LinkedIn Answers closed its doors yesterday, without much fanfare or forewarning (they made an announcement earlier this month, which managed to slip by me unnoticed). I was first confused–then a little bummed–when I paid it a visit this morning and found it a wasteland, save for the curt notice you see above.
Why am I going to miss it? Because it was a personal branding godsend. LinkedIn Answers was one of the best places on the Internet to establish a reputation for thought leadership within your industry. Any advice you published was connected to your real name, which in turn invited curious visitors to investigate your work history and areas of expertise.
It was a great 1-2 punch: your profile answers the question, “has s/he worked in this capacity before?”, while your contribution to Answers proves whether you are knowledgeable enough to perform the functions of the job. We place so much importance on writing a perfect resume (because it’s a tangible document and all), but when you think about it, demonstrating skills relevant to the given position is about 10 times more important. It became the norm, not a rarity, for top LinkedIn Answers contributors to receive unsolicited job offers in their field.
Now that the feature has ridden off into the sunset, what’s next? Let’s take a look at the alternatives to LinkedIn Answers that will satiate your thirst for thought leadership.
With its popularity already on the rise, Quora will welcome the LinkedIn Answers exodus with open arms. It’s already more fully featured as a dedicated Q&A exchange site, with greater moderation controls and more flexible ways to follow thought leaders directly (which is huge where personal branding is concerned). Now that an industry giant has stepped out of the space, Quora can shine.
Ironically, people have been suggesting LinkedIn acquire Quora for a couple years, and LIA suddenly going MIA sends very curious signals. If a merger is in the works, you just might migrate from LinkedIn Answers to…the next LinkedIn Answers.
98 smaller Q&A sites make up the Stack Exchange empire, which leans heavily on the technology niche but covers some recreational topics as well. The organization of small communities into one central hub is a great system. It affords each site the ability to focus on a niche, which in turn attracts passionate experts and influencers within a narrow field. As a result, even though the community is huge, answer quality remains high, because the site structure funnels people toward their passions. Any corner of Stack Exchange could be your next information goldmine.
What Metafilter lacks in size (just 12,000 active users), it makes up for in strength of community. The $5 barrier to account creation (a one-time fee) is chump change, but it weeds out the would-be trolls and inactive accounts, replacing them with people eager to share and absorb information. Plus, it was founded in a year that started with a 1*, so it’s as old as dirt by internet standards, and it feels like it’s not going anywhere.
* 1999, if you’re counting.
Google just launched Communities in December, which are hub pages built around a common interest. They are essentially Facebook groups, in the same way that Google+ is essentially Facebook: less populated and more techy/insular, but pretty much the same product from a practical standpoint. Because Google+ has a higher concentration of professional activity, its communities leave plenty of room for discussion and guidance. And because content on Google+ is given preferential treatment in Google’s search rankings, the wisdom you share in Communities will receive a natural visibility boost.
Forums are alive! I sort of avoid them when I’m casually browsing the internet, mostly because video game forums ate up a valuable chunk of my childhood, and that’s time I’d probably spend elsewhere if I had a do-over. Despite my lukewarm associations with the format, forums are like the Lost Temple of Knowledge on the internet.
It’s true: authority sites (think Mashable) have taken over the web landscape, mainly because their articles follow coherent keyword campaigns in a well-defined topic. That level of laser-focused SEO knocks sites with more scattered discussions off the map, which might explain why forums aren’t the most obvious source of knowledge in 2013.
But if you go looking for them, it turns out they’re still thriving. Just Google “(industry) forum” or “(discipline) forum” and make an effort to return to whatever you find. There is a greater sense of community in forums than in most other online destinations, and that community will feed you advice you won’t get anywhere else.
If you don’t want to leave the familiarity and comfort of home, shift your attention to LinkedIn Groups. They have been the most durable gathering place for peers to exchange information and connect with people walking the same professional path. Not to mention that group members essentially function as free 2nd connections within your industry, which will open up more opportunities with the added visibility.
There are, of course, a bunch of similar sites out there that didn’t make the cut. The other big players (Yahoo Answers, eHow) generally don’t foster the depth of discussion to make them a desirable destination for thought exchange.
All in all, your interests will probably dictate which resource provides the most value. A bike shop mechanic will be happier with Stack Exchange’s bike enthusiasts niche community, while marketers – plentiful as we are – will relocate discussion threads to any of the flourishing marketing groups on LinkedIn.
Now That LinkedIn Answers Is Gone…
Back to the question posed in the title: now what?
- Have you used LinkedIn for personal branding?
- If so (or if not), where will you shift your attention with the disappearance of Answers?
- Which communities have we missed? (By the way, you have my full blessing to wave your own flag here if you represent an awesome community you believe in.)
Let us know us on Twitter or here in the comments.