Personally, I think groups are going to be an exciting growth area for LinkedIn. LinkedIn groups provide a destination for like-minded individuals to congregate, with the added bonus of transparency amongst the members, a feature allowing them to recognize each other’s professional background and the experiences they can bring to the discussion. One of its key values is its ability to act as a marketing tool for brands by creating a platform where brands can engage customers on topics they’re passionate about. However, managing LinkedIn groups require a slightly different approach, particularly if you’re looking to create a community within the group.
Firstly, a group is different from a company page. A company page is designed to be focused on your company’s specific offerings; a company page tends to be more attuned to people familiar with your brand, who would like to receive relevant content that tells them more about you. These people have undertaken the process of locating you, or have actively decided to follow you, a fact which provides you with a bit more freedom to talk about your brand. A Group, however, should be focused around a topic that has a natural connection to your brand and less on directly promoting your brand or company. People should join the group because they are interested in the topic, not your company. Over time, the audience will create a natural connection with the topic and your brand, through an earned connection, which is much more valuable.
Once you’ve decided a group is right for you, here’s a guide on how to create one:
Step one: Picking a theme.
Think about a theme that your customers are interested in and would be willing to share their thoughts and opinions on. Look for a topic/topics that you feel your company could provide a relatable point-of-view, to help start new discussions or facilitate existing ones started by other members. By supporting your customers in their key business issues and challenges this way, you are helping to position your brand as a thought leader in the area.
DO: Pick a theme that is interesting, and has a natural connection to your brand.
DO: Make sure you clearly articulate your theme through your group name and description.
Step two: Management Structure
Since the level of transparency is so high within the group, contributions cannot just be left to the marketing team. Make an effort to find a quote-worthy and interesting person to be the owner of the group, where he/she will act as a figurehead and will be free to participate as a contributor, but is not required to. You will need managers, who will be responsible for setting up the group structure, appointing moderators, developing the content calendar and approving membership requests. Next, you will have moderators to keep an eye on the content and ensure that members are sticking to the group policy, i.e. feature interesting discussions, flag or delete inappropriate content. Lastly, you will need key members from your company who will act as knowledgeable members of the community, where their role is to raise, comment on/reply discussions and participate in Q&As. A successful group needs a team that is going to ensure the community runs like a freshly-oiled machine.
DO: Have a well-organized hierarchy of administration for your group, ensuring that all participants know their roles and responsibilities.
Step three: Acquisition strategies
It’s highly suggested that you screen new members, as it’s important to get the right people in your group, people who are not only your target audience, but who are going to be able to contribute effectively to your group. LinkedIn provides a number of options for paid promotion, including in-mail group recommendations and promotional banners. The benefit of these options is such that you are able to refine targeting to find people who are the most valuable to your group. You should also employ other channels of promotion, such as cross platform promotion, utilizing email databases and any other avenue you have to contact your customers. Your group should eventually be able to grow organically, but it may need a little help to get going at the initial stages.
DO: Screen group membership.
DO: Use various methods of promotion (paid/unpaid) to maximize effective membership.
Step four: Engagement Strategy
While one of the benefits of a LinkedIn group is that you will receive organic engagement from your active members, you will still need to ensure you have an engagement strategy to achieve branding success.
DO: Develop a content calendar that looks to contribute discussion that can add value to the group. Since discussions need to be posted by a person (rather than a company), content can include their thoughts, experiences, observations, or opinions.
With such a strong focus on personal interaction, you will need to ensure that you have active participation from employees who are experts within the scope of your theme. These people should be the key members who are posting and interacting, as they are the ones who will increase the credibility of your brand. Consumers today are losing trust in traditional media, they trust people like themselves, they trust expertise and they are searching for expertise. Social media, more specifically LinkedIn groups, provide the opportunity to demonstrate expertise in an engaging environment. Groups can be just as valuable to your employees as it can be to customers; they have the ability to learn firsthand what problems their products are solving and what customers want and need.
DO: Craft discussions to be open-ended, they could even appear a little provocative.
DO: Aim for quality, not quantity, and include contextual information where possible.
DO: Keep the language simple, asking questions is a great way to get people engaged and involved in discussions.
DO: Be human, honest and respectful, posts often work better when they are written in the first person, and never use automated responses.
Step Five: Rewarding Valuable Members
Within the group you’ll find that there are some members who are much more active than others in making valuable contributions. Consider rewarding them for their efforts, this is a great opportunity for your brand to build a relationship with these members. The reward could be as simple as providing them with a platform to lift their profile within the group (through group announcement), one-to-one time with experts from your company or even personal invitations to events. While each company will be different in how they choose to reward their valued members, it’s important to keep in mind that the rewards will play a part in helping to foster continued participation and spur greater contribution from others.
DO: Put in effort to plan appropriate rewards for contributing members.
Step Six: Take advantage of opportunities
Depending on the type of business you are, through developing a successful LinkedIn group, you have created the opportunity to engage potential customers. These customers will be going to your group with business problems seeking solutions and expertise from other group members, providing your key members with the perfect opportunity to engage the potential customer with a solution based on their expertise. This is the best and easiest way to achieve a return-on-investment from your community.
DO: Make use of discussions to engage potential buyers with custom solutions by your experts.
Step Seven: Making use of LinkedIn’s features
Analytics is always an important part of building any community. Be sure to continually measure the effectiveness of your efforts through constant observations, test and learn approaches and LinkedIn analytics tools. If you spend the right amount of money on paid media, LinkedIn will also provide you with a more tailored option of analytics for the group, which can be very useful. In addition, if you are looking to create a truly exceptional group, LinkedIn also provides the option to pay for premium display units within your group. This display unit can act as a content hub or something even more compelling, to create a richer in-group experience.
DO: Use the appropriate tools to constantly monitor and evaluate your efforts. LinkedIn has a variety of options for different purposes and budgets!
As LinkedIn continues to grow, now with 277m members worldwide*, the platform is moving beyond well being a destination for your curriculum vitae. We are seeing an increase in focused content being published on both brand and personal pages, content that transforms LinkedIn into an engaging social network platform designed to provide you with a wealth of information highly relevant to your career. Groups are going to be where people come to converge; you just need to make sure your brand is involved in the discussion.