Imitation might be the best form of flattery, but it can be a nightmare for marketers who are trying to establish a brand or public figure’s presence on a social network. Popular social platforms like Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook offer verified accounts, which help people find the authentic profiles of celebrities and high-profile businesses. Quora is the latest social website to adopt the verification tool.

Citing increased adoption from public figures, Quora yesterday introduced Verified Profiles. The new feature will give the website’s readers confidence in the authenticity of public figures who actively contribute to the platform. Much like on other social networks that offer the feature, these profiles will have a verified checkmark icon next to their profile picture.

Quora will be rolling out Verified Profiles over the next few weeks, but you can see the feature in action today on President Barack Obama’s profile. The President recently became of a member of site to answer questions about the Affordable Care Act and to drive sign-ups. While your reasons for using Quora may differ from Obama’s, the methods and best practices used will essentially be the same.

Here are some tips for public figures and popular brands looking to integrate Quora into their social outreach strategy.

Why You Should Use Quora

First, let’s talk a bit about why you should even consider adding Quora to your strategy. Perhaps the simplest and most important reason is that people are talking about you there. As of April 2013, 83 percent of the top 100 brands had at least one discussion thread dedicated to them on the Q&A site. In fact, of those brands, 98 percent of them had multiple threads about their products, customer service, and business practices.

Collectively, the most discussed brands on Quora have more than 1.28 million followers. Here’s a list of the top 10 brands on the platform, as ranked by their followers:

  1. Google (115,000)
  2. Starbucks (81,000)
  3. Amazon (72,000)
  4. Coca-Cola (64,000)
  5. Intel (51,000)
  6. Apple (51,000)
  7. Red Bull (46,000)
  8. Microsoft (37,000)
  9. Walmart (36,000)
  10. McDonald’s (36,000)

As you know, social media enables brands to become participants in conversations rather than just being the focus. Quora might not have all the bells and whistles of Twitter or Facebook, but it shouldn’t be ignored.

Don’t Self Promote

Once you’ve joined Quora, instinctively you’ll probably want to seek out topics related to your brand or product. That’s a smart first move, but don’t let self promotion consume you. As a marketer, this might seem counterintuitive, but hear us out. Quora exists to provide the best answer to a specific question. Your approach should be less about self-promotion and more about helping the Quora community. Granted, there will be some overlap with your brand or product, but that shouldn’t be your primary focus.

If people have questions about your product, it’s best not to ignore them. However, if you stumble upon a thread about the difference between clothing sizes in the U.S. and Europe, don’t pitch your new line of fat-free salad dressings. Quora isn’t the place for a hard sell. Instead, focus on answering questions in which you have a deep level of knowledge, and make sure that your answer is relevant to the original question.

Find Early Adopters and Evangelists

With so many discussions around brands, it’s fair to assume that some of your most active and loyal customers are participating. Quora offers you a great opportunity to identify influential people by closely watching threads related to your business or products

When you’re not actively engaging in discussions, it’s still worth monitoring them for interactions from early adopters and evangelists. You might find a new group of people who love your brand that aren’t active on other social networks, and could be beneficial in helping you establish a presence on Quora.

Monitor Your Performance

With some of the content on Quora attracting more than one million views per month, it’s important to know how your posts are performing so you can optimize for the future. To help you better understand the impact of your content, as well as the reach of what you write and the size of your audience, turn to Quora Stats.

Launched last November, the analytics dashboard provides insight into the performance of posts and breaks down questions and answers by views, upvotes, and shares. Today’s Stats, for example, gives you easy visibility into what’s most popular by bringing together key metrics on one page.

In addition to Verified Profiles, Quora has made several improvements with prominent public figures and brands in mind. The company redesigned its mobile apps — which bring in 40 percent of its traffic — offering a much better user experience than previously. It also launched a blogging platform and began allowing its content to be embedded across the web. As Quora continues rolling out its verification feature, we expect to see more businesses adopting the platform.

[Image credit: Jonas M Luster, Mary Ann Clarke Scott, C.P. Storm, Loozrboy]