I was beyond dismayed to receive an email this morning from LinkedIn, indicating that they are retiring their (in my opinion) best feature: LinkedIn Answers.
LinkedIn Answers is (was) a Quora-type question and answer forum, where business people could ask for advice in a variety of topical categories. In turn, professionals could answer questions in their area of expertise, which in my experience, was THE best lead-generating activity one could do on LinkedIn.
Why LinkedIn Answers was the Best
LinkedIn Answers was better than any question and answer forum on the web for several reasons:
1) Credibility: Nowhere else on the web can you get an answer to a question and immediately click through to review the person's entire professional history. This provided an instantaneous and thorough way to evaluate the credibility of the advice given.
LinkedIn Answers also helped professionals add credibility to their LinkedIn profiles. The act of answering a question generated an activity item on one's profile, which also showed up in the news feed of their connections. Additionally, after answering enough questions in a category, one could earn "Expert" status and be featured on the Answers homepage and in those categories.
2) Focus: The questions and answers being traded on LinkedIn Answers were about business. Although other question and answer sites have categories for business, there are none that are as business-focused and as widely used by business professionals in the world. Because of LinkedIn's enormous worldwide presence, one could find an expert to answer even the most obscure/niche business questions through LinkedIn Answers.
3) Organization: Today's LinkedIn email suggests asking questions in groups and via polls. This is highly ineffective for two reasons. First, groups are incredibly noisy places where people constantly try to promote themselves. In my experience, very little "real" discussion occurs in groups. Secondly, Polls have no categorization and are only viewed by connections. In LinkedIn Answers, I could ask my question in a specific category and get an answer from an expert in that category, regardless of whether I was connected to them or not.
4) Lead Generation: In the experience of my colleagues, clients, and myself, LinkedIn Answers was hands-down THE best lead generation tool on the site - perhaps even on the entire web. The psychological concept of reciprocity never failed me when I was answering questions on LinkedIn Answers. If I took the time to give a very thorough and helpful answer, the asker would nearly always write me back a personal message of thanks, and would often either ask to have a further discussion (hello, LEAD!), connect with me and follow me elsewhere (increasing my exposure to their network), and/or share my content with others (because it helped them so much). The "pay it forward" and "give to get" concepts that go along with answering questions on LinkedIn Answers never failed to get me leads and enhance my business presence on the web.
Where can I go for all of that now? Nowhere.
How LinkedIn Killed its Best Feature
LinkedIn greatly diminished the potential of its Answers feature by hiding it. It didn't even have it's own menu item in the site's main navigation. One had to click on the "More" menu item at the far right to find it.
I kid you not, just last night I gave a presentation about LinkedIn to 27 business professionals, of whom nearly all were members of LinkedIn. When I asked who had heard of LinkedIn Answers, not a single hand went up. I then proceeded to tell them about the feature and show them examples of how it had produced leads for me. Many were beyond excited to try it.
I now have to message them all and tell them that LinkedIn decided to remove this incredibly valuable lead-generating tool, and that there is nothing on the web as nearly as relevant for business people as this forum was.
What Great Feature will LinkedIn Kill Next?
First they nixed the Events feature (which was GREAT for driving business people to events like seminars and webinars), and now they killed their best lead-generator.
What feature do you think they will remove next?