I was talking to a client the other day who has a clear value around sharing good information. Sure, he'd like it if it led to business for him, but the truth is, he likes being helpful, regardless. I have a similar core value. I mentioned  Linkedin’s Answers function and he allowed that he'd never bothered to even try it. That's an opportunity missed -- both for biz dev and reputation management, not to mention general helpfulness.

One of the problems for him was overcoming a fear that answering would take up too much of his time. And it darn well could. But if you choose categories carefully, and only answer questions you think you have a good chance of hitting out of the park (Go, Giants!), you can really cut down on the amount of time it takes to do this. I give myself 15 minutes daily.

Another way to save time is to write the answers more quickly, and in a way that allows you to use them elsewhere, like a FAQ. (This is what I counseled my client to do).

Creating a good answer is as easy as 1, 2, 3:

1. Organize your thoughts. Try jotting down your main idea and just enough supporting details using the cleverly named IDEA-DETAILS strategy:

MAIN IDEA (The one most important thing you want your audience to know): Demand is increasing for communications workshops that improve quality and productivity.

KEY DETAILS (Significant examples, explanations, evidence that support your main idea):

  • Fewer human & capital resources make productivity more valuable
  • Internal (emails) & external (marketing) comms are crucial in tough times
  • Same skills useful for outplacement

2. Be concise. The best answers are the ones that provide just enough information in as few words as possible. Here’s the actual answer I created from the notes above:

3. Post links to other helpful online resources first, then to your blog, website or Twitter account.

Inc. magazine started its own answers application (Ask Inc.) specifically for small business owners. Look for similar apps aligned with industry groups that are relevant to you.

Sharing valuable information via answers apps like these allows you to show what you know to a very broad audience in and outside your current network. Chances are good that some of those folks can be of value to you and your enterprise. So what are you waiting for?

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Credit for the Idea-Details strategy goes to my talented husband, Steve Peha. © 1995-2011 Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc. Used by permission.