April 07, 2010, 7:20 AM — by Kristin Burnham, CIO.com - What "Answers" Is:
LinkedIn's "Answers" feature, which can be found under "More..." on the main navigation bar, is where you can browse, search, answer and post questions to people in your network and the greater LinkedIn community.
There are five parts to Answers. The first, "Answers Home," lists recent questions from your direct and extended network. You can sort this long list of open questions by the proximity to your network (i.e. first- or second-degree connections) or by the date that the question was posted. This page will also list the week's top experts, which are users who have proven their expertise by answering the most number of questions and receiving the most number of "best answer" accolades from the questioner. Experts are awarded a green star on their profile to denote this status.
[For more LinkedIn tips and tricks, read: "LinkedIn Tips: Getting More from the Social Networking Service."]
The second part to Answers is "Advanced Answers Search." Here you can search questions and answers based on keywords, category and whether you want the search results to turn up unanswered questions. The "My Q&A" section keeps track of the questions you ask and answer, and the last two parts, "Ask a Question" and "Answer Questions" help you find ones related to your expertise.
Why "Answers" Is Important:
"It's a great way to put yourself in contact with others who are interested in that same topic," says Eve Mayer Orsburn, CEO of Social Media Delivered, a social media consultancy. For example, if you're looking for a job in the IT industry, search through the questions tagged with that category to find one that would show off your abilities or knowledge in the area. "Answer that question and put a link back to it in your network status update so others can see that you're showing off your expertise," Orsburn says.
[ See also: How to extract your LinkedIn, Facebook contacts ]
A Few Warnings:
1. While Answers can be a great way to showcase your knowledge in a specific area, Nathan Kievman, owner of the LinkedIn group Linked Strategies and host of weekly LinkedIn webinars says to take the answers you receive with a grain of salt. "There's a certain type of person who's answering these questions--they have a lot of available time, so you're probably not going to get responses from C-level individuals," he says. Likewise, only partake in this feature of LinkedIn if you have sufficient time or if it aligns with your business objectives, he says. "It's a great way to lose your day--you can easily get sucked in."
2. Orsburn says that the most common struggle in using Answers is in deciding in which category to put your question. "Many categories have several sub-categories, so choosing the right one can be challenging," she says. Ask yourself two things, Orsburn recommends: Who are the people I'm trying to reach? And, Where might they look for this question? While LinkedIn doesn't allow posting the same question in multiple categories, Orsburn says that by tweaking the phrasing, you can usually bypass this.
Similarly, LinkedIn won't allow you to post a question if you check any of these boxes related to your question at the end of the submit form: recruiting, promoting your services or job seeking. LinkedIn prefers that instead, you post a position on the site, request recommendations and use the job search function to find the answer you're looking for.
3. If you haven't upgraded to a paid account, LinkedIn will allow you to post 10 questions a month, so use them wisely, Orsburn says.