Feb 9, 2011
Cece Salomon-Lee

Focus.com Quickly and Quietly Builds Expert Network

NOTE: While I am a listed expert on virtual events and social media, the below represent my own personal opinions and are not reflective of Focus.com’s.   

In my blog posting, “Getting Beyond the Quora Hype,” I mentioned another site called Focus.com, which seeks to provide “millions of professionals with the expertise they need to make better business decisions.” Backed by Lightspeed Venture Partners, Trinity Ventures, and GGV Capital, Focus.com cites 1 million members with 5,000-plus business experts (Source: Focus.com Announces Increased Growth and Expansion Over Past Month, September 27, 2010 press release). Considering the buzz that Quora has received, I wanted to take a closer look at Focus.com as well.  

Overview of Focus.com to Date

1. Designated Subject-Matter Experts: Focus.com has designated specific members as “experts”, who are considered subject-matter experts based on a few criteria highlighted under “what it takes to be an expert.” When Focus.com identifies an emerging topic to include, the company reaches out to a few industry experts to assist in building the expert network around that topic. Think of it as the Alltop for business experts.  

For example, for virtual events, my colleague, Dennis Shiao, helped recruit experts for the topic. Since Dennis personally sent invites, this increased the likelihood of others, like myself, to participate as experts. And theoretically, increases the quality of answers. My concern is the number of vendors listed as experts compared to business end-users, which may add a level “selling” to answers.  

 You can also request to be an expert (see image to left).   

2. Social Community:Focus.com is currently rolling out a new interface to promote social sharing. Similar to Quora, members can follow a person, subject area, or specific topic. As this is relatively new, I’m still figuring out the ins and outs of the features. Right now, there is some difficulty in how one follows a topic area and other individuals. I anticipate this to improve as Focus.com rolls out the features.   
 
Focus already has the existing ability to vote up or down responses, which does address my concern under point 1. Based on my observation, answers that are too promotional do seem to be voted down.    Overall, the key difference is how Focus.com and Quora position themselves. Focus.com clearly states it’s a site for business decisions while Quora is a place for getting your questions answered as a collaborative research database.As such, I would recommend that marketers and businesses use Focus.com as part of your marketing mix while you’re evaluating Quora’s appropriateness. Focus.com has an edge with regards to a speedier service, search capabilities, and layout for finding the topics/questions related to your interests. Where Quora has the edge is the quality of individuals responding to questions; though these range beyond business to consumer and entertainment. The question is whether this enthusiasm will continue in the next 3, 6 or even 12 months from now.

3. Expert-lead Research Briefs, Roundtables, etc.: Focus.com has done a great job in leveraging its group of experts to provide insights on industry trends via research briefs, roundtable discussions and white papers.  This provides three benefits: 1) members receive insights via the collective knowledge of experts, 2) experts share their knowledge to prospective audiences, and 3) Focus.com increases its position for quality content through the efforts of its experts.

As Scott Albro, CEO of Focus.com, wrote in response to “What are some tips for using focus? on Focus.com:    

“Use Focus Research for seminal decisions. Research combines the data collected from end users with analysis and commentary from Focus Experts. It’s a great way to understand complex issues such as major purchasing decisions or what best practices to adopt for a particular part of your business.”   

To my knowledge, the experts provide their contributions free of charge. As Focus.com gains more momentum and demonstrates a larger following, I anticipate that this relationship may change, with more experts seeking compensation for the fruits of their efforts.  

4. Expert Promotion: With that said, many experts may be content with how Focus.com heavily promotes its expert network. Experts receive invites to participate in media opportunities sourced by Focus.com and exposure through Focus’ distribution to its members network and roundtable programs. This publicity may be enough for most experts who consider this part of their overall marketing and PR efforts.

5. Search Capabilities: For the life of me, I spent a good 10 minutes trying to figure out a way to search or filter questions on Quora. Maybe it’s cleverly hidden, but it was frustrating. OK, I just found the search function and it is cleverly hidden. I thought you could only add a question in the upper left-hand tool bar. In fact, this is the search engine – just don’t click on “add question” as you type in your search term. One thing I do like about Quora’s search is that it tries to identify if a similar question has been asked as you type in the words.

On the other hand, Focus.com has the search clearly visible on the top of the page, making it easier to find questions related a specific term. And according to the website, Focus.com plans to roll out a new search feature.

Conclusions: Use Focus for Business Decisions

Overall, the key difference is how Focus.com and Quora position themselves. Focus.com clearly states it’s a site for business decisions while Quora is a place for getting your questions answered as a collaborative research database.As such, I would recommend that marketers and businesses use Focus.com as part of your marketing mix while you’re evaluating Quora’s appropriateness. Focus.com has an edge with regards to a speedier service, search capabilities, and layout for finding the topics/questions related to your interests.

Where Quora has the edge is the quality of individuals responding to questions; though these range beyond business to consumer and entertainment. The question is whether this enthusiasm will continue in the next 3, 6 or even 12 months from now. What do you think? Are you planning to monitor both Quora and Focus.com or just one?

Other Articles of Interest:

1. AppAppeal, Review of Focus.com

2. Fast Company, Focus on Business Smarts for All

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About

Cece Salomon-LeeCece Salomon-Lee is director of product marketing for Lanyon Solutions, Inc. and author of PR Meets Marketing, which explores the intersection of public relations, marketing, and social media.

This blog contains Cece's personal opinions and are not representative of her company's.

Learn more about Cece.

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