Any business question answered, all you have to do is ask
With an active network of professionals, consultants and business people of every flavor, the LinkedIn community is a great resource to find answers, improve your business and save time. LinkedIn.com is a free social networking website built specifically for business. LinkedIn members exchange ideas, share knowledge and uncover opportunities in an easy to use social environment. With over 100 million registered members, LinkedIn is my favorite website for using the power of social research to steer me in the right direction. The LinkedIn Answers section of the site is emerging as a powerful tool for finding expert answers to even the most challenging marketing and business questions.
To survive in business you need to have smarts and know-how. Successful businesses have the ability to solve problems quickly while uncovering opportunities for growth. As a CEO of an ecommerce website in a very competitive market, I have stayed one step ahead of the competition by finding support through my peers on LinkedIn. Using LinkedIn Answers has also given me the confidence to attack any problem facing my business. I know that I have an army of eager allies to give me ideas and offer support. I have found some really great people after following up on an answer discussion.
What is LinkedIn Answers?
LinkedIn Answers is a section of the Linkedin.com website where any user can post any business related question. It is like the "poll the audience" round from the tv show “Who wants to be a millionaire”. I don’t remember the audience ever recommending a wrong answer. The wisdom of the masses has always been powerful but now there are ways to easily tap the knowledge of accessible experts.
Well-written, interesting questions tend to get lots of very good answers. A free Linkedin account allows you to ask up to 10 questions per month. Questions can be distributed only to your LinkedIn connections or be made public to be viewed by anyone. After you ask a question, you are also prompted to message people in your network if you think they might have the answer. This can alert your warm contacts that they can help you. Read more about LinkedIn Answers.
How LinkedIn works
Even though you are limited to 10 questions a month, responses are unlimited. In addition, you can post your questions to professional groups related to your topic of interest. LinkedIn is cyber-patrolled by a legion of experts in every field you can think of. I have asked questions ranging from gaining funding for a socially conscious start up to how to choose a WordPress shopping cart. Find out more about LinkedIn.
I always get answers! Quality answers! Here’s why…
Members of LinkedIn are rewarded by providing detailed, information-rich responses. Not only does it help build their connections directly but it also allows them to build prestige – a very precious commodity in the online world. Anyone asking a question has the ability to rate one of the answers as the best. The number of “best answers” appears under the user name to the left of an answer. If I am looking to judge the quality of the answers or the credibility of respondents, the number of best answers plays a significant role. When you read an answer you like, it is like a foot in the door to make a connection. If someone takes the time to answer your question and has been judged as expert based on the votes of other members, they might be a really good business contact.
How LinkedIn can help you
LinkedIn Answers is an invaluable tool for research. As a consultant, I often see problems that are outside of Internet marketing and ecommerce. Even though my specialty is Internet marketing and ecommerce, I often am able to give advice on anything from financial planning to running operations, through my LinkedIn business connections. Google used to be my holy grail to research problems – not any longer. I can save time and get better answers with a well-written LinkedIn question than sifting through Google results.
- Learn by asking – Even if you don’t get the answers you are looking for it always helps to understand the question more thoroughly.
- Quick response – I have taught about LinkedIn answers in a class before. I posted a question and got 2 answers before the class ended. I don’t recommend clicking on refresh every 10 seconds but I almost always get good responses within 48 hours.
- Save time – I have seen many business people stuck on a problem. Don’t spend time spinning your wheels because you might not be the expert you are looking for. I never spend more than 1 minute thinking about any problem now. If I don’t know what to do after a minute of problem solving, I will post a LinkedIn question and get back to it in a few days.
- Confidence to face the unknown – In business, as with many things in life, the unknown is scary. I now know I can face the questions with confidence because I have a LinkedIn lifeline. I can always “poll the audience.”
- Real Answers from Real Experts – I have been consistently amazed at the quality of answers I have received. I have saved my clients money and effort and made some great connections along the way.
- Any user can post a question to the Answers section of LinkedIn. The LinkedIn business community responds with answers and you are notified with a message to your LinkedIn Inbox. You can then clarify your question, reply to respondents directly, or request adding users to your network. When you post a question make sure to select 2 categories for the question. If you pick the right categories your question is likely to be seen by more users.
Recently I was talking to my hair stylist about the challenges of moving her business to a new city. We chatted a bit and came up with a LinkedIn question:
"I am working with a very skilled hair stylist who has moved to Santa Cruz, CA. What are ways to jumpstart her marketing in a new town and competitive market?" I also added a few details about what we thought up in our brainstorming session and asked “What else can you think of?”
We received 17 answers with some really amazing insights and tips. She emailed me to say “I have gone from feeling somewhat hopeless, to having set goals and a plan. In fact, I feel just asking the question was setting action forward, and has already helped!”
In particular, she liked the ideas about doing styling at Drama departments at schools and building relationships with wedding planners. She went from being nervous about finding enough clients to survive to having a full To-Do list of great marketing ideas.
LinkedIn Answers Best Practices
- Search Answers before posting your question. Advanced search features allow you to find answers for most questions.
- Write good questions. Experts are busy, so clear concise questions will get the most responses. Interesting topics also tend to get the most responses.
- Follow guidelines. According to LinkedIn – “Answers is not intended to help you recruit, advertise, or announce your job search. These questions will be flagged and removed.”
- Post question to 2 categories. Each question allows you to post to 1 or 2 categories. Always do two to distribute question more widely.
- Keep your question open longer. If you haven’t gotten the answers you were hoping for, extend the question for another week.
- Participate. Answer questions and clarify your questions when needed.
- Respond. Reply directly to anyone who seems like a good business contact.
- Ask LinkedIn Answers how to best use LinkedIn. If you are not sure how to use LinkedIn or LinkedIn answers, just ask. I have learned much of what I know about LinkedIn by reading answers to questions users have posted.
LinkedIn Answers is a fundamental tool to solve even the most daunting challenges to your business. Whether you work at a start up or a successful business, you should be striving to do better and hurdle any challenge you face. Using LinkedIn answers can pave the way to your business smarts and business success. The next time you have a question for your business, instead of searching through results from Google, using the force, or banging your head against your desk, try LinkedIn Answers. After all, all you have to do is ask.