My mother used to tell me the only stupid question was the one you didn’t ask. Thanks to social media, in business terms, the only stupid question is fast becoming the one you don’t answer.
People are driving leads using Question and Answer forums like LinkedIn Answers, Yahoo! Answers and Answers.com. While most case study examples seem to be independent consultants, someone has finally put some quantification around the trend with some surprising results.
Business.com released a report last week entitled, “Social Media Best Practices: Question & Answer Forums.” You can download it for free from their website. It does require a simple and free registration to offer you future participation in Business.com research. The report is worth the effort and you don’t have to opt-in for anything to get it.
Polling over 1,400 professionals, some 59 percent of whom were business owners or C-Level executives, Business.com discovered some interesting information around question and answer forums, including:
- Webinars and podcasts are the most popular social media resource for business information
- While Q&A forums are eighth on the list of most popular business resources, 49.4 percent of respondents say they use them.
- Q&A forums are more popular than Twitter as a business resource by 14 percent (49.4 to 35.4 percent of respondents saying they use them).
- Among those who use Q&A forums, 92 percent say they are at least somewhat useful with 25 percent claiming them to be “very useful.”
- LinkedIn Answers dominates the category usage, claiming 59.2 percent of use for companies participating in at least one Q&A forum. Yahoo! Answers is a distant second at 37.1 percent.
- 79 percent of B2B respondents use LinkedIn Answers, compared to just 46 percent of B2C respondents.
- MarkeingProf’s Know-How Exchange is far more popular than I imagined, generally falling just behind the aforementioned Q&A forums and WikiAnswers in most used forums.
The report is full of further insights and contains a list of best practices for generating leads by participating in Q&A forums. Download the report to see their list, which I won’t try to circumvent with my own. It would only appear as if I stole theirs, so why try?
In essence, the best practices (theirs and mine) remind you to be helpful first, don’t go in trumpeting your sales pitch and focus on long-term relationship building and benefits rather than seeing a sudden influx of leads because you clicked a button on a website. Nothing is that easy. It’s like being at an off-line networking event. You work at it a while and you get results.
I’ve been investing some time in my own LinkedIn profile lately and decided to use the site’s nifty Polls application to see how often my network used LinkedIn Answers to drive business leads. As of Sunday afternoon this morning (I updated shortly after publishing) I had just 52 respondents, but some interesting parallels.
More than half (59 percent) of those who answered admitted they never used Answers on LinkedIn. Some told me via Twitter they didn’t because they weren’t sure how to do it and not seem spammy. The above should help them out. Of those who did, 26 percent do so once each month, five percent once per week and seven percent 2-3 times per week.
However, if you break it down by job title, you see that all 12 percent who indicated using Answers 1-3 times per week were business owners or C-Level executives. The were all over 35 years of age as well.
While I expect demographics and behavior will change with increased adoption of social media tools, it’s worth noting that today’s business leaders think Question and Answer forums are useful enough to invest time in them. Sure, the usage set skews toward companies already using social media, but, if anything, the numbers tell us that LinkedIn Answers has become a trusted source for business information. Since you are just as able to provide that information as anyone else, doesn’t it seem logical to do so?
The only way to start is to start. Check out the best practices on Business.com’s report. Log in to your LinkedIn account. Visit your industry in the Answers section. Find some questions you can provide value by answering. Do this consistantly over the next three months and see how many leads, qualified leads and even new business accounts you can attract. You might be surprised at the results.
And do report back. We’d love to chronicle your successes … or failures and challenges. If you have already had some, please, tell us about them in the comments.