Quora is probably one of the most overlooked social media sites around right now. The people who use it will rave about it while the people who don’t will say they don’t get it. You’re just asking questions and providing answers? Sounds boring and kind of useless in the grand scheme of things.

But Quora can actually help to boost your social ROI, which means you shouldn’t discount it just yet.

And, in fact, there’s a little more to Quora than just asking questions and providing answers. The overall idea is that it helps you to build and spread your authority within your industry. Don’t think this won’t play a big role with AuthorRank, which focuses on author authority, just around the corner.

In addition, if you play your content marketing cards right on Quora, you can make the power of search work for you. It’s a very valuable search tool with people seeking information on a wide range of topics. Aim to be the answer in your realm and you will find that when people search, they find your answers.

So how can you use Quora to increase your social ROI (which will, in turn, hopefully lead you to social media-based conversions)?

#1: Generate interest in your company – in a tactful way.

Before I say anything else about this, it’s absolutely imperative that you understand that spamming and self-serving posts are generally frowned upon, but there are ways that you can go about it without hurting your chances of making those conversions.

Okay, whew. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about generating interest in your company.

To boost awareness of their sites, products, and services, some companies might begin question threads about themselves (anonymously, of course). This is good for a small business or startup with which people are not yet very familiar. So as an example, that business might ask the question, “What does [X Company] do and what kinds of services do they provide? Then they answer that question (anonymously or not). This method can be a little bit tricky because of the anonymity factor (you give up that authority factor), so proceed with caution, but know that the option is available to you.

As opposed to posting about your business specifically and giving up the authority factor (or, perhaps, in addition to it), you can and should also post to topics within your industry in order to build and spread your authority.

Here’s an example of this: In this thread about email marketing, you see that two very thoughtful answers are provided with suggestions for which ESPs to use. One gives a range of answers with no apparent affiliation, and the other suggests services ultimately revealed to be provided by his company.

While self-promotion is frowned upon by many, it seems to me that it’s inevitable on a site like Quora. If you ask a question, you want someone who is an authority in that field to provide answers. If they specialize in their own products, chances are pretty good that they’re going to mention them in their responses.

What you shouldn’t do is get spammy and off-topic. Most people will accept a mention of your company or services under two conditions: a.) you don’t go in for an elaborate hard sell, and b.) you provide disclosure that you are employed by that company.

If that kind of blatant self-promotion makes you feel icky (I hear ya), what might work better for you is to provide answers to industry-related questions, but leave out your business.

Here’s what I suggest:

Go back to Content Marketing 101 here for a second to understand why you don’t need the hard sell. As part of a good content strategy, you’ve likely got a blog. And somewhere along the line, you learned that the blog is a place for you to educate your audience. It’s not a place for selling. Be the solution to their problems with your quality content, and the rest will follow.

Now apply this content marketing strategy to your Quora experience.

That is, provide intelligent, useful responses that will educate and help the person asking the question. (Tip: writing lengthy answers in the 400 word range or more will get you noticed, but make them count!) When you do this on your company blog, you establish yourself as an authority, and as potential clients begin to see you as a trusted resource, they start to move through the funnel, so to speak.

It’s really no different with Quora. Establish yourself as an authority by providing targeted, well-written, and useful responses, and people will follow. If you have your profile completely filled out with links to your social sites and webpage, they’ll know when to find you and how to make off-Quora contact (so make sure your profile is complete!)

#2a: Repurpose your blog content.

If you’ve got a really great blog post that addresses someone’s question, don’t reply by saying something like “Glad you asked! Find the answers here: .”

For one thing, that’s considered pretty ultimate in the self-serving department (notice that the comment itself is pretty weak and doesn’t really address anything other than to promote that user.)

For another thing, enough people would consider that spammy to warrant not doing it.

But the fact remains that you might have some really great content that will answer those questions. What can you do?

This is where another content marketing strategy, repurposing content, comes into play. Take that blog post, pare it down, and provide some of the top tips from it for your Quora response. You don’t need to copy it word-for-word. Just take the parts that best answer the question, and rework them through this lens. If your content is useful and relevant and truly answers the question, it will be acceptable for you to add a note at the end that says “Content sourced from my blog post: .”

And remember, no need to include any contact info. If they’re impressed with that answer, they’ll check out your profile, which, because it’s complete, will direct them right to you.

#3: Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

You might think your question is stupid, but it’s not. In fact, it’s probably safe to assume that someone else has been hoping to find an answer to the same question. Asking can get you noticed (not to mention it shows initiative and that you take an interest). Answering can establish you as an authority. Both can help you to build relationships.

A Well-Known Example of Quora Done Right

SEOmoz CEO Rand Fishkin is quite active on Quora, and a good example of how to leverage the site without being self-serving.

Rand’s profile is filled out completely. His headline lets you know who he is and what he does, so it’s already obvious at that point that he knows what he’s talking about. He answers questions related to business, online marketing, and, of course, SEO. While he absolutely mentions his work at SEOmoz, he does so in a tactful way. He’s not overly promotional, but given the quality of his responses and his knowledge on the subjects, you can be sure his activity on Quora is driving some traffic back to SEOmoz.

There are so many possibilities with Quora (I personally love the site for helping me to come up with blog topics because it’s a hotbed of what people want to know). It can absolutely be used to increase your social media ROI if you work it into your content marketing and social media strategies. It also helps to carve you a place as an authority while helping you to build relationships.

Are you using Quora for business? What are your thoughts on using it to boost social ROI? Let us know!