Posts Tagged ‘LinkedIn’

Screenshot of a section of the LinkedIn Answers page

My favorite place on LinkedIn isn’t even in the main menu. You have to click on “more” to find the LinkedIn “Answers” section, but if you do, I think you’ll find it worth your while.

Answers is a service LinkedIn provides so that members can ask questions—on any number of topics—and receive answers from other members of the community. Answers is like a free Help Desk for all your business needs. It’s staffed by volunteers—other members who take the time to answer questions—but these volunteers also happen to be experts (well usually) in the topics for which they provide answers.

According to LinkedIn’s Answer FAQ:

LinkedIn Answers is designed to allow professionals to exchange expertise. Members with greater than 5 connections are allowed to ask up to 10 questions each month.

As a business reference, Answers is invaluable because it gives you access to specialists in areas ranging from accounting to Web development, but if you answer questions it can also help you enhance your personal brand.

Answers as a research tool: the most common use

If you’re working on a project and unsure about the best way to do X or Y, Answers is a good place to look. To start, go to the Answers section and search on some keywords related to your question. Answers has been online for a few years now, so someone may have already asked and answered your question. If that’s true the answer you need may already be there. You may find it either by browsing through the question topics, or by doing a specific search.

For example, let’s say you’re a marketer. You want to drive more traffic to your site and want to know what you can do to get on the first page of search results for Google. In that case you might type “get on front page of google results” in the search box and be presented with this list of questions.

As you scroll down the list you’ll notice a question quite similar to yours, “How do you answer the question: How can i make my site appear number one on Google, to those that know nothing about SEO?” If you click through to that question you’ll find answers that explain more about how sites get to the better spots on Google and also learn that getting to #1 really shouldn’t be a goal unto itself.

If that (or the other results) answers your question, then you’re all set. If not, then you can ask your own question addressing your specific concerns. Over the course of the following days you should receive several answers that meet your needs.

Answering questions supports your personal brand by demonstrating your expertise

If you clicked through to the Google question you’ll have noticed that there were 12 answers in total, 2 of which were listed as “Good Answers” and one of which is marked as the best answer (in this example, the best answer was mine). After you ask a question you are encouraged to select which answers were good and best. When you do this, the people who answered will get credit for providing a good or best answer and that information will appear in their profiles showing they have expertise in the topic(s) to which you assigned the question.

These credits for expertise also appear under someone’s name, when they answer questions, so that the questioner and others can see whether or not they have a proven track record in the topic. This system offers an incentive for people to not only answer questions, but to take care to answer them correctly.

Answering correctly is critically important if you want to earn a best answer. Many knowledgeable people area already answering questions, so to compete you need to be thorough. Here are a few suggestions that should help you improve your answers:

  • Read the question carefully. If you peruse it too quickly and don’t answer precisely what is being asked your answer could be wrong and you may look foolish.
  • Don’t answer a question unless you are sure that you know the answer and are well-versed in the topic. If you are less experienced in a field you may not realize how much you don’t know. If your answer isn’t based in sufficient experience it may be shot down by someone who knows more, and again you may look foolish.
  • Don’t answer questions that have already been thoroughly answered. If you have a new point to add, that’s fine, but if there is nothing more to contribute, just pass this one by. Agreeing with everyone else won’t add any value to the discussion.
  • When applicable include links to Web sites that offer further information to support your answer. If you blog, feel free to link to your own blog entries. I do this a lot and it also helps drive traffic to my blog. Just make sure that the articles you link to are clearly related to the question and will provide the questioner with more information on the topic.
  • Read the other answers carefully. Note when you agree with someone and correct misinformation if you find it. When pointing out the mistakes in other answers, be gracious and polite. Your role is to clarify the information so the questioner gets the best information; it is not to mock other participants.
  • Play nice and don’t taunt the questioner. Some questions will seem utterly inane. You may think that even a 4 year old should know the answer, but to someone just getting started in a field their beginner questions are legitimate. They really want to know something that you already know. So just try to be patient. Some questioners may be off-base. They may pose questions to drive traffic to their sites or they may produce spam. Use your best judgment, in most cases the best thing is to just ignore these.

I’ll readily admit that I like having those stars next to my name for providing best answers. It’s a nice way to show that I have knowledge in topics like web development, blogging and Internet marketing. But in the process of answering questions I also learn from others and begin to connect with fellow users who may add me as a contact, ask me additional questions or even ask me to submit a proposal for a project.

A few of these contacts have become regular “pen pals,” as it were, with whom I regularly trade information and ideas. We also follow each other onto other spaces such as Twitter and Facebook. While I may have started answering questions to further my reputation in my field, I’ve gained far more than that in the process.

Perusing Answers for professional development and idea generation

Like anyone else, I don’t have all the answers. Web development and social media are fields that are constantly evolving. To keep up I need to read a lot. While I get a lot of information from blogs and other sources, I also learn from LinkedIn. When I peruse the questions in these topics and read the various answers I’ll often find new tips and suggestions offered by my peers. This is a great way to learn about best practices and gain other useful insights.

As a blogger I’m also always looking for the next article idea. Sometimes I have a large list of topics I want to cover and other times I’m stumped. In particular though I want to write about the subjects that are of most interest to my target audience. Answers is a good place to find these. When I see that several people have been asking questions on a specific topic, it lets me know that this is something I should probably write about.

Conclusion

Whether you have a problem to solve, or have the time to help others, LinkedIn Answers provides a great way to participate more in the LinkedIn community and to forge new connections. Give it a try, go ask (or answer) a question today.

How to Build Your Business with LinkedIn Answers

Related Information about LinkedIn

Social Networking is a great way for businesses to find new people who’re interested in the same things as yourself.

There’s a lot to be said for being connected to smart, resourceful and equally well connected people. If ever you’re in need of a little feedback, assistance, help or even just a spare pair of eyes, a strong social network will help expedite those things.

So here’s a quick introduction to social networking for business people.

What can I do on a social network?

First of all, before we talk about what the best social networks are, you need to think about your goals:

  • Are you looking for industry news?
  • Are you looking for “thought leaders” in your field?
  • Are you trying to promote yourself / your business?
  • Are you looking to build a strong support network?

If you have a company blog, then finding new people to comment on your articles, or to write articles for you could be your goal. Or, if you’re a knowledgeable / creative type, maybe you want to share what you know with others. Or maybe you’re trying to gather a collection of like-minded individuals to help you create something truly amazing.

For you, there may be other goals, but it’s as well to think about and then decide how:

  1. you’re going to approach your goal;
  2. how much time you’re going to commit to those goals;
  3. and finally, how you’re going to measure your goals.

What are the benefits of social networking?

In this case, the benefits are sometimes the same as the goals; finding industry news, thought leaders, a venue to promote yourself or your services et cetera. But there are more:

  • Low cost of entry — most social networks are free to join.
  • Becoming part of an international community.
  • Over time, the prospect of becoming a thought leader yourself.
  • Fast and mostly accurate sources of trustworthy advice.

But like anything else, what you get in return is highly dependent on the effort you put in.

In addition to the benefits, there are some problems associated with social networking, too.

What are the top social networks for businesses?

There are possibly hundreds of social networks out there, but the emphasis really has to be on those that offer clear business benefits:

  • LinkedIn — LinkedIn is an online network of more than 30 million experienced professionals from around the world, representing 150 industries. When you join, you create a profile that summarizes your professional accomplishments. Your profile helps you find and be found by former colleagues, clients, and partners. You can add more connections by inviting trusted contacts to join LinkedIn and connect to you. Your network consists of your connections, your connections’ connections, and the people they know, linking you to thousands of qualified professionals.
  • Facebook — “Facebook gives people the power to share and makes the world more open and connected Millions of people use Facebook everyday to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet.”
  • Ecademy — “Ecademy is a Business Social Network founded in 1998 now with millions of users of the site each year worldwide. Ecademy is unique as business people connect both online on the web site and offline at networking events and 1-2-1 meetings.”
  • Xing — “The web-based business network XING has grown into one of the leading professional online networking platforms. Business professionals use XING to find useful contacts, important information, new business opportunities, employees and ideas. Based on its members’ level of activity, XING is a market leader in global professional online networking.”

Twitter as a social network

Aside from the more mainstream and business-focused social networks, it might be worth considering Twitter, which I’m sure you’ll have heard plenty about recently.

It’s hard to summarize what Twitter is, largely because it can be whatever you want it to be. Quite unlike LinkedIn, Ecademy etc, there are no formal groups; anyone can follow (befriend) anyone else.

I’ve been on Twitter for several years and it is possible to harness the collective knowledge of your followers to fulfill many, if not all, of the goals outlined previously.
Of course, there are more social networks for businesses, which you’re free to pick, choose and explore.

Being a part of a social network is, for the most part, little different to any real world social network. The only real differences are how you interact with your fellow residents — all you need is an internet connection and a web browser (like Internet Explorer, Safari or Firefox).

By setting out what you want to achieve, how and when, social networking can become a legitimate, efficient and cost-effective means of discovery and promotion for your business…

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