If you are reading this, then you are probably a designated contributor, expert, or author in an online community or branded social media network (powered by Brainsy) and someone wants to hear from you. The objective of the network in which you are participating is likely to share knowledge, expertise, or opinions and to be a valuable resource for others. If you get asked a question, then it’s your chance to share knowledge with others (and to showcase your own opinion or expertise). Understand that if your network is open to the public, then your response may get widespread distribution throughout the network and far beyond (via search engines).
Therefore, here are a few tips on writing a good answer to a Q&A.
- Be on topic (don’t change the subject). It’s ok to cover related topics as the question itself may reveal more than one knowledge gap and you can address multiple issues. But your objective should always be to address the question in the most direct way possible.
- Be authoritative. Share your credentials or explain why you have first-hand experience that makes your knowledge and judgement authoritative on a particular topic. In fact, touting credentials can be helpful either in your response or in your profile’s biography so if the reader wishes to learn more about you, they can. Most of your authority, however, will come from responding in-depth and professionally to the question.
- Reference other sources. If appropriate and your editing tools allow for it (each participant may have different permissions on the network), you can hyperlink to other resources including your own web properties elsewhere. You may be able to hyperlink / highlight keywords (again, each participant may have different permissions on different networks) and by pointing those to your own web properties, it can help with your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.
- Strike the right tone. Tone matters. Consider the view of the person asking the question and while it’s true that “One fool may ask more than seven wise men can answer. - G. Torriano (1666)” most questions are posted in earnest so don’t make the person feel like a fool for asking a question.
- Proofread. A good answer is well organized, grammatically correct, has correct spelling and proper punctuation. This contributes to the professionalism of the AMA or Q&A experience and adds credibility to your response. Bad grammer and spelling is noticable and leves a baad impresion.
- Use humor when appropriate. Most people appreciate (good) humor. Empathy is a plus as it helps reveal that you understand the root of the question.
- Keyword stuff. Above we mentioned that you may be able to highlight a keyword and link to your site. And this can be good for SEO. But don’t stuff a bunch of keywords in your response in an attempt to get Google or the other search engines to rate you more highly. Google can see through that and we can too. Excessive keyword stuffing may hurt all the Q&A entries on the site and be cause for deletion of your response (or loss of your Q&A privileges).
- Be sarcastic or condescending. Again, tone is important (see above).
- Reply with a one-word or one-line answer. A big no, no. Unless someone has asked you to reply “yes” or “no,” a one-word (or one-line) answer becomes content clutter that doesn’t add much value for the other participants. You can pass on a question if you don’t have the time or inclination to answer it. And we encourage you to report any questions that are inappropriate.
Quality responses may get better distribution on the network in which you’re participating (and beyond) so prepare a response that you and others in your community can be proud of.