Geoff Evans, Social Media Strategist
Business coach Sales and marketing professional Dynamic speaker

Many LinkedIn users are wondering about the best way in LinkedIn (LI) to achieve real results such as connecting with potential clients or business partners. There are, of course, many ways to accomplish this goal in LI. For this blog, however, I’ll focus the discussion around a specific question I was recently asked pertaining to Answers vs Group Discussions.

Specifically, I was asked which of these two approaches was the most effective way to create engaging conversation that would ultimately allow an individual to connect with more people.

Although LI Answers and LI Group Discussions both have their strengths I do believe that one option has more impact: Group Discussions. Allow me to explain why.

Linkedin Answers
Posting a question in the LI Answers section offers one unique benefit over groups: You can direct the question to your 1st generation contacts where your question will appear in their LI inbox. This approach ensures you stay connected and remain visible to your network.

Of course, more often than not, when a question is posted to LI Answers it is generally rhetorical with the individual posting the question electing to provide their own answer through a link to their website. This is obviously a great way to grab people’s attention and help you market yourself. However, this approach can also be perceived as self-serving and “spammy” given that you are choosing to market yourself through a utility that is designed to help facilitate knowledge-sharing between members of the LI community.

My perception is that the real opportunity with LI Answers is to actually respond to posted questions in order to earn “expertise”. If the answers you provide are thought to be the best responses then you can earn the “expert” designation in LI. This designation will add an “expertise star” to your profile – helping to establish your credibility without creating the perception that you are being completely self-serving.

Linkedin Group Discussions
If your goal is to connect with new individuals in an effort to expand your circle of influence then LI Answers has limitations. Outside of your 1st generation connections, the only individuals who will see your posted questions are those who actively search through the Answers section to identify questions they can answer. (Editor: Bear in mind there are more than 51,000,000 members)

The advantage of creating a LI Group Discussion is that your discussion has the potential to be viewed by millions of group members who are participating in the over 440,000 LI groups

The challenge with Group Discussions is that your post can quickly become buried as more and more individuals post new discussions. As well, many group owners have an agenda of their own and will ensure that the first series of discussions are their own “featured” messages – thus limiting your visibility.

Having said that, the real opportunity with leveraging group discussions is that on a daily or weekly basis group members will receive a digest of new activity for the group via email (assuming members haven’t turned this feature off when they joined the group). The significance to you is that a link to your discussion will appear in a very easy to read email that is sent directly to each group members personal email account. I find that reviewing weekly digest emails is the best way to stay abreast of any new discussions and relevant articles.

And since the statistics show that only a small minority of LI users participate actively then the logical conclusion is that leveraging a tool like Group Discussions (that reaches the passive masses) is likely the best way to actually expand your network of connections.