Looking for answers? Social media is a great way to find what you need. Whether it’s crowdsourcing an idea, looking for the best way to accomplish a daunting task or asking how others have experienced something – tapping into your online communities has become a good way to find answers. The question is, which social network is the best for finding those answers? Is in Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora… or how about the new Google+?
About seven months ago, I started researching the answer to this question. For many of the previous posts I wrote for this blog, I posed questions in multiple social media channels to see what kinds of response I would get and where the best ones would come from. This not only gave me research for those blogs, it gave me research for this one. What I found was that different channels work well for different things. However there was one that consistently gives me the best information.
LinkedIn Answers Gives The Best Answers.
Overall, I found that posting questions in the Answers section of LinkedIn gives me more answers and better resources. This is partially because it’s an area where business professionals look to provide help and answers in their specific areas of expertise. It is really the only social network where you get answers from people who are not connected to you in any way. I usually got more extras here too – links to articles, blog posts, videos and more.
For example, since LinkedIn is a social site used a lot for recruitment, it was no surprise that when I was asked “is social media killing placement ads and should it?” the most relevant responses came from this source. But, regardless of the question, I almost always got great responses here.
Facebook is the Place for Personal Answers
Like many people, I keep Facebook as a fairly closed community, consisting of only people I know personally. Granted I have nearly 450 “friends” so they’re obviously not all close chums,. But they’re not random people I’ve never meet either. So, it when my research felt more personal or was something my friends and family would be passionate about, more responses showed up in my Facebook feed.
I would usually get some responses on Facebook regardless of my questions. But, the more personal the question, the more response. When I wanted to find out “how social media is affecting your relationship with your kids,” I heard from a lot of my Facebook friends. It was a more personal question and people are passionate about their kids. These being people I’m more closely connected to, they were much more likely to open up and reach out to me on the subject. I got a lot of great feedback and quotes for my post.
Twitter is Great for Making Connections
I found that Twitter was probably the worst tool for just putting out random questions. Even though it is my largest social community, it’s also my least personal. And its transitory nature means your question will go by most of your community without them even seeing it. Yes, I still got some answers here, especially from the group within Twitter that I have personal relationships with. But used a different way, Twitter was more effective than any other social network.
I found that Twitter is the best way to reach out to people directly, whether they knew me personally or not. When writing the post about social media and your kids, I direct messaged some mommy bloggers I knew and got some great insight from them. When I was working on the post “8 ways social media pros use tablets every day” the majority of the quotes I got were initiated through Twitter DMs. This included getting great material from social media luminaries like Ann Handley and Christopher S. Penn. These are people with huge followings that would have never even seen a question floating out there among the thousands. But they were happy to help when asked personally in a personal way.
Quora as a Research Tool
I don’t have a large community here, but the “similar questions” function of Quora is a very useful tool for research. When I was working on the post “5 ways to use social media to raise money for your cause” only one person answered my question on Quora. But through Quora’s suggestion of similar questions, I found some good information to augment what I knew from personal experience and was getting through LinkedIn and Facebook.
All in all, social media is great for finding the answers you need. Each channel has its strengths and using them in combination works best. How about you? What’s worked for you and what have you learned through your social networks? I’d love to hear about your experiences and in the process we can see how the “blogs” channel works for getting social answers.
Photo by Walknboston