strengths
First, write regularly in your strongest areas of expertise. But keep in mind your Avatars (ideal client) may not be reading in your primary categories.

That’s the tough part about Quora because it’s hard to ID or locate your ideal client. I met a college student here in Columbia, Missouri after seeing some of his excellent posts in Quora. He’s the guy I mentioned above named Zach. He has an expertise in eCommerce. Accordingly, it’s easy for people like him to find his audience in Quora.

If you sell software or have an eCommerce site, it’s seemingly easier to get traction there as long as you are not being salesy. These people know their ideal client and have a knack for finding the questions which will put them on other people’s radar.

Be Consistent
Keep writing on Quora, but also keep in mind this will be just one more place where you are establishing authority–Sonia Simone of Copyblogger calls this person the likable expert. You don’t have to answer questions daily. Maybe 2-3 times a week. Just be consistent.

Write Around the Periphery of Your Strengths
Go beyond your area of expertise. I’m a CFO, and the demand for readers in my 15-20 financial areas of expertise is low.

My most-viewed answer has 180,000 impressions and was a response to a silly human interest question–nothing to do with corporate finance–crazy. My answer was even picked up by Quora and promoted on the main home page for a day or so, and it still gets upvotes. Go figure. Unfortunately, those answers going viral will never be about answers to cash flow problems, declining earnings, or other financial perils.

Approach Quora Like Jeopardy

Financial Modeling for $200. Once you get comfortable and into a set routine, perhaps you have answers you’d like to share, but need a question for your insights.

I don’t know the exact count, but I’m guessing I have 20-30 answers where I looked for a question when I already had an answer. If your content is good, you will get views and upvotes using this approach, I guarantee it.

Don’t Stress over Metrics
I’m repeating myself; don’t worry about followers, they’ll come.

Follow Don Graham, former CEO of the Washington Post. Notice he gets tons of views and upvotes. Sure, he’s famous. But notice he’s helpful. He could care less about views and upvotes, but for those of us following him, we love reading his responses. That’s the person you become in Quora, a person who is helpful. If you get followers, great. If not, keep plugging away.

Market Your Best Content
Finally, market your answers beyond Quora. I do so in 2 ways currently. Recently, I got about 1,000 impressions by sharing an answer about financial modeling with a LinkedIn update. One blogger of a global FP&A site subsequently asked that I tweak it and publish it on their site.

If/when applicable, I’ll also share answers with peers, colleagues, and clients in an e-mail.

I’ve noticed that Jae over at Old School Value now includes answers in Quora in his monthly newsletter. So don’t just rely on Quora to get noticed, prime the pump outside their platform. It can be effective.

How Often Should You Write on Quora?

Remember the original reason I started writing on Quora? I needed to establish a healthy habit of writing regularly. If you’re in the same situation, I’d suggest answering questions daily for one straight month. Then let your results dictate your writing schedule on Quora thereafter.

Sometimes, I’ll go weeks without writing there, but even with more than 1,000 answers, I try to answer a couple questions at least weekly.

Are you an advanced writer? Use Quora to test your ideas. Some of the greatest comedians past and present still do gigs at small clubs to test new content. I believe Chris Rock still does this.

Quora will allow you to do that while helping others at the same time. You don’t need to do this daily. Instead, schedule 20 minutes one day per week to peruse questions in your domain of expertise, and start writing.

Some Final Advice

Overall, I wouldn’t look to Quora as a way to gain business unless a) you write in an area where there are tons of readers, and b) you can be subtle with your value proposition as you answer questions. Again, I see a lot of software developers there and niche-based eCommerce owners staking some ground there.

It goes without saying, include relevant links in your bio section. I was recently shocked to see about an extra 400 views on my Tableau Public site the other day. For weeks, my featured visual had about 40 views. I know those came from Quora (for you Googlites, I know, I need to have my Tableau page tied to Google Analytics).

Should you start writing on Quora, ping me, and I’ll follow your answers.

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