When we were strolling around the magnificent ruins of Pompeii, what surprised me the most was the amount of graffiti.  No, not from knuckleheads with cans of spray paint.  This stuff had been there for thousands of years.  While I’m sure my amusement all this time later wasn’t quite the reaction all those years ago, some of the notes served a valuable purpose such as communicating lost pets or stolen articles.  Sort of a wall-based Craigslist.

If you’ve been to New York, you know that no newly erected wall can go for more than 10 minutes without writing or ads on it.  Turns out the same thing is true about the web and, in fact, we encourage it.  I think that’s too bad.

New platforms come and go all the time.  They’re clean walls.  What I find of interest is how quickly I start seeing pieces written about these emerging sites or technologies (Twitter two years ago as an example or Foursquare last year) and how to use them to market your business.  These are written long before it becomes apparent how users are going to interact with the thing and what benefits or risks are inherent.

The same thing is happening now with Quora, the Q&A site.  It is going through a rapid expansion and the new influx of users is having an interesting effect.  I haven’t been on it long but all of a sudden you’re seeing questions being asked and re-answered.  The new users haven’t taken the time to learn to use the site nor to read what’s already there.  The new sets of answers tend to be of very low quality, which is the antithesis of what was going on before.  In part, maybe this is fueled by a number of pieces on how to market your business on Quora.  Six months ago, the articles were all about how filling the community with “rubbish” would get a user killed.  Today, they’re all about using it to sell.

As a marketer, I don’t think spraying graffiti on the newest clean wall you can find is a great idea, especially when it’s unclear if the people viewing it will think of it as art or garbage.  Knowing “how” isn’t the same as knowing “why” or even “if.”


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