If you're a fan of LinkedIn Answers, this will be a sad week for you. LinkedIn confirmed earlier this month that it will shut the service down Jan. 31. For many, it’s the end of a valuable resource for research, connecting to peers and even finding new leads and customers.
But don't mourn too much. If Answers was a feature you successfully mined on a regular basis, there are alternatives available for you to continue your success. The Internet provides plenty of fertile ground for you if you're ready and willing to move on.
Here are 3 alternatives where you can quickly adapt to your needs:
One of the well known rivals to Answers, Quora, was already seeing strong growth even before LinkedIn made its announcement. The site has grown more than 350% since 2011 and now boasts 150 million visitors. You can ask questions, answer questions and follow particular topics and question threads.
For example, if your expertise is email marketing, you can search and follow feeds on the topic as a whole or individual question threads. You can seek out unanswered questions to demonstrate your expertise or search for answered questions that relate to a problem you're trying to solve.
Quora has a Facebook feel to it, which isn't surprising, since it was developed by two former Facebook executives. It's simple to navigate and easy to use.
2. Google+ Communities
We wrote just a few weeks ago that a dedicated plan to use Google+ should be on your resolution list for 2013. The demise of Answers gives you yet another reason to go there and take advantage of Google+ Communities, a promising replacement.
Many Google+ Communities function as professional forums—places where you can go to ask or answer specific questions of your peers. There are hundreds of Communities to follow, from very specific niche groups to broad-based Communities with thousands of members. Chances are there is a group for your industry. If not, you can start one.
Google+ Communities don’t have the same number of active members as LinkedIn. But given the specific nature of some of the groups, this is a great option.
3. Twitter Chats
Twitter often gets overlooked when it comes to its value as a research tool. But if you're looking for an alternative to LinkedIn Answers, staking out related Twitter Chats is a great alternative to find people and ideas related to your area of interest.
In a Twitter Chat, users join on Twitter at a regular time to discuss an area of interest. All participating users can speak, identifying their remarks with a unifying hashtag. For example, a group of B2B marketers meets at 8 p.m. ET every Thursday using the hashtag #B2Bchat, which you can monitor in your Twitter feed and ask and answer questions.
Unlike Answers, the chats are in real time and can move quickly, though most chats are archived on a related website so you can search for topics of particular interest.
In its official announcement about the retirement of Answers, LinkedIn said it would continue to develop "new and engaging ways to share and discuss professional topics across LinkedIn." The company also encouraged users to use LinkedIn Groups or Status Updates to continue their conversations. That doesn't offer much consolation for those who found success using the Q&A format.
While the list above is not exhaustive by any means, it will give you a good start to finding an alternative to LinkedIn Answers. Try them out and tell us what you think. If you know of another good Q&A site, let us know.
To learn more about using LinkedIn, download our "Complete Guide to LinkedIn Groups."