LinkedIn has launched their new Answers feature, perhaps the most major added functionality since LinkedIn Jobs. The Answers service adds a public interaction element to LinkedIn — something that many of the more active users of LinkedIn have been suggesting for quite some time.
What I find particularly interesting, though, is that it remains consistent with LinkedIn’s focus on being highly transaction-oriented and focused on helping busy professionals get the job done. Obviously, people could post these questions on any of several dozen business discussion forums across the web.
But here are some of the reasons this is better:
First, the questions are only shown to your network out to the third degree and therefore only answered by people in your network. Assuming trusted connections, every question is being answered by a friend of a friend of a friend, or better, and presumably real people rather than pseudonymous random strangers.
Secondly, the Q&A format prevents the off-topic tangent discussions that tend to happen on discussion boards. Question. Answer. Simple.
Third, it’s a way to enhance your reputation as an expert on particular topics in a tangible way. Question askers can select the best answer, which gives some additional kudos to the author of the answer. People can also see the questions you’ve asked and answers you’ve given directly from your LinkedIn profile.
Anyway, a picture’s worth a thousand words, so let’s take a look:
The interface is incredibly straightforward – type your question and click the button. To answer questions, you can browse through all questions or by topic in the left-hand column. When you find a question you want to answer (or see the answers to), click on the question and you’ll be taken to a page like this:
You have several possible options:
- Answer the question yourself, in which case you’ll be able to provide supporting web links in addition to your response and optionally write a personal note to the asker in addition to your public reply
- Reply privately rather than publicly
- Suggest an expert from your network
- Forward the question to an expert in your network
That’s about it. Simple, elegant, effective. It’s been done before, but the integration with the rest of LinkedIn’s functionality makes it uniquely powerful compared to other similar services.