LinkedIn’s Question and Answer Service: Summary
Today, LinkedIn launched its version of a “Question and Answer” service, bringing a new level of interaction to its users that will help the social network mature and be a more powerful tool. The question and answer service presents many interesting opportunities:
- More Open/Informal Interaction: Rather than relying on email introduction (a too formal of a process), it allows members to introduce each other positively by answering each other’s questions.
- Encourages Participation and Community: Users who frequently answer questions are featured as experts (see below), installing a sense of pride and encouragement to continuing participating. I would expect a more user-based rating system to develop over time.
- Marketing/Business Channel Opportunity. Contests can be created between LinkedIn and a company looking for potential employees, think something like the games and puzzles Google uses to attract potential hires. Or how about a potential client asking potential agencies “What’s your approach to integrated SEO/PPC marketing?”; thus making the LinkedIn a place for informal RFIs.
Building and Leveraging Niche Social Networks
One of the many trends, many including myself are expecting to see in 2007 is the growth in niche social community websites, those that cater to a certain audience, crowd and profession. Tribe.net (alternative, political, burning-man lifestyles), Consumating.com (nerd, hipster, alternative lifestyle) and LinkedIn (professionals) are some of the examples of niche markets.
LinkedIn’s “Question and Answer” service is familiar to those who have seen Yahoo! Answers. But in actuality, focusing on Consumating.com’s “Question and Answer” feature maybe a better explanation of its function within a social network.
Questions and Answers on Consumating
Consumating (www.consumating.com) builds a sense of community through encouraging interactive behavior that appeals to its generally hip and sometimes nerdy audience. There are weekly questions, some tongue-in-cheek like “So we met on the internet…What crazy tale do you tell people about how we met in real life?“, and a weekly photo question that are voted by the community through the use of points.
There are also questions that can be asked by users themselves, independent of the weekly contest presented by Consumating.
Some key points:
Encourages Participation: Like Yahoo! Answers, the points are not redeemable for anything but a sense of pride for getting points, a system that is motivation enough for Yahoo! Answer and Consumating users to actively participate.
More Open Interaction: “Questions-and-Answers” contests also helps users learn more about each other in a way less intimidating (or creepy) than “Hey, I saw your profile, I think we have things in common, can we chat for coffee?”
Creates Marketing Opportunity: Essentially, these questions are built-in call-to-action or even a contest. Currently, the Cartoon Network has been promoting its Adult Swim programming block by sponsoring the question “Space Ghosts asks, What you gonna do when the ghost zaps you?” (a reference to one of their late night cartoon shows).
The banner acts as both passive branding (visual displayed on site) and active branding (encouraging people to respond to the banner as a contest).
I would expect more niche social networking sites turn to question-and-answers as a feature to help build a stronger sense of community and also expand marketing opportunities.