I can’t tell you how disappointed I was to read that LinkedIn plans to discontinue LinkedIn Questions & Answers at the end of January. For many years, LinkedIn has been a top five traffic source to our SEM agency. A significant percentage of our LinkedIn website traffic (and qualified leads) originated from LinkedIn Questions & Answers (LQA). With LQA on the outs, many digital marketers are evaluating alternative ways to increase awareness, industry credibility, traffic and leads, but can any truly fill the void?
As one of the first million LinkedIn users, I’ve spent the past six years actively answering questions in LQA. At last count, I answered 615 questions across 11 categories, with 141 Good and 35 Best Answers. Each answer included between 1 and 3 links, typically back to Anvil’s digital marketing resources. I also found additional value asking questions (only 18 in 6 years) as research for industry presentations and articles, including this one. Over the past 6 years, LinkedIn has never been lower than top five as a traffic and qualified lead generator for Anvil. As such, it is important to identify alternatives to LQA that provide a similar level of online awareness, traffic and leads.
Perhaps one of the highest-rated features, LinkedIn Groups, offers the ability to create and join topical professional communities. For better or worse, LinkedIn members are limited to joining 40 Groups at any given time. Over time, I realized participating in Groups was far too time-consuming, especially in comparison with LQA, so I haven’t spent much time in Groups. To get started, I recommend identifying 5 or so of the most relevant and engaged Groups and participate regularly. If you don’t find a Group you like or see an opportunity to fill a gap, start your own. In March 2008, I launched the pdxMindShare Group for Portland-area professionals looking to enhance their careers. Since then, the group has increased to nearly 7,900 active members and has become an invaluable resource and a powerful brand extension to the website, weekly email and monthly networking event.
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Co-founded by two former Facebook employees, Quora launched in June 2010 as a truly “expert” alternative to question & answer communities from LinkedIn and Yahoo! Since then, the expert community has grown to over 1.5 million active users. As an early adopter of any new social platform, I joined Quora soon after launch and currently have 492 followers. I’ve only answer 23 questions over the past few years, which is a fraction of the 600+ on LQA. I do believe, however, that it will be the primary beneficiary of the LQA deactivation (assuming a LinkedIn acquisition isn’t already in the works). Although there is a minor learning curve and need to build momentum and credibility, there is good news, in that Quora recently announced a new LinkedIn sharing feature, enabling users to directly share their Quora contributions on their LinkedIn profiles.
Launched in June 2005, Yahoo! Answers is one of the earliest question & answer communities. The site grew significantly in the early years, but was soon criticized due to a lack of depth or quality of response. Having been an early adopter in 2006, I quickly realized the random questions posed by the general public were not an ideal target for business-to-business discussions. Since then, I’ve only answered 49 questions (although 19 were voted Best Answers). I’ve also managed to attain a Level 3 status with 1,830 points by logging in once a day for the past 6 years. The benefit of increasing levels is the ability to expand account functionality, including the ability to ask and answer a larger number of questions as well as star, vote or comment on others’ responses.
With over 135 million active users, Google+ is a major player in the social space. The Google+ Communities (G+C) are a turbo-charged version of traditional forums or question & answers platforms like LinkedIn. Unfortunately, G+C does not have the history or momentum of LQA, but does have a good deal of potential. This is one of the platforms I’m least familiar with, so I’m going to suggest reading Mashable’s Google+ Communities: A Beginner’s Guide for tips. I do plan to spend more time in G+C moving forward, so stay tuned for updates and please feel free to share your experiences in the comments section below.
In my research among the Anvil and Formic Media teams, as well as on LQA, I found many digital marketers plan to spend more time on status updates than before. If you haven’t already built status updates into your life and profiles, now would be a good time to get started. Start by feeding your LinkedIn updates manually and by sharing news from LinkedIn Today. You can also expand your Twitter presence with higher level of engagement (conversations) and content. Don’t forget your Google+ profile updates, which will become increasingly appropriate and powerful for generating visibility and credibility due to ties with search results. Only consider spending more time with personal Facebook updates if you are not sharing a good deal of personal information in your profile. Be especially careful with privacy settings, as your Facebook profile is visible in search results by default, which may not be your intention (I’ve recently disabled the visibility of my profile for this very reason).
Industry Vertical Communities
Last but not least, do not forget that you can and should engage with industry-specific forums and expert communities, rather than relying solely on general interest social Q&A platforms. A quick search on Google for “your industry” and “expert community” or “forum” should provide a list of viable options. In my world of search engine marketing, there are a host of industry-specific forums and expert communities, including: SEOmoz, Search Engine Roundtable Forums, Inbound Marketing Community, Search Engine Watch Forums, SEO Chat Forums, High Rankings SEO Forum, Webmaster World Forums and Digital Point Forums. Essentially, more than enough to keep me busy. The key to a productive engagement in forums is to lurk long enough to get a feel for the community before posting or responding.
Although LinkedIn Questions and Answers will be history soon enough, there are a host of alternative ways to gain insights, generate awareness, create credibility and increase site traffic and leads. I will miss LQA, but I look forward to learning and mastering alternative platforms and communities. I hope to see you there.