LinkedIn Groups are similar to Facebook Pages in that they provide businesses with an avenue for leading discussions on a topic of interest with members of the LinkedIn network. With Groups, you can build thought leadership, share expertise, market your brand and grow your network. If you’re thinking about starting a LinkedIn Group, this post should help to get the ball rolling.
Preparing to Start a New Group
Before you start creating the group in LinkedIn, brainstorm the topics you want your group to be about and do a little research. Search for those topics in the Groups Directory to see what already exists. If the group that you want to create already exists, don’t give up hope just yet. Take a closer look at those groups to see if they’re active and have a decent number of members. Plenty of people start groups without following through.
If your topic does have active groups, look for a gap. Can you narrow the topic? Combine it with another topic? A little mind mapping may help find a unique twist on your topic.
Picking a name for your group is important. You could name the group after your brand, but doing this may turn away potential members who don’t use your brand yet are very interested in your topic. Browse the group names on offer. Would you want to be a member? Remember that LinkedIn lists the groups you’ve joined in your profile unless you turn off the visibility setting. As you think about a name and topic for your group, consider whether members would want to have the name showing in their profile.
Creating and Promoting Your Group
By this point, you have your name, topic and purpose of the group figured out. While writing the description of the group, include the keywords that will help people find your group. Before promoting, list the group on the Groups Directory and add content such as tips, links to valuable articles related to your topic and upcoming webinars and events. Posting some content to the group before promoting it is a good idea, as it gives people a taste of what to expect if they join the group.
Once you have posed some content to the group, you’re ready to start promoting it. Mention your group to all of your social media and marketing resources. Put it in your email signature. Add it to your web site and blog. Tweet about it. Post information about the group in your LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Buzz and other social media status updates. When promoting the group, let prospective members know what they will get out of it. You could write a blog post about the group outlining what’s in it for the reader.
Maintaining Your Group
As the group owner, you can send emails to group members. These emails have a high deliverability rate because most email services recognize LinkedIn’s email address, which lowers the rate of ending up in the spam folder. Take care in balancing how many email messages you send to the group. I’ve left some groups and changed my settings for others because they sent too many messages that overwhelmed me more than they helped me.
You may want to assign the “group manager” role to colleagues to help out in maintaining the group. Group managers have the same administrative access as the group owner, which includes managing membership and discussion. The only actions the manager cannot do is transfer ownership and close the group.
“Group moderators” have the ability to police and delete group content, manage RSS feeds and feature a discussion. Moderators cannot control invitations and requests to join the group, or make changes to settings. Group members join the group and control their own settings on how other group members and the owners can contact them, and how to receive notifications from the group.
Groups can have subgroups, which can be useful for some businesses. For example, the GigaOM Network could create a group page and each publication (WebWorkerDaily, jkOnTheRun, etc.) could be a subgroup.
Think of a group as providing valuable information just like in a blog or email newsletter. The best and most successful blogs, email newsletters and groups focus more on providing value and less on promotion.
How does your business or brand use LinkedIn?
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