How to Answer a Question: 5 Tips for Making the Most of LinkedIn

One of the biggest clients of my 15+ year agency career was won as a direct result of a question to which I responded on LinkedIn, the popular business networking site. LinkedIn now boasts more than 60 million registered users, but far fewer than that number are active members in group discussions and in LinkedIn’s “Answers” section. However, in my experience, it’s participation in these areas – and not just simply joining groups and connecting with peers and colleagues – that can be a prime source of referrals, connections, and sales opportunities.

Responding frequently and proactively to questions on LinkedIn helps to build your reputation for expertise in a very tangible way. Not only do the discussions live on in posterity on LinkedIn and in search results, but over time, if you respond intelligently and on topic (see note #2, below), you can accumulate a peer rating in the form of “best answers” in categories specific to your areas of expertise.

One more reason to make LinkedIn participation a part of your daily social media ritual is that when you answer questions, or comment on group discussions, your network of contacts is alerted via email in the form of a status update, as in: “Howard Sewell answered a question on Lead Generation.” As such, regular participation is one more way to remind your network of your know-how on specific topics, and by implication, your availability as a resource in those same areas.

Here are 5 tips for making the most of your participation on LinkedIn.

1. Set up alerts for questions in your area of expertise

On the home page of my browser resides a pair of RSS feeds that alert me instantly to new questions posed on LinkedIn in two categories: direct marketing and lead generation. I find it’s an easy and effective way to be made aware of topics aligned with my areas of expertise. It’s how I ended up posting the response shown at right, in response to the question: “Need help with subject line for email campaign.”

2. Answer the question.

Sounds simple, I know, but I’m constantly dumbfounded at the number of people on LinkedIn who do anything but. These are the same desperate souls who take any topic even remotely relevant to their business and twist the question in a way that enables them to prattle on about their product or service. My advice is: let your answer speak for itself. So what if you didn’t mention your company or how great your product is. People will value the information more, and be more inclined to engage with you, if they view you as an honest, trustworthy source of insight and information.

3. Avoid recommending your own company.

Granted: it’s hard to resist sometimes, but most people on LinkedIn don’t want to be sold to, so avoid the temptation, and instead let your expertise do the selling. And what of the questions: “Can you recommend a company in [insert your category of product or service here]?” Do what I do and get someone else to make the recommendation for you, then return the favor on another day. (I recommend peers and partners all the time on LinkedIn. It builds good social karma and makes you someone people want to connect to.)

4. Add links, but not in the body of the response.

Here’s where you can (I believe) overtly directly people to your Website, blog, or other resources and not run afoul of LinkedIn’s unspoken protocols. LinkedIn allows you to add URLs as part of your response, and so I make a point of almost always including a link to a white paper, a section on our Website, or a relevant blog post – providing, of course, that those same resources are directly connected to the topic at hand.

5. Tweet your response.

If the discussion in which you participated, or the question to which you responded, is particularly compelling, topical, and/or informative, then tweet it. For example, my tweet on the question shown above read:

Great discussion on LinkedIn about subject
line best practices: http://bit.ly/ciptfp

Do we know each other? Connect with me at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/hjsewell.

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