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https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0002/8050/question-mark-blog-thumb.jpgIn a surprising move, it appears LinkedIn has plans to turn off its 'Answers' Q&A section at the end of January. 

The official word is that "As of Jan. 31, LinkedIn Answers will be retired from LinkedIn. We will be focusing our efforts on the development of new and more engaging ways to share and discuss professional topics across LinkedIn" (some users have received emails to this effect, although so far there's little on LinkedIn's official blog about the move).

It appears that LinkedIn will be using this change to drive more engagement around groups and pages, but is this really a good thing? 

In the past, LinkedIn Answers has been the subject of scorn due to the high levels of spam found on the forums. A number of LION (LinkedIn Open Networker) members spend hours posting spammy links and referring their fairly useless connections as 'experts on the subject' there.

All this is highly visible, so it's bound to put off some people, particulary new members on LinkedIn, and if the company is serious about growing its user base then this makes sense. From the point of view of many users though, it doesn't. 

We've used LinkedIn answers extensively in the past, even basing an entire content marketing campaign around it, and by offering full, useful answers, we managed to drive a significant amount of new users to our site, and perhaps more importantly, saw a lot of them convert (Almost £70,000 worth of them in fact).

We still see traffic from legacy answers left two years ago as well, so there's clear value in taking time to leave good practical advice in Answers.

Despite the snark levels, by and large there were sensible responses left throughout the forum. Frankly, you have to mine the muck to find the brass on any platform, so this was no exception. 

LinkedIn suggests that users can still post questions in groups and via status updates, but if anything, groups are home to a far more nefarious brand of spam. I currently moderate five groups, and every day I spend time clearing out notices for 'Grate New Product' and 'Flat Abz now' from the moderation area.

It's something I can just about keep up with, but once groups reach a certain size it becomes all but impossible. Unlike in Answers, this is flat-out spam. The kind that promises you cheap ugg boots, rather than the kind left by a real person that says 'See my blog post on this'.

Yes, both are annoying, but only one of those is generally generated automatically, and repeated thousands of times.

One more thing: A 'Best Answer' notification is harder to come by than one of the new Endorsements. These require a single click, from an existing connection. They're a nice pat on the back to be sure, but don't hold a huge amount of weight.  

A Best Answer (usually) meant you'd impressed a complete stranger with your knowledge, and quite possibly generated a few leads in the process.

A closed network? 

While it may seem that LinkedIn is making a positive move to clear out spam, it's also actually restricting the ways in which users can connect with each other by removing public answers. Of course you can still post an update to your profile or company page, but how many people outside of your existing network will actually see it? We can't all feature in the news section. 

There is of course a solution: become a premium member. Get extra inmails and access to those you couldn't connect with before. it's a smart move by LinkedIn to drive paid registration, but may ultimately restrict growth as many users are unlikely to make the switch. 

Meanwhile those who have been using answers to drive consultancy business will be heading en masse to join popular groups and drive their spam levels ever higher.

Yes there are aternatives, Quora remains excellent in general, while newcomers like Google+ communities may be an alternative, but again, we're still going to see spam there, and for companies and individuals with a B2B focus in particular, it's going to be hard to create the kind of value that answers has provided. 

I'm an ardent supporter of Answers, so I may well be biased on this - has anyone else created real value from answers, or will you be glad to see the back of them? As always, please let me know in the comments...

Matt Owen

Published 21 January, 2013 by Matt Owen

Matt Owen was formerly Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up on LinkedIn.

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Pauline Randall

Pauline Randall, Director at Florizel Media

I'll be sorry to see Answers go too. Certainly there is plenty of spam but it is an open forum and I've often search for answers to questions I have as well as offering answers.

My advice to clients has always been along the lines of use it, offer good information and never post questions that look like the answer is 'yes please, I'd like to buy some'!

Restricting questions to groups is going to set them up for a lot more spam (these poor souls have to go somewhere) and I wonder if more groups will revert to being closed in order to try and combat this?

almost 4 years ago

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Mark White

I will also be sad to see its demise - for myself, it has generated a certain amount of business (not surprising within the context of the LinkedIn site, given what I do) but it has also generated both visibility and contacts who have subsequently come back to me directly to ask for specific advice. All good word of mouth advertising, let's be honest.

The blatant gaming could be annoying but the wrong answers probably annoyed me more ... always likely with content that is 'User generated'. I don't see Groups being a good replacement and I'm not sure that Quora will either, although I'm not a great user currently. As for those who will suffer most, well I think that there might be even more pressure on LinkedIn's own Customer Services team as well as Group managers.

almost 4 years ago

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Jeremy Taylor

I moderate 4 LinkedIn Groups and do my best to keep them relevant and genuinely useful, but spam is very frustrating and time consuming.

The only way to combat it is to approve each post individually before they are published. I do this for one of my groups - Monitoring Social Media - as it's a niche topic and only around 10% of submissions are relevant. If the group goes on to reach 10,000+ members, I don't think I could keep that going.

No more spammers please!

almost 4 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Head of Social at Econsultancy

Thanks for your comments all, glad I'm not the only one with this problem!

@Jeremy - yes I'm currently doing the same and it does require updating a couple of times a day, even with limited numbers, so it could become a real pain for owners. do wonder if this will see smaller groups die off in favour of sub-groups, or if there's a chance to prosper here...

almost 4 years ago

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Hera Hussain

I was quite skeptical of LinkedIn Answers at the start but I have to say, I have been quite impressed on how some SME's and freelancers have been able to use it to further their business. I do think, however, that LinkedIn has a point in trying to encourage (or forceably encourage) groups because they are losing their relevance and usefulness. It's too hard to sift through the 'useless' to find the useful. I do hope more features for groups and message filtering will improve the quality of conversations we have there.

almost 4 years ago

Philippa Gamse

Philippa Gamse, Adjunct Professor at Hult International Business School

I am very disappointed to see Answers go away - in addition to the marketing benefits for genuine professionals already mentioned, I actually asked real questions sometimes, in the hope of getting answers from people I didn't know, and thus finding new resources.

It worked really well - and I don't see the equivalent opportunity with groups - you have to know which group to target, which may not always be obvious (one question that I asked had to do with finding a sponsor for a possible speaking engagement in India). And as everyone has mentioned, I use only a few very select groups which I know are spam free - and I really appreciate the moderators!

almost 4 years ago

Adrian Bold

Adrian Bold, Director at Bold Internet Ltd

Group spam on LinkedIn is certainly a problem; I've left many groups recently as it appears the group owners either didn't care or had just given up.

However, I think ending LinkedIn Answers is a backward step. Despite the amount of spammy questions asked, I've still seen many sensible postings and like to think that I've helped people along the way, whether they are connections or not.

almost 4 years ago

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Nigel T Packer

Matt,

The loss of answers is a poor move by LinkedIn but I am sure they have looked into this and have something strategic to make it beneficial for the company and its shareholders.

There are other issues at stake here and I agree with Adrian too many groups are not being moderated properly by their managers. I have also seen an increase in the number of individual profiles being set up as companies, a reflection of the people who are moving from Facebook to LinkedIn and bringing Facebook habit.

I have been on LinkedIn for many years, the professional network it was set up to be is starting to get tarnished as the tips and tricks brigade enter the fray. At least with LinkedIn Answers the men were sorted from the boys. Expect more spam.

Nigel T Packer

almost 4 years ago

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Rabia

I am sad to see the Answers page go. While it might be considered a strategic or profitable move, it could be a step in the wrong direction.
I have used the Answer page for guidance and knowledge. Fair enough there was some unhelpful answers and spam, but spam is a hazard of the times, unfortunately.

As with all things involving opinion, one has to weigh up the pros and cons of such a move.Will this really force more members to sign up for paid subscription or will they just move on to other similar sites?

Perhaps the aim is to ultimately separate the "men" from the "boys" as it were? Or perhaps closing the Answers reiterates that two (or more) heads are indeed better than one?
Only time will tell.

almost 4 years ago

John Fox

John Fox, I help public bodies to be more effective and efficient at delivering their services through digital transformation. I'm currently assisting the government of the States of Jersey. at Muckle Flugga Services Limited

If true, then this is a great shame. I think its a great resource for both questioner and respondents. I've been fortunate enough to be awarded 'Best Answer' on a number of occasions.

almost 4 years ago

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