Becoming a Subject Matter Expert on LinkedIn via Questions & Answers

What are criteria for rating answers Best or Good?

Users of LinkedIn have been asking and answering Qs in Q&A for a while now. When one asks a Question, it’s good practice to go back and award ‘Good’ and ‘Best’ answers, as appropriate (and send a note to those rated Good or Best). 
What does one use as criteria for Good and Best? Is there an ideal number or percentage of “Good Answers” one should assign or do you just rate them as one’s fancy leads? 

What makes a good, quality Q&A? How would you rate the answers to one’s questions and why?

There is potential for increasing credibility, business proficiency, and recognition when answering questions as well as the question askers handing out a lot of “Good” answer rewards and recognitions.


The major criteria used in evaluating answers are, “Did they answer the question?” and “Did they answer all of the question?” This is more of a factor than one might think.  If the question is, “Which do you prefer, red or blue? Why?” invariably, someone will say, “Well, I don’t like either, but I do prefer yellow. This is why you should have included yellow…” The question they answered was, “What is your favorite color?” not “Which did they prefer, red or blue?” You will also get answers that will say, “Red,” but not answer “Why?”


1)         How much did the question and how much did the answer make me think? This helps especially if the view isn’t in line with one’s own. If there is pondering – long about something said – then there is something there.

2)         How much was learned from it? It doesn’t really matter if someone provides support material in their answer – one can always follow up with them.

3)         How entertaining was it? If they accomplished #1 and #2 and cracked a joke, it has value.

4)         How original was the answer? If I want Abraham Lincoln, I’ll go read him or ask him to answer the question. I like to hear people’s own ideas and experiences, not a regurgitation of others. But, references to subject matter experts can help if one understands why.

5)         What history does the person have in answering other questions? Repeat quality answerers like repeat quality customers are valuable to continue to build relationships.

6)         The answer is correctly written, with excellent grammar and syntaxes. It is a real and genuine pleasure when an answer meets these conditions in such a way that helps effectively to its readability and its comprehension.

7)         The answerer makes a genuine effort to communicate his/her ideas by applying the best of his/her knowledge and experience to add value to the discussion.

8)         Challenge preconceived assumptions and dogmas to offer an innovative analytic perspective that adds real value to my own learning process.

9)         Discard immediately all those answers coming from public domain sources like Wikipedia, because these may be found easily by making a focused search in Google.

10)      An answerer documents his/her response with statistical data, hard facts, and anecdotal evidence to bring a deep, well-documented and fresh perspective about an interesting and challenging topic from my own professional perspective.

11)      Short responses written in one-line sentences in most of the instances are judged negatively. These answers may be interpreted as a quick and superficial attempt of making a real and valuable contribution to the thematic discussion.

12)      The value of an answer in function of its applicability to real-life situations related day-to-day business contexts. When an answer is endorsed with proven experience in real business context, the response acquires an value from a professional perspective.

13)      Employing a dialogue with the author of a enlightened and outstanding answer to get a fresh and widen perspective for a theme mutually beneficial for both questioner and answerer.

14)      The inclusion of relevant links complementary to an answer helps to gain a wider comprehension about a theme sustained from different analytical perspectives for proper comprehension.

15)      Professional profile of the respondents for a clear correlation between professional experience and qualifications and perceived quality of the answer. This factor is the last one in being considered to avoid possible bias from a professional having an impressive professional profile and stellar qualifications.


16)      Was the questions responded to by a fly-by answer? There needs to be some value and demonstration of interest in the question beyond supplying another answer for tabulation.  (Unfortunately, LinkedIn hasn’t yet separated those who have answered the ‘most’ questions from those who have received the most ‘best’ answers as SME’s.)

17)      How did the person respond to follow up questions for elaboration? While this may not appear in the original answer, one appreciates folks who respond to inquires for clarification or elaboration.

18)      How many best answers does the person already have? The fewest or none receive preference. (Again, see # 16 above for the fallibility of the current system.)

19)      Were they the first to answer? I like folks who help me get the ball rolling, so the first answer has value in this regard.  (One wants to provide a solid basis answer to a thought-provoking question within the first ten responses. Otherwise, most LinkedIn folks are too busy to click through to the ‘next page’ of responses to read one’s highly qualified response, and the answer might never be seen!)


GOOD: If they answer the question and hit one or more of the secondary criteria, then they receive a good. If they don’t answer the question, then they don’t unless they are a repeat, quality answerer.

BEST: This isn’t as important to the questioner as it is to the answerer.  LinkedIn has a list of labeled SME’s but there is an issue of quality metrics within the system (as of April 2010). As it is, all someone has to do is answer, “I agree with (so & so),” or even crack a silly joke or add a pun, and that’s still considered an answer. Since one loses the right to select BEST if not used, make a selection anyway to help somebody.

One could easily have half or all answers rated “good.” It’s possible to get many good answers. Thanking people for answers or asking for elaboration dramatically increase the likelihood of quality responses; however, as mentioned above these do not enter the public record.  One doesn’t have set a number or percentage for GOOD answers. Rate it according to standards outlined above.  Use the same criteria to evaluate questions for answers with other LinkedIn profile owner’s effort – to get your name established as credible and a professional. If someone others (and oneself) values has asked or answered a question, one tends to be more likely to read those. Unless one can add value in a different way from other answerers, don’t leave an answer. Some read far more Q&A’s than they answer.

People like questions that challenge them to think and reflect, especially if about topics that are new or haven’t yet been considered. Readers also like those with links to research material on things they may be investigating. Don’t worry about experience or credentials unless it’s a technical issue. Good ideas will have value regardless of who says it.  Management Consultants may use Q&A in LinkedIn to not only find good answers, but also track down qualified folks who might be good business connections, a splendid hiring opportunity, or to acknowledge expert status.  If you continue to received “Best” answers in LinkedIn, you will start developing a following, and recognition as an expert in many of the subject areas in which one has focused.


Dawn Boyer is a doctoral student at Old Dominion University in the Darden College of Education, working on her PhD in Occupational Studies and Technology), as well as working as a (Doctoral) Graduate Teaching Assistant teaching computer science and technology to undergraduate students. Ms. Boyer has over 19 year of senior management experience in human resources, nine years in the defense-contracting arena. She also provides HR consulting services via D. Boyer Consulting to small businesses, including dynamically growing 8a set-aside defense companies, in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area. Her LinkedIn profile is: She accepts all LinkedIn invites via: Join her 4,600+ connections!

One Response

  1. Very informative article.

    I have found, in answering questions on LinkedIn, that some prefer to personally attack one who answers a question rather than point out why, in their opinion, the answer is incorrect or lacking, or ignoring it altogether.

    LinkedIn is not the place to decide ideological differences, but to ask and answer questions to share, inform, and, maybe, to build one’s reputation as a Subject Matter Expert. I’m very careful to keep to the point in my answers so I don’t offend and hopeful that we can all respect each other because I enjoy spending time on LinkedIn.

    Thank you for your time.

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