5 Challenges Quora Will Face As It Grows

Social media is like playing Crazy 8's; you can't really do it alone. But, what happens when a social media start-up gets a sudden massive influx of users? This is exactly what Quora's about to find out. While this is exciting for the small company, the growth also means Quora will face some significant challenges in the coming months. Here are four issues Quora is bound to confront.

Social media is like playing Crazy Eight’s; you can’t really do it alone. But, what happens when a social media start-up gets a sudden influx of users? This is exactly what Quora‘s about to find out. In Decemeber 2010, the site slowed because it saw “saw between 5-10 more activity on the site as usual”; this is a huge increase. While this is exciting for the small company, the growth also means Quora will face some significant challenges in the coming months. Here are five issues Quora is bound to confront.

  1. Technical Glitches. From a purely technical perspective, Quora will likely experience the same glitches Twitter did during its initial growth period. While social network applies the “more users the better” approach, from a technical perspective, significant increases in traffic can overload the system, causing a number of glitches – minor and major. The biggest concern for Quora will be avoiding slow downs and “blackouts” – where the site is forced to shut down due to traffic. While some glitches are inevitable, keeping them at a minimum is essential in order to establish a positive rapport with users.
  2. Quality Control. When Quora was first launched, co-founder Charlie Cheever said, “”Our No. 1 thing is knowledge that people trust. Being a resource trumps making people feel good about themselves.” Whether it was his intent or not, Cheever’s comment directly addresses Quora’s competitors – in particular Yahoo Answers, which is at best a weak resource, and, at worst, pages of ridiculous, and occasionally offensive, answers. To maintain a sense of quality, Quora was initially invite only; however, it opened to everyone in June of 2010. As the site grows, one of the significant challenges Quora will face is maintaining a high standard while also being inclusive and encouraging.  
  3. Creating Community. ‘Social network’ is really another word for ‘community’: a group of people coming together. A challenge any community, and particularly online communities, face is how to keep spaces, and sites, positive. Cheever has stated that he wanted Quora to be a “a civil place on the Internet where people can interact”. In order to maintain this sense of civility, moderation is required. Rules need to be enforced. Questions need to be edited. And, it is human beings that need to do physically do this work. The efficacy and consistency that moderators can apply in the coming months will ultimately determine whether Quora’s sense of community will  remain positive.
  4. Adapting Rules. A good slogan for handling significant user growth might be “old rules might not apply”. Imagine Quora like a city. Its rules and policies are like roads. What works in a town of 50, 000 may not be practical when the same town grows to 500, 000. For example, Quora currently only allows personal accounts; however, companies like the Huffington Post have set up accounts. Quora will need to reconsider its policies. As part of this process, Quora will be forced to consider what policies and rules it wants to change. These changes are ultimately about Quora’s identity, and each rule change will impact the experience of users.
  5. Backlash. The downside to popularity is expectation. Old users will expect Quora to retain its old identity. New users, having been reffered to the site, will expect their first experiences to be positive ones. What happens when users’ expectations aren’t met? Or, perhaps, even if they are met, what happens when people inevitably begin to criticize Quora? One of the most severe growing pains for any business is how to handle the public relations of negative feedback.

Quora isn’t the first social media site to experience rapid growth. In fact, with very few exceptions, major social media sites have all experienced a sudden surge in users. However, Quora’s growth is being actively watched and reported on, making its response to upcoming challenges even more important for its continued success.