In his book Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn for Business, author Ted Prodromou describes how to best to leverage the networking site as a business tool. In this edited excerpt, the author details strategies for using LinkedIn Answers and positioning yourself as an expert in your field.
Imagine having access to more than 140 million business subject-matter experts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for free. You could ask any business-related question and receive multiple expert answers within minutes.
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I've just described LinkedIn Answers. It has become the most powerful business intelligence knowledge base on the Internet. LinkedIn Answers has two modes of operation: asking and answering. You can ask questions to receive expert answers and opinions about any business-related subject.
The other side of LinkedIn Answers is answering questions as an expert. This lets you demonstrate your expertise to millions of LinkedIn members and, even better, to billions of Google users who may be searching for an expert in your field. LinkedIn Answers, with a summary of your profile, appear in Google search results, giving you lots of exposure.
LinkedIn has more than 150 million members, and it is constantly adding features like LinkedIn Answers to keep people on the website for as long as possible and ensure they return every day. The network's goal is to keep members engaged on LinkedIn.com with tools and features that improve the quality of the content.
Today, millions of questions have been asked and answered on LinkedIn. The quality of the questions and answers is directly related to the quality of the community. Since LinkedIn is a high-quality business networking community, the quality of LinkedIn Answers is generally considered to be very high.
LinkedIn Answers lets you ask and answer questions in more than 20 categories, so the conversations can be about very specific topics. When you ask and answer questions in LinkedIn Groups, you can get even more specific because all the group members are usually subject-matter experts in that field or area of expertise.
A well-crafted question that allows subject-matter experts to share their knowledge will produce many insightful answers and comments by other users. A poorly crafted question can have the reverse impact and damage your reputation.
Before you ask a question on LinkedIn, consider what you're trying to achieve. If you ask simple questions, you will receive a few simple answers and you won't be regarded as an expert. If you ask complex, thought-provoking questions, you will be perceived as an industry expert and you'll receive responses from other industry experts and thought leaders, leading to extended conversations. Your circle of influence will expand and you will meet many experts in your field with whom you'll want to connect. You can also ask questions to do market research and find out if there is any interest in a product or service.
Don't try to sell your services in responses. This is the biggest mistake you can make, because it will be obvious that you asked the question only to get some new clients. If possible, give them some free advice in your response. This will bring you more paying clients because others will see that you know what you are doing. People feel obligated to return the favor after you've helped them.
You should also take time to answer questions. If you took just a couple of minutes every week to answer a few questions, millions of business people would see that you're an expert in your field. First, make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete. When people like your answers, the first thing they will do is check out your profile to learn more about you.
If you've never answered questions on a forum or on LinkedIn, take some time to read some of the questions and answers in your area of expertise. LinkedIn Answers organizes the questions into more than 20 categories, so you can easily find questions in your niche. Notice the different approaches people take when using LinkedIn Answers.
Figure out which categories and keywords make you most comfortable. You are an expert in your field, but it's best to focus on your strengths when answering questions. Every question you answer will remain on LinkedIn for others to see, so you want to leave a positive, lasting impression.
Decide how you want to use LinkedIn Answers. Do you want to be a thought leader in your industry or do you just want to pick up a couple of consulting contracts? This will determine how many questions you want to answer on average every week. Don't just answer questions so your answer total in your profile is high; think "quality" instead of "quantity."
Here are some tips to help you answer questions like an expert:
- Always spell check the answers you post.
- Don't self-promote in your answers.
- Always display the questions and answers and the expertise you've earned in your profile.
- Answer only relevant questions.
- Don't answer too many questions in a short period of time.
This article is an excerpt from Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn for Business available from Entrepreneur Press.