First let me say that I’m 100% against any form of spamming or overt promotion of products or services on Yahoo! answers or any other network. This article is about adding real value to those networks before anything else.
Goal: Connecting Your Expertise With Those Who Need It – Fast and Without Noise.
When an expert provides solid, authentic responses as answers in Q&A networks such as Yahoo! Answers, LinkedIN answers, Experts Exchange, Google Groups (which scours pretty much every forum on the web,) and similar sites, they can enhance their reputation, drive visitors a site or blog, produce content, build a brand and ultimately drive real sales.
A Little Bit About Q/A Social Sites
Being one of the first two answers to any relevant question can substantially improve the chances of being voted a “best answer” and being read by more interested people. So fast is good.
- If your answer is good (duh!) fewer will bother to answer the question, and you’ll have a better chance of being the “best” answer everyone reads.
- Few people read more than a couple of answers + the best answer. Being at the top means you’ll get the attention.
- People are more likely to vote you up because you’re above the fold, and plainly, the best answer :-)
For my example, I’ll use Yahoo! Answers – but any group search/forum search tool would work.
TIP: On Yahoo! Answers you can answer quickly, and then “edit” your answer to fill in the details. As of this writing that will secure your position in the answers.
Flipping The Funnel
Answering consumer questions is a solid investment of time, but there are ways to make technology work for you and reduce the amount of work it requires to monitor your particular niche. This post is about using such technology to isolate just those consumers who need you and eliminate the other noise.
Keep in mind that answering questions does not just speak to the single person who asked the question, but also for the dozens or hundreds of people who will encounter the response sooner or later. You are using your answers as precision authentic content and offering it to people online.
Cutting Through The Noise
Yahoo! Answers is a horrribly “noisy” environment at times. You’ll see questions like these all the time: “Where can I get a free _______” and “I need a cheap or free ______” and they are often out-of-category. Manually monitoring Yahoo! answers is tedious and often makes one lose faith in the human race :-) – so we’ll filter that stuff out and lift you above your competition.
So we will use several services to slice, dice, and deliver only the Yahoo! answers you care about to the destination of your choice, 24×7, without your intervention. You can then skim this distilled list and answer the questions.
In this example, I will utilize three services (and one optional add-on.)
- Yahoo! Answers to find the questions (this could be any Q/A site with RSS)
- ZapTXT and their awesome new version to send you notifications via SMS (text message) or email.
(You can use other similar services if you choose, such as Google alerts, etc.)
- Vertical Response Email Marketing
- Twitter for ping marketing.
- Google Talk Instant Messaging (Any IM works)
- My mobile phone (to get SMS messages)
Let’s get Started!
1. Set up a Yahoo! Account (if you don’t already have one) – you’ll need it for Yahoo! Answers and Yahoo! Pipes. Make sure to save your username and password – Yahoo! is hard to recover. I recommend you consider setting your business name as your yahoo account (and for other social profiles too) in this case.
2. Set up an email list. In the case of my client, the subject matter was related to horse wounds, so they should set up an email list called “This Week in Equine First Aid” or “What’s New in Horse Wound Care.” This list will be the touch point over time that keeps your brand in the consumer’s mind. Vertical Response email marketing tool is excellent for this purpose.
3. Set up a custom landing page on your website for Yahoo! Answer Traffic. The goal of this page is twofold. One, get people on your email list and two, offer them your product. Ideally the page would also have a “share with friend” and some amazingly good content. If the visitor leaves without buying anything or signing up for your mailing list, you probably won’t see them again.
You can use an existing web page for this but I don’t recommend it. A purpose built page will work twice as well!
TIP: Don’t forget Twitter! You can ask them for their twitter id or simply to follow your business. Then you can draw attention to new questions being answered through that channel as well.
4. Visit http://answers.yahoo.com and drill-down (using the Categories) to the closest niche to your business. For my example, I’m going to use a client in the equine industry, WoundAde, who sells a product that increases the speed of healing for horse wounds.
Once you’ve landed on the proper category, scroll down and RIGHT CLICK “RSS” and select “copy link” or “copy link location” – this puts the RSS address in your clipboard. You’re going to need that shortly.
5. Visit ZapTXT.com and click on “Get Started”
Zaptxt is an awesome cool new service that monitors, filters, and triggers alerts all from RSS feeds. It then intelligently sends alerts to whatever device is available or according to your specific times. ZapTxt works with almost all IM clients (MSN, Yahoo!, AIM, GTalk and Skype) – I personally like using it with Gtalk because it also runs on the iphone/Blackberry.
6. Set up a “ZapTask”
Add the keywords you want to search for (just use one for now)
I entered: “wound” (for now)
Paste the URL for the Yahoo RSS feed into the “Website/Feed to monitor”
I pasted http://answers.yahoo.com/rss/catq?sid=2115500432
8. Click on “next step”
9. Name your filter
I used “Yahoo Answers – Horse Wounds” as the name – remember you may add more sources later.
10. Set up your Filter
Now we’re going to expand the set of keywords that will be filtered from the feed. We started out with “wound” but that was just a temporary measure. Using the ‘advanced search’ on ZapTXT, you will enter your full set of words. This set may expand or contract later.
Select “Advanced Search”
Enter the keywords to filter for in the “with at least one of these words” section.
I used “wound skin flesh infection scrape cuts cut gash sores wounds”
Enter any “negative” phrases in the “without the words” section.
I used “cutting cutter” (a type of horse)
11. Adjust your notification settings
This will depend on how you want to be notified. Remember, timing is everything, so I recommend instant message or SMS.
12: Optional/Recommended: Grab Your Filtered Stream as RSS If you use an RSS reader such as iGoogle + RSS Gadget, Bloglines, Google Reader, or Klipfolio, you can get a feed for the FILTERED stream coming from Yahoo! answers delivered as a regular RSS feed. This is great if you want to share the feed with others or possibly even re-publish it! Back on the ZapTasks list, just choose the zaptask that you want to get over RSS, Just click on the RSS logo and voila!:
Okay, now you will begin to receive notifications of Yahoo! Questions that include the keywords you consider yourself an expert on. When these come in, you can visit Yahoo! Answers and begin to establish yourself as the “person who knows everything about ____________” online. People will wonder if you spend all day inside of Yahoo Answers :-)
14. NOW… Get To Answering Questions
Your answers on Yahoo! should be well thought out, researched, and posted rather quickly. You should include, on every post, a link to the “custom” web page we referred to earlier. But the “feeling” of every question should be more like “word of mouth” wisdom than a canned corporate answer. Be yourself, be helpful, authentic and transparent – don’t get dragged down into unproductive time sinks.) If you’re lucky, you’ll get asked to participate in articles and blog posts that are relevant to your own business (we filtered, remember!)
Optional TIP: If your domain is lame, use a custom domain name for this page (most registrars will let you forward a domain to any web page.) Example: If you are answering questions about 57 Chevys, consider registering “57ChevyAnswers.com”, forwarding it to your landing page, and using that in your Yahoo! Answers link.
15. Use your growing asset to grow your bottom line!
Soon, you’ll start to notice traffic on that page, and people signing up for your emails. After your email list gets 40-50 people, you can start your weekly newsletter. This becomes a great way to increase traffic, blog readership, and sales TIP: Google Alerts or RSS is your best friend for getting newsletter content.
CAUTION: Sadly, here’s where a lot of people will go wrong. They get impatient. They’ll start sending out spammy offers and the customers will start unsubscribing. You must not do this. The information to sales ratio of the email campaigns should be 8:1 or 10:1.
- New advances in your product space, written in simple English and skimmable.
- Product reviews (often you can get samples of products for free.)
- Customer questions answered (Yahoo! Answer questions you’ve answered are fine.)
- “In next week’s issue” (Always have a reference forward to something terrific. It keeps people subscribed and it motivates you to plan!)
- Ability to share with a friend. Vertical Response has this built-in.
- Of course… a link to your product page
16. Add More Filtered Feeds!
The method above works the same for any social network out there that publishes an RSS feed. You can add blog RSS feeds, Google Search RSS, and more. If you’re feeling ambitious, Yahoo! Pipes will allow even more advanced combinations of feeds. But the “core” idea on these steps works exactly the same!
But keep in mind – stay focused on connecting with customer in need, with minimal delay.
17. Long-Term: Optimize your landing page
The custom page you set up to receive visitors may not be quite as effective as you like. The good news is that you can try out different approaches and see what works. This is why having it as a separate page is such a good idea – the “type” of visitor is different than the rest of your site, so being able to optimize for that group of people is a huge advantage.
Please let me know how this works for you by leaving comments!
Photo by ben jones used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License – thanks Ben!