Becoming an Expert In LinkedIn

October 8th, 2008 | by Jason Alba |

Recently I got my hand slapped by a LinkedIn connection who was upset about a question I asked on LinkedIn.  I asked what the beef was, thinking that person thought I was self-promoting, or something like that.  No, it wasn’t that… the contact said I asked a question that was based on opinion, and the purpose of LinkedIn Answers is to identify or hear from experts, and how in the world could I draw experts out with a question based on opinion?

So I did some digging.  Here’s what LinkedIn says about “becoming an expert:

Earning Expertise

When you see this star on a profile, you know that person has proven their expertise by answering questions.

Earning expertise is easy:

  1. Find questions in the areas you know
    Browse questions to find categories familiar to you
  2. Answer those questions
    Remember, private answers won’t help you earn expertise
  3. Every time the questioner picks your answer best, you gain a point of expertise
    The more points of expertise, the higher you appear on lists of experts

So let me understand this… you aren’t a LinkedIn expert because you have expertise in anything, rather, you can earn expertise each time a “questioner picks your answer as best.”

You could be totally wrong, overly opinionated, or even have a weak argument or position, and still have the best response there.  Oh wait, it’s not the best as judged by everyone, it’s the best based on the person who asked the question.

That person may be biased, or a dimwit.  And you could still become an expert, as far as LinkedIn is concerned.

I have to say, I completely disagree with the person who hand-slapped me.  LinkedIn Answers is a great place to ask for factual stuff, sure, but so is Google.  I want to tap into my LinkedIn network to get opinions, positions, and experiences… none of which have to be from an expert.  Some of the best answers out there are from people who are not experts, rather, they have their own personal experiences.

Also, I think you can see the flawed logic in LinkedIn’s idea of becoming an expert.  But I kind of like it.  I’m not head-over-heels in love with it, and if I see you are an expert my first thought is “oh, you just had enough “best answers” to become an expert, … maybe no one else answered good enough!”  But it does show me that you had enough “good enough.”

I personally put more weight in the Recommendations than whether or not someone is an expert.

What do you think?  Did you even know about LinkedIn experts before?  Something you might aspire to?

  1. 5 Responses to “Becoming an Expert In LinkedIn”

  2. By Scott Allen on Oct 8, 2008 | Reply

    I totally agree with you regarding asking opinion questions. Senator Obama, assisted by LinkedIn, once asked the question: “How can the next president better help small business and entrepreneurs thrive?” Given all the genuine experts at his disposal, why ask on LinkedIn? Self-promotion? Maybe. But I’m sure there were a couple of staffers actually reading the responses to see if anyone said anything brilliant and to get an overall view of the sentiment.

    So opinion questions are fine, and clearly acceptable to LinkedIn.

    Regarding expertise, I prefer the fact that answers are rated by the person who asked the question, not by the crowd. Crowds can do a lot of things right, but they can do a lot of things wrong. What no one in the crowd can determine is which answer was most helpful to the asker.

    What I hope anyone with half a brain would realize, though, is that the number of “best answers” a person has received has very little correlation to their expertise, but is more about their activity level on LinkedIn Answers.

    For example, several people have discovered that a lot of the questions that people post in the Using LinkedIn category are already answered in the FAQ and can be answered by simply posting a link or copy/pasting, and the first person to answer usually receives the “best answer” award (not much point in anyone else even responding, usually). Does that mean you know more about how to use LinkedIn strategically for business? Or just that you have a lot of time on your hands to do some pretty basic work? Or maybe you’re paying someone in India a couple of bucks a day to do it for you to boost your profile! (I’ve actually thought about doing that, at least as an experiment)

    You suggest recommendations as a better alternative for determining expertise. Maybe so, but let’s face it, the person recommending someone could be biased, or a dimwit, or in some cases, not even know the person — at least not as an actual customer or business associate. I’ve had dozens of people who I actually know ask me for recommendations on some position, but I don’t know them in that context — I can’t and won’t provide an endorsement, but I’ve seen lots of people do it.

    The real algorithms for determining expertise are way more complex than LinkedIn is going to take on. Companies like Autonomy and Tacit have been working on those algorithms for years. As long as people recognize LinkedIn’s algorithms for what they are, no harm done.

  3. By Ari Herzog on Oct 8, 2008 | Reply

    Heh. If someone was an expert in networking with other people, he/she wouldn’t need LinkedIn.

  4. By Barry Groh on Oct 13, 2008 | Reply

    Jason,

    I am in complete agreement with you. I have not ever even chosen someone as an “expert” as to the answer they gave to one of my questions! I assume if they know anything, at least enough to feel comfortable responding, then they already are an expert.

    I would also much rather have a recommendation or more than been seen as an “expert”. A recommendation says someone has worked with me, known me, or has been impressed with what I have done or do. THAT speaks volumes more to me, and I believe to the public, than whether they are considered “experts”.

  5. By Charles Caro on Oct 17, 2008 | Reply

    The conventional wisdom definition of an “expert” has more to do with the degree to which the direct audience, which in the case of a LinkedIn Q&A question would be the person asking the question, accepts the answer as being provided than a full consideration of all possible relevant facts. In short, the difference between a “crank” and an “expert” lies in the eyes of the beholder, which would be the person asking the question. When you think about it that is what most people do in real life even when they are confronted with multiple so-called “expert” opinions.

  6. By Jan Vermeiren on Oct 17, 2008 | Reply

    Hi Jason,

    I also think you’re “right”.

    For me the questions are what they are: questions. And questions in real life can be anything.

    About the expert discussion: maybe LinkedIn should have different categories of questions. One of them could be “industry expertise questions” or “professional expertise questions” which are more facts based. Then it might be easier to label people as experts (of course it is still easier because the same remarks still apply).

    But anyway, I really like the functionality that LinkedIn has been adding to improve interaction between members. Especially the discussions in the groups.

    Have a great networking day !

    Jan

    Founder of Networking Coach (http://www.networking-coach.com)

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