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The Rise of Q&A Maketing

Q&A Marketing is a major search engine marketing (SEM) trend in 2017. This Curagami marketing post shares five things you need to know about Questions and Answer Marketing.

  • Brief History of Q&A Marketing
  • Why Q & A Marketing is Sticky NOW
  • Q&A Marketing’s Infinite Jest
  • Why Curated Q&A Marketing Wins
  • 5 Easy Q&A Tactics To Do TOMORROW

Brief History of Q&A Marketing

My brief history of Q&A Marketing began in 2011 when a pattern emerged. Asked to evaluate businesses in many different segments as Atlantic BT’s Marketing Director I noticed a universal truth – question and answer content was oversubscribed and under published. Didn’t matter if we were looking at dresses, toys, industrial research or microchip white papers there were more questions than easy to find, credible, and trusted answers.

Thinking logically it’s not hard to see why Q&A content is in such demand. Questions fuel searches. Questions and easy “snippet-like” answers is rapidly becoming the web’s fundamental currency. And it isn’t hard to see why Q&A marketing is the only content marketing with any hope of return on investment (ROI).

Smartphones, Amazon’s Echo, Google’s Home and the Internet of Things (IOT) tsunami change what’s important. Searching on mobile devices with GPS  or asking artificial intelligence to complete a request changes our user interface (UI) so completely we’ll never put our keyboard based Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Why Q&A Marketing Is So Sticky NOW

Sure Amazon’s Echo and iPhones are contributing to the power and speed of the Q&A marketing tsunami but something else is happening too – mobile first architecture and design. Everyone knows or thinks they know about “responsive design”. Responsive design is about designing agnostic websites, websites that look great no matter what devices is looking.

How a responsive website looks is a tiny part of “mobile first” design and thinking. While you may be able to patch together CSS and HTML5 into an acceptable looking site unless you build in key “mobile fist” concepts you’ve put lipstick on a pig. Here are a few “new SEO” and “mobile first” concepts your content must be built on, around and with so your website isn’t an attractive pig.

  • Web Copy – More Hemingway than Faulkner use short sentences, few conjunctions and short punch sentences
  • Stories – Stories are crucial but different, mobile demands more arresting images, a flatter perspective and a limited pallete
  • Rich Snippets – Google is going to collage answers from your content so creating punchy copy gives them plenty of fuel
  • Markup & Schema – Hard to WIN with great markup but easy to LOSE if you make it hard to scrape answers and questions
  • Crowds and Community – Your team will be crushed by any crowdsourced Q&A platform

Mobile First means addressing keyboard-centric limitations in favor of the “lean marketing” smartphones and pads demand. Stories are worth discussing in a future post. Stories are how we learn, retain and advocate. But mobile stories are different. Mobile stories are more game-like, communal and presentation is even more critical.

Small screens need a leaner approach. Adopting “mobile first’s” leaner marketing philosophy helps every aspect of any brand’s digital marketing. In these mobile, connected times it is easy to talk your way out of connection, collaboration, and conversion. We marketers must listen more even as what it means to “listen” online appears more difficult.

Once your team fully embraces “mobile first” marketing’s  “limitations” everything gets easier faster. “Limitations” act as Occam’s razor cutting fat, waste, and what may be any marketing team’s most dangerous proclivity – talking to ourselves about ourselves. Mobile First means arresting graphics presented in a game-like environment where collaboration is easy, marketers curate and listen more than they create, and “you” and “them” becomes “US”.

Q&A Marketing’s Infinite Jest

There will never be enough Q&A marketing. No matter how much content a million blind chimps type searchers will create new questions, combinations of past questions and answers, and an infinite number of permutations. There is no more creative swarm of locusts than people searching for answers. And that equation is true for B2C e-commerce and B2B relationship content selling.

Trying to stay ahead or ward off the swarm of Q&A locusts is beyond futile. You, you team (no matter how large), and company can’t compete with a much smaller website who asks for help, who seeks, rewards, and values the crowd. Lean marketing means you must change HOW YOU THINK about digital marketing. We aren’t creators anymore. Q&A marketing’s “infinite jest” means we aren’t smarter than a classroom of fifth graders and our jobs shift from marketing creators to content curators.

Why Crowdsourced Q&A Marketing Wins

Crowdsourced platforms are winning all over. Airbnb has more hotel rooms than Hilton or Marriott. Facebook has a billion users. Amazon’s scale makes it hard to compete across hundreds of online retail categories. Google’s search is set to power the mobile first, ubiquitous web for generations.

When I created my first ecommerce site in 1999 (FoundObjects.com only alive now in the WayBack Machine) we sold $80,000 in six weeks with some simple copy and a few “buy” buttons. Wave bye bye since those days are long gone. When everyone has a website your marketing must discover and swim in “blue oceans”.

When fish eat each other they turn the ocean red. We’ve seen competitors square off and fight spending thousands and even millions over nothing. Usually, this kind of massive search engine marketing waste happens when a HIPPO (Highest Paid Person In The Room) wades into the web’s water with little understanding and lots of demands. Avoid that if at all possible.

Your job is to discover, create, and strategize “blue oceans” so bereft of fish you’ll own most of the water for a long, long time. Q&A marketing is and will remain the largest blue ocean you, your team, and company is likely to find for years to come.

Why Curated Q&A Marketing Wins

Platforms can’t scale or sustain without curation. Featured content teaches your community how to ask and answer questions. Your curation creates the most powerful reward too – social kudos. Read Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink for important insight into the power and value of “social rewards”.

The web is the world’s largest Quid pro quo. When you share this post we’ll follow and share yours. This is the web’s unspoken “Golden Rule” and “pay it forward” ethos. As a content curator your recognition, features, and social shares for contributed content does many great things for your digital marketing including:

  • Listening – Nothing says, “We Listen” as much as sharing user-generated content (UGC)
  • Learning – When your communication flexes and is open to customer input you collaborate
  • Collaboration and Community – Collaboration (with customers or visitors) creates trust and trust is key online community pillar
  • Faster Feedback Loops – You need to learn as do your visitors and customers curating content creates a great fast feedback loop
  • Conversations Not Lectures – Don’t plan as well as you listen in our NOWIST times
  • Games and Gamification – Social kudos is one important reward but you’ll need more

Games and Gamification is a critical success factor (CSF) for sustaining online loyalty and scale over time. When millions run around looking for Pokemon take note – boring tasks on phones and pads receive a new life. Fun and social kudos beat money and it’s easier to create “fun” in a flatter, less copy and graphic intense environment (smartphones and pads) while connections are easier (it is a phoafter allall).

5 Things To Do Tomorrow To Help Your Q&A Marketing

There are easy things you can do tomorrow to start winning traffic, engagement, and conversions from Q&A marketing including:

  • Competitive Analysis – Analyze whose winning Google Answer Boxes in your category now
  • Copy & Steal – Google won’t replace your copy of a competitor’s approach, but you’ll build muscle memory and learn what to do
  • Brainstorm Your Businesses Q&A – What questions aren’t being asked or answered yet sit down and ask and then answer them
  • Crowds & Games – Create an ASK (for help), publish your intentions, vision and “rules of the road” and think crowdsourced PLATFORM
  • Listen, Learn & Pivot – The journey toward a crowdsourced platform must be collaborative, and flexible

Creating an online community is among the hardest things I’ve done (and I rode a bicycle across America in the summer of 2010 to raise cancer research funds). You can’t create an inflexible plan since community requires listening and responding. Think of this collaborative community crowdsourced platform dance as a journey more than a destination. Learn as you go, fail faster and recognize collaboration means you, your team and company aren’t the only stakeholders. Share, share some more, listen and then share more and you’ll transform your onine marketing from static webpages few will care about to an indispensible and beloved collabortive game.

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