The Anvil team was disappointed to hear that LinkedIn will discontinue its popular LinkedIn Answers at the end of January. For many years, LinkedIn has been a top five traffic source for the Anvil site. 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?
Perhaps one of the highest-rated features, LinkedIn Groups, offers the ability to create and join topical professional communities. 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.
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. I believe 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).
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.
In my research, 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.
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. The key to a productive engagement in forums is to lurk long enough to get a feel for the community before posting or responding.
Other LinkedIn Changes
With the announcement of the removal of Answers, LinkedIn said “We will be focusing our efforts on the development of new and more engaging ways to share and discuss professional topics.” One recent change that will allow marketers a greater opportunity to interact with its stakeholders is the capability for brands to share more types of custom content in their status updates. To access this function, users click the “paperclip” symbol to the right of the “share an update” boxBelow is a list of the file types included.
New File Types Available
Presentations (pdf, ppt, pps, pptx, ppsx, pot, potx, odp)
Documents (pdf, doc, docx, rtf, odt)
Images (png, gif, jpeg)