LinkedIn Answers will be removed from, LinkedIn, the professional social networking platform on January 31, 2013 (source). This feature is not known to many and the reason for its removal may be due to lack of usage.
For those of us who are actively using it, this move by LinkedIn is taking away one of the best networking tool that allows us to showcase our expertise. Not too long ago, I even published The Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn Answers, which aims to help marketers and small business owners to use it effectively for networking, influencers outreach and lead generation.
When the plan was announced, I came across a blog post written by Neal Schaffer that got me looking for alternatives immediately. Of course, there won’t be a service that completely mimics the soon-to-be-withdrawn feature but the following are services that are worthy enough for us to try.
LinkedIn Groups is an immediate alternative that comes to mind. Using the search bar at the top right-hand corner of LinkedIn’s interface, you should be able to discover a handful of groups with like-minded members or members that are part of your target audience.
The Groups interface can be slightly complicated than Answers. Also, the discussion stream on popular groups might be filled with spammy discussions or links. To counter this, select “What’s Happening” instead of “Latest Discussions” as the preferred view.
Two interesting features of LinkedIn Groups that caught my attention are Top Influencers This Week and Statistics as shown above. Statistics will be able to help you identify Groups that are worth investing your efforts. Take some time to check out the activities of top influencers too because this will give you ideas on the types of discussion that attracts the participation of group members.
LinkedIn Groups is a great alternative for @LinkedIn Answers. – Click to Tweet!
Quora is a website that allows visitors to post questions and answers. Most of us would have considered it as a viable alternative for LinkedIn Answers. There are even rumors speculating that LinkedIn is actually preparing to acquire Quora and thus, closing down Answers.
As Quora is built primarily around questions and answers, it offers a number of robust features that LinkedIn Answers lack. First of all, the number of topics that users can follow or subscribe to is way higher. Also, Quora allows its users to edit questions and suggest edits to answers posted by others. This nifty feature resulted in higher quality user-generated discussions and content.
Kristi Hines, a brilliant blogger on social media and blogging, wrote a very useful guide on how to use Quora for marketing. In the guide, she explains what the platform is all about and how marketers can participate in the community.
Quora is a great alternative for @LinkedIn Answers. – Click to Tweet!
Not too long ago, Google+ introduced Google+ Communities, which is a feature similar to Groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.
The simpler and cleaner interface facilitates topical or interest-based discussions better better than other social networks. The Communities that I am currently part of have a steady flow of quality discussions but this may vary depending on the moderators.
The search capability in Google+ allows us to search for Communities relevant to us. Most active participants maintain a comprehensive Google+ profile. This lets you “prequalify” individuals before reaching out to them. The profile information and latest updates can also be used to provide a context for your personalized outreach message.
Google+ Communities is a great alternative for @LinkedIn Answers. – Click to Tweet!
Stack Exchange is a network of almost 100 question-and-answer sites that covers a wide range of topics. From a topic as remote as genealogy to a topic that appeals to a wider audience like movies and sports, there will be a Stack Exchange site that caters to it.
Participating on the sites earns reputation points and badges that will boost your credibility as a member. Sites that are on the Stack Exchange network host laser-targeted discussions and most of the members have a deep passion in the topic of the site that they are part of.
Keeping that in mind, specific, clear and well thought-out questions and answers will usually receive great and useful response from members.
Stack Exchange is a great alternative for @LinkedIn Answers. – Click to Tweet!
Despite being slowly forgotten by Internet users, a quick check on Alexa shows that Yahoo, together with its wide range of web properties, rank Number 4 on the web in terms of traffic. Checking on the demographic info of Yahoo Answers on Quantcast also reveals that young adults and teenagers form the majority of visitors.
With the social media boom over the past few years, the attention on Yahoo Answers shifted to sexier services like Facebook, Twitter and more recently, Instagram. The number of active users on Yahoo Answers is still fairly high and without the competition from larger and resourceful brands, there is an interesting opportunity for small businesses or individuals who are willing to spend their time on the service.
On Yahoo Answers, the best answer gets chosen or voted to the top by the asker or other members. This is much simpler as compared to other question-and-answer services. This simplicity attracts a lot of active members who are deeply passionate about various non-tech topics and care very little about sexy features.
If your business is targeting non-savvy individuals or young adults, Yahoo Answers may be your best replacement for LinkedIn Answers.
Yahoo Answers is a great alternative for @LinkedIn Answers. – Click to Tweet!
Forums (also known as discussion or community boards) are not as sexy as any of the latest social media websites but they are alive and kicking! Across many topics, they are still the primary destination for individuals to post questions and seek answers. Many of them are pretty dominant on the search engines too, especially for local or long tail search terms.
Many popular social media platforms promote real name and identity. This is one of the main reasons why forums are still alive because anybody, using any username that need not be your real name, can register as a member.
Marketers and business owners can usually rely on search engines to discover forums that their target audience is a part of. Do not participate in forums solely for traffic or inbound links. With experience, most administrators and moderators of popular forums have seen enough spamming tricks and they will not hesitate to give you the ban.
Instead, set your aim to become an authority in the forums that you are part of by providing value in the form of help, advice or even useful content to the members. Reach out to forum leaders occasionally and be open about building long term relationships with them or other members. If you are new to the concept of forum marketing, have a look at my step-by-step guide to getting started with forum marketing.
Forums are great alternatives for @LinkedIn Answers. – Click to Tweet!
Golden Rules for Marketing on Q & A Websites
The alternatives above for LinkedIn Answers are going to be slightly different but as long as the following golden rules are kept in mind, you should still be able to achieve the marketing goals that you have set for Q & A sites.
- Understand the culture and read the community guidelines before participating.
- Identify influencers or power users.
- Participate by providing help, valuable answers, comments or responses.
- Be specific with your questions or answers.
- Follow up, network and build relationships.
What are some other alternatives for LinkedIn Answers that you discovered? Do you have any experience participating in any of the alternatives listed above? Share your experience in the comment section below.
Image courtesy of mariosundar and Gavin Tapp