By: Jamie Lockard
LinkedIn Groups…ugh. Most people have a Love/Hate relationship with them. They love the “promise” of a group and the value they get from one that’s well-managed, but they hate the spam-y-ness and irrelevant chatter that some groups spew. However, done well, LinkedIn Groups can be an invaluable tool to growing your business-to-business endeavor. By following a few key principles, you’ll have a group that is growing, contributing and healthy, providing you with parallel avenues for business growth, as well. Simply put, all you need to do is plan, create and nurture your group for the greatest payoff.
Don’t just jump into creating your own LinkedIn group without an appropriate amount of market research. Learn first. Visit LinkedIn groups within your industry topic, groups that you admire and other large, successful groups to learn how they are managed and what they do to foster reciprocally valuable exchanges between members. Check out key influencers around your topic of interest, as well, to investigate methods for continuing dialog. Through this type of background research you will quickly identify the biggest responsibility with groups…that is, the management of a successful group takes immense commitment! Are you ready for this type of resource pull? Don’t start a group if you are not willing to dedicate substantial time to its success.
Once you’ve accepted the responsibility and fully understand the commitment required to run a LinkedIn Group, by all means ‘do it!’ Develop and document a clear marketing purpose for the group…
- What’s it about? What is the focus of the desired dialog?
Defining this helps eliminate ‘scope creep’ and keeps the group conversations relevant to its members. This becomes your litmus test for developing content for future group activity.
- Who is it for?
As with any good marketing plan, be very specific about your targeting.
- Why would folks want to become members and contribute?
Identify the benefits your group will be providing and why it’s meaningful for your members to participate. Ultimately, succinctly state what value your members will see.
- What are the rules of engagement?
Set expectations for member (and your own) behavior. The strongest LinkedIn groups have no tolerance for shameless self-promotion, spam or heavy-handed selling. Manage to these expectations.
Once you’ve physically created your group and have begun to invite others to join the discussion, stay committed to a consistent cadence of connection with members. Weekly outreach is paramount to maintaining ongoing relationships with members. However, keep in mind that the golden rule with LinkedIn Groups is to ‘Add Value Always’. Create dialog opportunities by asking, in addition to sharing…two-way vs. one-way. Encourage meaningful discussions where members have opportunities to provide value. Always keep top-of-mind your group’s charter (target, focus, relevancy, expectations) and provide content and dialog that consistently deliver against that promise.
While LinkedIn Groups are an enormous time commitment and responsibility to serving its members, they can payback exponentially for your business. A well-managed LinkedIn group can help establish you as an influencer among your targeted member base, foster strong relationships for you and your group members, and generate leads for growing your business. For additional resources and detailed tactics, check out these resources to learn more about LinkedIn Groups:
- “How and Why I Use LinkedIn Groups to Build My Business” By John Jantsch
- INBOUND 2015 I&E: Viveka Von Rosen “Effective Use of LinkedIn Groups in Your Marketing“
- “Six Ways to Grow a LinkedIn Group: Tips From the Pros” By Cindy King