Another one of LinkedIn’s features is their "Answers" section.  This is a place where you can share business knowledge with others on LinkedIn – you can ask your question to get fast, accurate answers from your network and other experts, showcase your knowledge by answering questions, and stay up on the latest information in your industry.

I’ll point out a caution here – One of our attorneys mentioned to me yesterday with respect to recommendations that attorneys need to be careful of the rules about endorsements within their respective jurisdictions.  This is similarly the case for answering questions on LinkedIn.

I liken answering questions on LinkedIn to answering questions after a panel discussion or at a cocktail party.  Most questions you can answer in an academic way, that makes it clear you’re not creating an attorney-client relationship.  Other questions cross into a grey area, so you need to make it clear that you’re not offering advice.

With LinkedIn questions, since it’s optional, you don’t have to answer questions that you think enter into that grey area, or you can suggest to the person asking that they retain counsel.  So let’s go into this discussion of Answers bearing in mind this caution. 

We’ll start with some information directly from LinkedIn’s learning center – this is a great tool because they’ll describe pretty much everything within LinkedIn that you might want to know about.  To find the Learning Center, you’ll mouse over "More" on your LinkedIn home page, and click on the link for "Learning Center." Then you can browse their list of resources on the left. 

They talk about four key areas – asking questions, answering questions, advanced answers search and privacy.  

Asking Questions

You may want to ask a question to find out someone’s:

  • knowledge
  • experience
  • opinion

To ask a question, you enter the question in the text box and select the appropriate category to place it under. You can also send the question by email to any connections in your network you think might be particularly helpful.  

Questions then appear under the answers tab, on your profile, on the LinkedIn homepage of your connections, and in emails that you’ve sent to specific connections.  You can also ask questions privately if you wish. 

Let’s go through the process – from your home page, mouseover "More" and select "Answers." It should be the very first item listed.

That will take you to the answers page: 

You’ll see that right at the top, they start you with the option to ask and answer questions.  Below that, they give you new questions from people in your network (this includes 1st through 3rd level connections).  

We’ll get to answering questions in a moment, but let’s start with asking them.  There are two ways you can do this – you can start right from this page by typing your question into the text box. Then, click next: 

 

The next screen will ask you for additional details to refine your question: 

You can edit the question in the top text box if you would like, or click on the "See examples" link if you’d like to see some questions that others have asked. LinkedIn suggests that you be descriptive and concise when asking your questions – this will help to get you better answers. 

Below that is a check box that allows you to decide whether you want your question to be public or only for those connections you select.  If you restrict it to your selected connections, you will receive fewer answers.  Since this is a test question for me, I’m going to make mine private. 

Below that is another text box where you can add additional details if you think they are warranted.  Anything you think that may be helpful to people answering your question would go here. 

Next is a set of categories so that you can identify where your question best belongs.  I’m going to go with "Marketing" because my question falls into the social media category.  You’ll note that when you select a category, additional categories come up in the next box, and so on, where appropriate to further drill down on your question. I’ll choose "Business Development" as a sub-category because that’s the sector of marketing that I’m asking about. 

LinkedIn gives you the ability to select an additional category if you think that the question warrants it.  To do this, you would click on the link that says "Select another category," which opens up a second set of windows like the first.

Next, there is a check box that asks whether your question is centered around a specific geographic location.  Mine is not, so I leave this unchecked. If yours is, you can click this and it will ask you to identify the country and postal code.

LinkedIn then asks if your question is related to recruiting, promoting your services, or job seeking. On a previous page, they note that if a question is job seeking, they will remove it from the public pages, but there was no restriction when I clicked all three boxes.  They do note over on the right hand side that there are better places to do these things – if you’re recruiting, you can post your job in the jobs section, if you’re promoting your services, you can request a recommendation and be listed in their services directory and if you’re job seeking, you can use their job search. 

Once you’ve got your question and related information set, select "Ask Question" to be taken to the next page. An email form will come up on the next page allowing you to add any specific connections you want included and send the question to them. If there are no connections you’d like your question addressed to, you can hit "Skip" to be taken to the next page.

If your question is public, LinkedIn will also tell you on this page that your question will remain open to responses for 7 days.

Whether you click Send or Skip, you’ll be taken back to your answers home page, and now, on the right hand side, your open question will appear: 

You can click the link to the question, which will show you the page for this question, including any answers.  It also enables you to forward the question, or close the question before the seven day limit is up. 

You can also click "Clarify my question" if people aren’t sure how to respond, or you’d like to add some additional information after the fact. 

If you’ve asked a number of questions, you can also click on "View all your answers and questions" from your answers home page, which will take you to this page: 

(As an aside, you can also reach this page from your answers home page by clicking on the "My Q&A" tab).

Here, you’ll see an overview of the questions you’ve asked, when, how many answers you’ve gotten and when it closes.  There’s a note that you can ask 8 more questions this month, and a short overview of the statistics.  You can see we have one public question and one private question open.

The next tab on this screen is "My answers," which will show you any questions you’ve answered.  Since we haven’t addressed that yet, we’ll hold off on that until the next section. 

As I mentioned earlier, there are two ways to ask questions – the second is by clicking on the "Ask a Question" tab on any of the answers pages.  This will take you directly to the information screen that we saw above, with the details, categories, etc.  But rather than filling in your question from the text box that we typed in on the answers home page, it leaves this blank for you to add it at this point. 

Answering Questions

I find there’s a lot of utility in asking questions, and it can be useful for crowdsourcing – for attorneys, this may be helpful in the sense of business development questions you may have, and not so much for legally-based questions.  You may not think this will have any value for you, but asking questions can also get your name out there and help you to make full use of your LinkedIn account.

But what is asking questions without answering them? 

To do this, let’s go back to the Answers home tab, where there are a few ways you can answer questions.  You can first look at the list of new questions from your network to see if there are any in there that you feel comfortable answering: 

If there is, you can click on the question itself to be taken to that page to answer it.  What’s also of interest here from a networking point of view is the person asking – perhaps the question is really thought-provoking for you, and you think it may be a good idea to connect to the person asking it.  You can click on their name to be taken to their profile so that you can add them.

If there are no questions in this list, but you want to continue to see questions from within your network, click "More open questions" at the bottom to see a larger list.  The questions are in order of when they were asked, with the most recent being first – if you have a lot of time, feel free to browse through these lists of questions.  But otherwise, it may be more useful to answer questions in another way.

Also on your home page, they offer you a list of recommended categories for questions that you might want to answer. This can be the most efficient for attorneys – if you’re looking to raise your profile within a certain industry or type of law, you can focus just on answering questions in that category. 

For me, you can see that they recommend the categories above.  Not all of these are useful for me – keep in mind, it’s a computer algorithm doing the search, so it’s not always going to be spot on – so you can either browse categories on the right hand side (including questions in other languages): 

Or you can choose one of the categories that may be of interest to you from those recommended.  For me, business development is useful, so I’ll click on that.  When you click on that, it will take you to a questions page for that category: 

 

This will give you a list of open and closed questions (these are on another tab), the "experts" in this area (experts are defined as those whose answers have been checked as "best" within the category, and they are listed in order of their degree relationship to you. 

Let’s say that we see a question we want to answer.  In my case, there’s one that asks "What is the #1 problem you face regarding using social media for business? If you are not getting the results you want, why do you think that is?"  To answer this question, I’ll first click on the question itself to go to that page: 

 

Here, I can see who has asked the question (and choose to see what her other questions have been about as well, if I’d like to), and I can see that seven people have answered this question.  For each of those who have answered, I can see their name, whether or not we’re connected in some way, and their title, as well as whether any of their answers to other questions have been listed as a "best answer." 

First, I’ll take the time to read all of the answers that have been posted already to make sure I’m not duplicating anything – plus, I always find that making my response part of a dialogue, rather than just a one-off from me, helps my networking and business development efforts immensely – a great lesson I’ve learned in both life and business development is that it’s just not all about me.  

I have a couple of options as to what to do next.  If I think someone else would be well-qualified to answer this question, I can click on the "Suggest Expert" button found just under the question. This will open up a new box underneath where I can select people from my network that would be a good expert to answer this question, I can add an optional note about that person or persons, and I can also write an optional note directly to the person asking the question.  Then I hit "Submit" to suggest my experts.

I can also answer the question directly by clicking the "Answer" button: 

This again opens up a new box where I can write my answer – this is going to be publicly visible. If there are resources on websites, I can include those as well.  I can also suggest an expert as part of my answer, and again, write a note to the person asking the question if I would like.  I then hit "Submit" to post my answer on the page. 

Once your answer is posted (it will appear at the bottom), you have the option to delete your answer, or clarify it if you’d like. When clarifying, your original answer stays as is, but you add a clarification note to it. 

As with asking questions, there is also another way to answer them, and this is again one of the tab options – you can choose "Answer Questions," which takes you to a general page with all open questions (ordered by your degree of connection, though you can also sort by date if you’d prefer).  From this page, you can also browse through the categories and languages we mentioned earlier, look through closed questions (we’ll talk about this more in a moment), or look at the experts in your network. 

 

One of the disadvantages of the answers section is that unless someone sends you a question directly, or it appears in your news feed when a connection asks one, you do have to remember to go to this page and seek out the questions you want to answer.  This can be a bit time-consuming, which is why I include it as an option, but don’t suggest it as a major investment of time. Others might disagree with me, but when I see someone who has answered hundreds of questions in a short period of time, I’m wondering how hard they’re really working at their main job responsibilities!

Advanced Answers Search

Advanced Answers Search is where you can go to find out if your question has already been asked.  You may find your question, but see that the answers don’t meet your needs, and so you still ask it, or you may find that your question has been answered satisfactorily. 

To get to this, we go to the second tab on the answers sections "Advanced Answers Search."

 

From here, you get the following advanced search options: 

So let’s say that I wanted to know whether someone had already asked my question about whether Facebook or Twitter is better for service professionals.  I’d type in specific keywords, such as "Facebook" "Twitter" "lawyers" "service professionals" in the keyword box at the top.  

I can then decide whether I only want to search the questions, or whether I also want to search the answers.  For the heck of it, I’ll go with both.  Then, I can identify the category I’m searching in – since I wanted to know the answers from a business development perspective, I’ll choose Sales and Marketing and then Business Development in the categories section. You can also just search all question categories if you prefer.

Then, I can decide whether I’d like to see only those questions that are unanswered, or all questions.  I’m going to look at all questions, so I’ll just click "Search" here. 

My results come up on a new page: 

I can see that my question comes up, and also a question about the real estate agent of the future – this question isn’t relevant, so I know that my question hasn’t been asked before.

If I’d gotten an overabundance of search results, I might want to refine my search a little.  On the right hand side, I can add or delete keywords, change whether I want to search questions and answers or just questions, change categories, or search only the unanswered questions. 

From here, I can also click on the "open questions" tab, if I want to see only those questions that have been asked within the last seven days.  Since it’s a short list for me, I won’t do that, but if you get a lot of results, you may want to refine them in some way to drill down to what you want. As I mentioned earlier, you can also look through closed questions – these are included in the list of all questions when you first do your search.  The reason that this might be valuable is that open questions are open for such a short time, and you may find good answers from questions that were asked not as recently. 

Privacy

And finally, we’ll take a look at privacy as it relates to questions. You have the ability to control the visibility of your questions and answers. To do this, you’ll go to your privacy settings (as we did in this post), which takes you to this page: 

 

In order to control whether your questions and answers appear on your profile page, you’ll click "Edit your profile" under "Helpful links" in the section on the bottom right.  That takes you to your profile page: 

 

On this page, you’ll scroll down a bit until you see "Name’s Q&A" in a box in the right column: 

This is visible to everyone, so if you want it to be private (note also that hiding your questions and answers on your profile hides you on any expert lists or leader boards within LinkedIn Answers, so bear that in mind), click "edit" in the top right corner of this box. 

 

Here, you can decide whether you’d like to show this on your profile or hide it.  Either way, it’s an all or nothing choice – you can’t decide to show some answers and not others (though as we mentioned earlier, you can have individual private questions if you would like to).  It defaults to "Yes, show this on my profile," so if that’s fine with you, you can ignore this section. Otherwise, if you’d like to change it, make sure to select the second radio button and click "Save Changes" for it to take effect. 

Tomorrow, we’ll delve into Companies, and Friday we’ll be looking at some final notes – if there’s anything in particular you’d like me to cover in more depth about LinkedIn, please let me know. Otherwise, we’ll be moving on next week to our next set of tutorials!