One of the business uses for LinkedIn is to ask and answer questions. When you help answer questions posed by other professionals, you demonstrate expertise and generosity - thus building good karma and in many cases a good and visible reputation in the network.
If you want to keep track of questions asked by colleagues, the easiest way to do that is by adding the feed to that specific topic to your Google Reader account. If you add more than one topic, you can organize them by folders.
The difficulty comes when you're the one asking the question. If you don't word it carefully, all you get are pitches - and I've seen plenty of those recently. The top ten reasons why your LinkedIn question is getting (mostly) pitches are:
(1.) It reveals lack of confidence in your abilities - when you share something that is tentative about what someone in your role or position should know, the recommendations for services pour in.
(2.) It reveals you're not such an expert after all - there is a fair share of duh! questions being posted by professionals who define themselves as experts routinely. Might it be worth going over the five attributes of being an expert before posting?
(3.) It shows you've not done your homework - are you hiding under a rock and have no knowledge of the abundance of wikis, blogs, and lists shared daily on things like monitoring tools, analysts who blog, so on and so forth.
(4.) It doesn't give enough information about your objectives - if you ask something generic like "what are the top social media sites?" you might not get to find the ones you're really like to get involved in for your market and customers.
(5.) It's not declaring the purpose of asking - this goes to context. If you pick one tool, let's say it's a traditional marketing tool, and ask your network to rate it against online or digital tools, but give no information as to how it's used and integrated in your marketing, well you won't get the useful insights you were looking for.
(6.) It's a veiled attempt at figuring out your own relevance - this is the classic I refer to as "the lie is the in question". If you're asking because all you want is reassurance that your service is cool, you may be in for a disappointment.
(7.) It's a forward attempt to get the community to do your work - these are by far the most entertaining as they clearly show that the person behind the question is just sitting back and waiting for the ideas and examples to come in so they can use them as theirs.
(8.) It's pointless - you're not asking the real or more useful question. Instead of asking if people increased or decreased a budget, be more curious and inquire about how they were reallocated, or something more specific along those lines that will give you insights into what your peers on LinkedIn are doing.
(9.) It hardly gives enough information to get good answers - if site users need to interpret your question, they will interpret it to their advantage. You can count on that.
(10.) It's expecting others to calculate the ROI of your activities - this is by far the most egregious. How do perfect strangers know to calculate the ROI of a business strategy they have no idea about?
Remember that your questions will reveal much more about you than your answers. Choose your words and context carefully, or you will get (mostly) pitches. It's not only answers that build your reputation on LinkedIn, questions matter. Or said another way, you can be in control of your experience by doing what it takes to make it useful.
What are some of the strangest - as in "really?" - you've seen on LinkedIn? How do you go about formulating a question?
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