Over the past year or two, a new trend has been building online. Q&A (Question and Answer) sites have been getting a lot of hype, and they're starting to make their way into the mainstream.
Q&A sites are pretty simple. Users can enter questions, and other users can post answers. To make the answers even more useful, the community of users can vote on the quality of answers which makes it easier to find the good answers, and it encourages people to write more thoughtfully because they know they'll be judged by their peers. It's similar to how a traditional message board or forum works, but it's much more structured.
For the average user, Q&A sites are a nice novelty. They offer an interesting way to learn new things and interact with an online community. But for anyone trying to make a name for themselves in certain web circles, these Q&A sites can be seriously useful. Every time you write a good answer, you're establishing yourself as an authority on that topic. Other members of that online community will see your answer, they'll notice who you are (and what company you work for) and they'll start to associate your brand with expertise in the appropriate fields.
This technique is time consuming, not very scalable, and impossible to fake, but it can be a great way to get influential people to know your name. If you want to try this out for yourself, you need to really put in the effort to write quality answers. I justify spending the time because I learn a lot from reading and answering questions, so it's not just about getting my name out there. But the point is, establishing a reputation on a Q&A site isn't easy.
If you do want to give it a shot, there are a ton of different services to try. My favorite is Quora but it's very focused on the tech start-up scene in the San Francisco Bay Area. If that's not the crowd that you care about, you might try Yahoo Answers (The most popular service, but also the most annoying and useless one) or Stack Exchange (mostly focused on technical topics). There are a million other options out there too that focus on different niches.
In case you're not quite sure how this whole thing works, I included a screenshot of a question I answered on Quora below. As you can see, someone asked a question about Google, I answered it, and nine people voted up my answer. Also notice that next to my name it says (Co-founder of Less Annoying Software), so now everyone that likes my answer will associate it with my business. What do you think about Q&A sites? Let's hear your thoughts in the comments.