LinkedIn Groups give you a way to accomplish several business objectives. You can use them to raise your visibility in the market, make new connections, establish yourself as a thought leader, and market your business.
Select Relevant Groups
So how do you determine which Groups to join? This will depend on what your objectives are, but most people will join Groups frequented by their target audience and Groups related to their industry. You can start by searching the directory of Groups by topic or keyword to see what turns up. You can also look at the Profiles of leaders in your industry to see which Groups they belong to.
Once you have found some relevant Groups, look at their Group Profile for more information about the purpose of the group. Group Statistics will show you how many members there are and their demographics. You also want to review how active the Group is in terms of discussions and comments. Look for Groups with high levels of engagement - the more comments, the better.
Participate in Discussions
When you join a Group the first step is to follow discussions to get an idea of the personality of the group. Next, jump into discussions by answering questions, asking questions and contributing your comments. You will only have time to consistently participate in 2-3 Groups at most, so monitor how these Groups are performing in terms of new connections and business opportunities for you. Keep in mind that this will take some time, don’t expect Groups to start generating business for you right away.
When you contribute to Groups, the way to use them most effectively is to provide value to the Group community. This can be in the form of insightful comments, linking to informative content and answering questions. What you want to avoid is blatant self promotion in discussions.
Develop New Connections
If it is not advisable to promote your business in Group discussions, then how do you benefit from participating in a Group? First, as you regularly contribute helpful comments and content to discussions, you will become more visible and other Group members will start to contact you. Once this happens you can begin to engage with them privately and let them know what solutions you have to offer.
Second, you can use Groups to expand your network. LinkedIn allows you to send invitations to connect with fellow Group members without having their email address. You can join up to 50 Groups on LinkedIn and you should take advantage of this in order to maximize your opportunities to develop new connections.
Start Your Own Group
The ultimate use of LinkedIn Groups involves starting your own Group. This has a number of advantages, but requires a commitment in order for it to be worthwhile.
The main advantage of becoming a Group owner is that it positions you as a thought leader. You are in control of the direction of the Group, who joins it, what comments appear in discussions and other aspects of the Group’s operation. Also, you can contact any Group member individually and send weekly or monthly announcements to the entire Group. As a result, a Group can be a powerful marketing tool for you.
It is advisable to focus the Group around an industry or topic rather than your company or brand. Your potential members will be interested in joining a Group that provides relevant business information, but they will not join a Group they perceive as promoting your business. Consequently the Group name should be a topic rather than a company name in most instances. For example, the Digital Marketing Group is managed by an organization called the Digital Donut.
The Group’s direction as described in the Summary and Description should address the needs of the audience you want to attract. This is why it is important to have a clear profile of the type of person you want as a Group member.
Your strategy regarding how you will use the Group to help grow your business also has to be clear. How will the positioning and relationships that you develop as a result of owning a Group fit into your overall marketing strategy? What types of cross-promotions will you do between your other marketing initiatives and your Group?
The main downside to owning a Group is the work involved. You have to set-up the Group which is relatively simple once you have a description of what it will be about. The work comes in with promoting the Group and building its membership. You can start by promoting the Group to your social network and encouraging them to share it with their networks. If you have an email list or direct mail list you can promote the Group to them as well.
Are you using LinkedIn Groups to grow your business? Let us know what is working for you.
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