LinkedIn Answers - As Only LinkedIn Could

Boris pointed me to LinkedIn Answers recently and I’ve been quite impressed. It’s certainly got some areas to improve, but it brings together some of the elements that make for an interesting community/social experience. Here are a few:

  1. It’s LinkedIn: Q&A sites have come and gone over the years, but they were generally open to everyone – they lacked a meaningful way to build trust and connection quickly. They felt anonymous. LinkedIn has already accounted for the hard part – trust and connection. Now, by building Answers on top of existing connections, there is less anonymity and people have incentives to do the right thing- their reputation may depend on it.
  2. Questions from My Network: The first time I went to LinkedIn Answers, I saw people asking and answering questions that I know personally. Since the questions are sorted to display people closest to me in the network, it made me feel as if my network had formed its own little community. The interface helped me to feel at home and I was motivated to become involved. I’m many times more likely to help someone I know.
  3. Walking the Talk: In any business networking situation, people are going to talk big and LinkedIn is no exception. We all wonder sometimes about how closely a person’s profile matches their ability, insight, etc. For folks that are prepared to step into the fold, Answers could become a place where the rubber hits the road. Members can show a more social, engaging and personal side that may not show through on their profile. They can show that they’re not full of hot air.
  4. Status/Recognition: Members who choose to be involved and participate productively are rewarded by becoming known as an “expert�? in a particular niche. This is accomplished by providing the “best answer�? to a specific question, as judged by the questioner. Not only does this enable personal recognition, but it separates the wheat from the chaff on a question-by-question basis.
  5. Recommendations: I heard about Answers because Boris recommended me as someone who might be able to answer a specific question. Again, the nature of LinkedIn enables the network to do the hard work. Members who see a question that would be perfect for someone in their network can nudge them to become involved in something specific and relevant.

What I’d Like to Change

It’s too hard to discover a new question in a small niche that matters most to me (social software, online community, social design). Answers is organized by category, which does an OK job of organizing the subjects (Advertising and Promotion includes Events Marketing, Direct Marketing, etc.) However, I’d prefer to be able to navigate the site via tags and/or search.

I also want to be able to subscribe to questions/discussions from my network, or with a specific category via RSS.

Bottom line: LinkedIn Answers makes me want to be involved by connecting my participation to a group of people (my LinkedIn connections) that matter to me.