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Blogging is both art and tax. Good blogging means turning a steady flow of useful ideas into interesting content. Bloggers must be good writers. And developing a readership takes a lot of time each day and week. So it’s not unusual for busy salespeople to worry that they’ll never really leverage the medium, tending instead to go for quick contributions in their Facebook updates. Yet there is opportunity in between the blog and the burst, providing ample opportunity to show off your knowledge, influence your contacts and develop new business. It’s called LinkedIn Answers, and it may just be the answer you need.

LinkedIn’s Answer forums provide an alternative to creating, maintaining and distributing a blog, while still accomplishing the tasks of and idea exchange that can grow your online presence. The online forum contains literally thousands of questions and answers from the social network’s members, each one a potential opportunity for real estate professionals to show off their smarts and demonstrate their willingness to help consumers.  And the format has certain advantages over blogging, including instant distribution, no requirement and a steady stream of issues to address – that already interest your potential consumers who are asking the questions.

A quick visit to the LinkedIn Answer area is all it takes to see how easily agents and brokers can leverage the forum to build their sphere of influence. LinkedIn starts by presenting you questions from people within your immediate connection network. Even if you don’t answer any of the questions, it’s an excellent research tool to see what’s on the mind of your contacts, in dozens of categories both personal and professional. You can drill down into specific areas which interest you and in which you have expertise. Beyond the obvious choices like “Personal Real Estate” the possibilities to be helpful seem endless.

li3Answering questions is far simpler than blogging, because it’s just a “fill in the box” approach. No graphics or text formatting. Just focus on the question and write a direct answer. No opening paragraphs or closing statements needed. It’s not article writing, so it’s fast. Likewise, you can answer the main question, then clarify or add more ideas later, if others also answer and a conversation develops.

Contacts who ask the questions can also “rate” your Answer. This creates the opportunity to be a “top rated” specialist in different categories, which can lead to new contacts as others see you listed as a subject matter expert. Even if you don’t make the top rated lists, though, you’re likely to make a new contact at least half of the time, since many people like to just read the exchanges, then reach out and connect with some of the participants whose ideas interest or intrigue them.

With each answer you post, you can also suggest web links to helpful resources. Adding links back to your personal or company website maximizes each answer’s opportunity to generate traffic back to your inventory and services, without paying for search engine clicks. Answers are also stored in the system permanently (at least so far) which lets you maximize each response to influence others, especially new users who enter the social network each day.

Answering others’ questions is the easiest way to meet new contacts and grow your business, but posing questions can also provide a wealth of business opportunity. Asking questions encourages your contacts to interact with you on issues that directly affect your business. You can gauge their sense of the market, address hot topics and become a resource to your network. Posing questions also provides “contextual” information about your contacts values, perspectives and desires on certain topics, in a way that a basic poll or survey does not allow. A strategic series of questions can help you discover the answer to the question, “What does my customer value?” which you can use to create competitive advantages by tailoring your services.

For many agents and brokers, blogging may be just beyond their desire to develop. Social networks like LinkedIn provide powerful alternatives to engage consumers and expand your sphere of influence using essentially the same “idea exchange” techniques as a blog. Incorpoating the LinkedIn Answers forums into your weekly social networking activities should become a powerful part of your plan, to leverage your experiece and expand your social influence online.