As of today there are 1,384,118 groups on LinkedIn, a number that’s growing by a few thousand a week. One has to admire the LinkedIn strategist who conceived of and productized this popular feature. There are personal and business groups for everything under the sun; and the ubiquity of LinkedIn makes joining groups a breeze. But looking at this number makes me wonder how many of these groups are “active,” and fulfill the hopes of the group owners who started them. This question is especially important for groups that are part of an integrated marketing strategy whose maintenance consumes valuable company resources. While LinkedIn groups may be a free service, the daily management of them certainly is not. In supporting marketing campaigns on social media, I’ve managed LinkedIn groups that were wildly successful and those that were not. The principal difference between the two can be broken down into four areas:
Reason to Exist: This is Business 101—think of your group as a product in a busy and competitive marketplace and ask yourself “Is there sufficient demand for what I’m offering?” Is my group differentiated from others? What’s the true value derived by group members? Is the cost of the group worth that value? Because groups are free to join, the cost is your members’ time that could be spent in other ways. Start by writing a clear problem statement and then assess the potential to solve that problem with a LinkedIn group versus other tools and tactics.
Strong Foundation: Choose a distinct, clear and simple group name and ensure you select an optimal image. Use common search terms to help potential members find you. They will be your group’s first impression to potential members. A well-written group profile is your next step. Put into words your reason for being and define the value of group membership. Create group rules and be clear about what types of behavior are unwelcome. Initiate a simple “welcome” discussion and begin inviting members. Start with a smaller group of core members and look to grow as appropriate over time. Communicate personally with each new member, start building a relationship with them, and check in to ensure they are finding value in the group. Building a robust group isn’t instantaneous; you need to continue to build, market the group via other social channels and be ready for a long-term commitment in order to reach your goals. If budget is available, LinkedIn has multiple advertising options worth investigating to help drive growth.
Content Strategy: An active group requires content to feed the pipeline. Discussions allow you to pose questions and highlight content such as webpages, PDFs, videos, etc. Conduct a simple content/asset audit to see how much you have to offer and what you’ll need to produce over time. Develop a simple editorial calendar and fill in the gaps to ensure enough topics, questions and assets for the foreseeable future. Invest time in quality content creation and ensure that the subject matter is useful to group members. Periodically poll the members about what they want and need.and be ready for a long-term commitment in order to reach your goals. If budget is available, LinkedIn has multiple advertising options worth investigating to help drive growth.
Community Manager: A driver asleep at the wheel will always veer off the road. The group manager needs to take a proactive stance and check in every day. Alerts can be set up to notify the manager of new discussions, comments, messages, requests to join, etc. Responses should occur within 24 hours. One-on-one interactions are equally as important as group discussions. Discussions and comments in violation of group rules should be immediately removed, and violators warned. The manager sets the tone and culture of the group while driving the content strategy, learning from the group and course-correcting over time.
It’s true that a good portion of learning social media tools and tactics comes down to trial and error. However, you need a proper context and strategy to conduct your trials in a purposeful way. Don’t start a LinkedIn group without a plan. There are no guarantees of success for your group; however, a lack of planning and action in the four areas above guarantees disappointment.
Are you a part of a successful LinkedIn group? Which one? What’s working well? Ever abandoned a LinkedIn group? Why?