As you may know, the value of LinkedIn Groups is in the interactions among its users. But before the Discussions feature was introduced, there was another tool that stimulated such interaction: Answers. Actually, the concept is pretty simple: People ask questions and others answer them.

This feature allows you to give and receive help from the network on one hand and raise your visibility and credibility on the other. Just by answering people’s questions, you can broadcast your expertise and boost your personal branding.

If others on LinkedIn are exposed to your expertise, they may decide to award you “expert points.” These points are granted when a person asking a question selects what he considers to be the best answer.

Once you have gained some expert points you will be listed in the experts directory, which will raise your profile. How many points you need to qualify depends on the category you are in. In some categories there are only a few questions and also only a few people who answer them, so it’s easier to get into the experts list. But your visibility will therefore be limited.

Because the categories are open to everybody worldwide, this might not be where you want to focus your attention and time. Answering questions in the Groups that you have chosen gives you much faster visibility and more credibility. However, in Groups you can’t earn expert points.

The advantage of Answers, on the other hand, is that all the answers are stored and visible for everybody months after you have answered a question. So once you have taken the time to answer a question, you will benefit from the rise in visibility for months afterward. (Answers in Groups are not searchable and can only be browsed by people who are members of that Group.)

Whichever approach to choose, LinkedIn is an effective method for demonstrating your expertise and increasing your visibility.

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Jan Vermeiren is the founder of Networking Coach, author of the best-sellers “Let’s Connect!” and “How to REALLY use LinkedIn” and a well-known international networking and referrals speaker. For more information, go to his blog at http://www.janvermeiren.com/.