Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers. – Voltaire

I’m a big fan of engaging consumers online and answering their questions as a marketing strategy (see Impart your Wisdom with Answers). It’s not a new strategy, not particularly inventive, but it is effective.

Really, it’s win-win all around. For consumers they get what they want (i.e. the answers to their questions). Realtors and brokers get to build relationships with potential clients in an neutral forum with people that may never seek them out on their own web sites. And for publishers it’s a great way to build up engagement/stickiness through cheap (read, free) user-generated content.

Trulia figured this out a while ago and so built Trulia Voices (see Trulia Finds Its Voice).

And today there are a couple of new destinations you can participate in.

New this week is Mahalo Answers – which is very similar in format to Yahoo Answers, referenced in the first link in this post. Mahalo is veteran Internet entrepreneur Jason Calacanis’ lastest effort at building human-driven search engine.

mahalo

As a new destination, the real estate section on Mahalo Answers is woefully empty right now, but it may be a place to keep your eye on.

A more promising alternative is Zillow’s new ‘Zillow Advice’ forum, a Voices-like platform — which they were promptly called out on by the folks at Trulia (see Rich Barton of Zillow Hearts Trulia).

It’s a revamp of their old Q&A section and it’s functional enough – like Sellsius, I like how you can narrow results down to the State or Local level which should address the problem of out of town “experts” jumping in to discussions just to earn brownie points (see Zillow Advice Provides Local Real Estate Answers to Consumers).

zillowadvice

The big problem with this local approach is a lack of content for consumers (granted, it’s only day 1) but a search for buying advice in Oregon revealed a big old goose-egg. YMMV. But it’s not much incentive for me, the buyer, to return if the place feels like a ghost town.

More worryingly to the folks at Zillow long term should be the feedback from the agents who were already participating in the old forum. It has not been resoundingly positive so far… the most popular topic on there right now is BRING BACK THE OLD FORMAT. That sentiment needs to change if this Advice thing has any chance of making it — we’ve been down this road before (see Yourstreet is Now Empty).

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