I've been playing around with Yahoo Answers for a few weeks now and I have to tell you I'm very impressed. Ever since Richard Kosinski and Justin Merickel from Yahoo gave a presentation at the Forrester Finance Forum I've been an active participant. Not sure what Yahoo Answers is? Well, it is Yahoo's answer to social search that turns the web from some unknown, webmaster controlled cyberspace area to a place where regular people socialize and help each other with answers to questions that Google and other search don't answer properly.
There is a great writeup over at SearchEngineWatch called Look Out Wikipedia, Here Comes Yahoo Answers that goes into a very detailed analysis, which you should read. I won't summarize it for you (See Mark S - trying to keep my posts shorter), but I will drop in this chart that shows a HUGE growth in use.
MY YAHOO ANSWERS OBSERVATIONS
The two areas I like to participate in are Advertising and Finance (no surprise) and I have a RSS feed setup so I can quickly go through them. An unofficial, unscientific observation shows about 25% of the questions are juvenile, but the vast majority of them are either people doing research for a project, strategy, class paper, or need business support. Here are 5 samples from my RSS feed from Sunday night.
To use it, you would login to your Yahoo account and answer a question or ask a question. Yahoo tracks your points and then if the person that asked the question thinks your answer was the best, then you are awarded more points. What Yahoo Answers is, is basically people for the most part helping other people answer questions. It is fun, interactive, and educational, plus it is a bit addicting.
This is a no-brainer. If you are an internet marketing manager for a major corporation, you need to monitor what is being said, especially if that usage curve keeps going up. How much harm could you do answering a few questions for people that are in obvious need of help? If you were like me and have a strong compliance/legal team, then get their permission first, but you MUST participate in the community. For example, imagine if you are a telecommunications company and somebody posts - where can I get the best wireless rates in Newark, NJ and you don't jump on board you are really missing out. I'd also talk to your Yahoo rep about sponsoring a section; sure there are a couple of crappy questions in every category, but you can disregard them because they are just trying to get attention and the community usually ignores them.
As Google continues to improve upon their algorithm to answers the question with the best predicted answer, Yahoo turns to word of mouth marketing and the community at large. I won't say that Yahoo is ceding control of the predictive answer to Google, but when someone has a commanding lead in an area, your best bet is to find a weakness and exploit it. And, that's what Yahoo is up to. If what you're doing isn't working and you keep beating your head into a wall, try something new and if that steep usage curve keeps climbing, Google may be the one with a headache.