When ChaCha launched in 2008, it was nothing more than a very unique and simple to use text message based Q&A system that allowed people to ask other real people some real questions. This came at a time when all the query systems were machines that could only offer algorithmic results. But ChaCha offered a different and more personalized system that actually worked. The interesting thing about ChaCha is the way it has managed to stay the same, or almost the same, in all its years of existence.
Staving off the threats from new Q&A entrants such as Quora, ChaCha has managed to attract millions of unique visitors to its site every month through their use of a legion of real researchers numbering up to 180,000 who provide answers almost instantaneously. But ChaCha is not ignorant to the changing times and this is shown by the company’s steady adoption of new technologies and strategies while still being able to stay true to its original value proposition. So, how is ChaCha preparing for the future and do their strategies hold any water against other competitors?
The first thing ChaCha did was to launch its website. Started as a purely SMS or text message based service, ChaCha was already receiving hundreds of thousands of texts every day by the time they launched their website. This was more of a progression rather than a strategic move. Next in line, ChaCha released its apps that has seen more users begin to browse existing questions rather than asking questions. According to ChaCha, 70% of its app users visit in order to browse existing questions rather than to ask new questions. But the Q&A company understands that asking questions is more of a social event than anything else and this is why ChaCha has implemented the following initiatives to make its service more social: Questions Near You, a Location based feature on their apps; Live stream Questions where a user is able to see what questions others are asking at that very moment; rating answers and sharing options. However, the company plans to make its service even more social than it is right now through a move to link up the users with each other to allow them to communicate.
Making this transition to social may or may not be the best move however because this is something services like ask.com and Yahoo Answers have been doing for ages. The obvious competitive advantage that ChaCha has had over the years has been because of the simple approach they had; give people a real-time opportunity to have any of their questions answered by dedicated researchers,. Other platforms, at best, only offer a crowd-sourced platform that relies heavily on the goodwill of users to answer other users’ questions. This is different from ChaCha which pays its freelance researchers up to 20 cents per questions answered.
In as much as ChaCha may feel the need to go social and open up its network of users to interact with each other, the real kill switch that ChaCha may flip is to become more of a social media platform than a Q&A platform that people have come to trust and in most cases recommend to their friends. On the other hand, the move to go social could compel visitors to the site to spend more time on the site and also create a whole new dimension to the already hugely successful business that ChaCha run. Either way, ChaCha have over time demonstrated that new additions to their business model do not necessarily affect their core business, which is helping people find answers to their questions, and this move may very well create a very interesting mash-up of approaches, something many companies have not been able to implement successfully.