Quora: How Ashton Kutcher, Joi Ito, and Drew Houston Respond

August 16, 2013

Ashton Kutcher and Joi Ito

Jobs, the movie about Steve Jobs, hits theaters today. People are wondering how well Ashton Kutcher plays the lead role, and this question showed up on Quora:

"How did Ashton Kutcher prepare for his role as Steve Jobs in the new movie Jobs?"

Although the question was asked in the third person, to anyone who might have intel, the question seems to have been answered by the man himself. Questions about people get asked on Quora often, and it's always a delight to see the subject of the question find the post and actually respond to it him- or herself. Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, responded to this question about himself:

"Why does Joichi Ito live in Dubai, United Arab Emirates?"

He responded by linking to a blog post he had written answering that very question. On Quora, users create unique bylines for each question they answer to show why they are qualified to respond. Joi used the clever byline, "Joichi Ito, I live in Dubai."

Drew Houston

Drew Houston '05 is an MIT alumnus and founder of Dropbox. He is also on Quora answering many questions, including those about his company. Last year, Dave Trindall asked,

"Is the original Dropbox private beta video still available online somewhere?"  

Drew answered, "The very original (pre-YC, maybe early April 07) video (and landing page) that I made back in my apartment in Cambridge can be seen here" and includes the link. Then he adds, "(wow, blast from the past.)"

How do these examples translate to higher education? 

Almost every university has a place to ask questions. For example, visit a university's Admissions Office website and chances are there is a telephone number or email address on the contact page or in the footer of the home page. However, some universities don't take questions and only offer an FAQ page or direct visitors to individual departments. Whether or not a university or its departments accept questions, people find a way to ask them – especially on social networks. Don't just wait for questions to come in through a web contact form. Find those questions people are already asking elsewhere.  

Find and answer questions

  1. Search for your department name on Quora. What are people asking? For example, "What is it like to study physics at MIT?"
  2. Give a short response and link to a longer version on your website or blog. This way you'll be answering the question, but offering more elsewhere and generating leads to your site.
  3. Responding publicly will benefit not only the person who asked the question, but others who come across it in other ways.

Bigger return on your investment

People expect someone to answer their questions when they fill out a web form or contact your office by phone or by email. People who ask questions about a department on a large social network are usually looking for a response from the community. Therefore, they are pleasantly surprised when an actual department representative acknowledges and answers their question. By Stephanie Hatch

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Stephanie Hatch Leishman

Stephanie Hatch Leishman

Former MIT Social Media Strategist

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