With so many “experts” clamoring to be heard above the din online, it can be hard to stand out. However, I’ve found several sites that do seem to give consultants and small business owners the leg up when it comes to establishing expertise. Each of the sites lets you answer questions in your field, which expands your reach and helps build trust with potential clients.
The first place I noticed this “answer phenomenon” was on LinkedIn. Its Answers page lets you search for questions in categories like Public Relations, Business Operations, International, etc. Choose a question you feel qualified to answer and submit your reply.
In your answer, you can include links that back up your answer or suggest other experts. You can also send a note to the person who asked the question. This can be useful if, for example, someone on LinkedIn asks if anyone knows a good web designer (and you are one). Just write a private note with a link to your site inviting the question asker to contact you.
The great thing about Answers is that your profile is there for people to click. If they like your answers, they can connect with you on LinkedIn, and this helps expand your network.
I’m new to Quora, but liking it already. Once you set up your profile and identify the topics you want to follow, new questions in those categories appear on your home page. You can answer whichever you like, and when you do, you’re presented with related questions you might want to answer.
Quora’s questions get pretty high visibility (one I answered had more than 2200 views in less than a day), and people can follow the answers to the questions on Twitter. Your profile shows the questions you’ve asked and answered, as well as links to your websites and blogs.
If you sign up with Twitter or Facebook, Quora automatically connects you with anyone you’re connected with on those channels, which helps build your network from the get go.
Focus does much of the same things as LinkedIn and Quora, with a few exceptions. Users can rate answers to a question and sort answers based on ratings. This keeps the self-promotion answers to a minimum (though it’s such a high-caliber expert list that I doubt there’s much of that).
Additionally, Focus experts are invited to hold roundtables on their areas of expertise. These roundtables are promoted on Focus’ site, and the questions asked during the hour-long event are also posted as questions on the site, which provides more visibility.
Focus also offers a Research tab, where experts post reports, presentations and whitepapers that others may find helpful. What this means for you is a great opportunity to put your ebook or report where thousands of people can access it. Make sure to include a link to your site and a brief overview of your company so they can connect it back to you.
Getting The Most Out of Your Answers
I suggest setting up profiles on each of these sites and dedicating even just 15 minutes a day to answering 1-5 questions. You’ll beef up your exposure hugely and get the opportunity to step on the soapbox of your choice, showing you know your stuff.
You should also use these sites to get your own questions answered! If you’re writing a whitepaper (for Focus, like I said, right?), ask questions to get different opinions or as a survey for your research.
Asking and answering questions on these sites is a great way to network. Make sure to connect to anyone whose question you have answered, and remind them that you were a responder to the question as a way of introduction. Share answers from other users that you like as a way to spread the love through social media.