While the most powerful feature of LinkedIn is — and will continue to be — the ability of a person to search and make connections with millions of potential contacts from their extended network, the part of the site that I think comes in second, in terms of usefulness, is the Answers page.

Have you discovered this feature of LinkedIn yet?  It’s truly an amazing place where thousands of LinkedIn members ask and answer a huge variety of questions related to cutting-edge business and career topics.  In fact, I’m such a big believer in the power of this page that I led a whole workshop the other day around it for a group of around 40 job seekers.  In this session, I insisted that each member of the group actually roll up their sleeves and post a question to the Answers section, themselves, while we were all sitting there, since I wanted to go beyond “theory” and make sure everybody got firsthand exposure to what this part of the site could do.

In facilitating this event, however, one of the attendees asked a pretty shrewd question.  He asked whether posting a question on LinkedIn could ever “backfire” by revealing an area of weakness or vulnerability in one’s professional skill set.  Once you’ve posted a question, after all, it gets permanently attached to your LinkedIn profile where anybody who comes across you on the system (including employers and recruiters) can see it.  So let’s say you’re a marketing professional who really hasn’t had the chance to learn much about Internet and social media marketing during your career to date.  If you were to post a question like “What are the best ways to learn about Internet marketing?” or “How would one measure the success of an e-mail marketing campaign?” you might inadvertently signal to a recruiter that you don’t know your stuff — damaging your candidacy for a job.

Luckily, there are two ways a professional can get around this issue, even though the odds of having this situation come up are still rather slim.  The first way one can feel comfortable asking potentially “silly” questions is to post the question, give people at least a few days to respond, then go into the “My Q&A” section on the Answers tab and “hide” the question from further viewing.  If your question hasn’t yet been posted for a full week, you’ll have to “close” it first before you can hide it, but once you do, you’re good to go — and nobody else will be able to see the question from that point forward, other than yourself.  For further instructions on how this process works, click here.

Another way you can get around this issue, that sometimes works even better, is to outsource your question to a friend of yours on the system.  Simply have another person ask the question, on your behalf, and then you can monitor the responses they receive without being directly implicated.  I’ve done this for a number of clients in the past, myself, and have simply phrased the question as “One of my clients asked me the other day if…” when posting it.  The responses have been pretty good and in this scenario, I could care less whether or not somebody out there thinks I don’t know my stuff about a topic like Internet marketing, since that’s not my field of expertise.

So if you haven’t yet taken full advantage of the Answers page on LinkedIn due to fears about confidentiality issues and such, you’ve now got two good options for getting around this challenge.  I’d only use these tactics as a last resort, however, since there honestly aren’t too many questions one could ask that would seriously undermine their professional credentials.  If you’ve got a “doozy” you’re dying to get feedback around, though, these are the routes you could go!