Recently I discussed the business value of creating a LinkedIn group. In short, hosting such a group allows you to showcase your thought leadership, gain high quality leads, and communicate effectively with prospects.
As I stated at the end of this last post, I don’t intend to convince you of the value of a LinkedIn group only to leave you in the dark about how to create one.
Here I’ll divulge the practicals—the building blocks you need to create and manage a LinkedIn Group that will help you attain the reputation, resources, and leads you desire.
If you’ve been managing a group for a while and, whether due to misinformation or neglect, you aren’t reaping these rewards, a few simple tweaks can get you back on track.
Here are 4:
The name, or title, of your group is essential in drawing members to it. Be as specific as possible in the 48 characters you’re allotted. Don’t worry too much about being eye-catching. People are on LinkedIn for professional reasons, not to be entertained.
When users are scanning the Directory for groups to join they’ll pass over all those that don’t seem relevant.
When it comes to your group description, you’ll want the copy to be a bit more captivating. Those reading this description have selected your group knowing its focus. They’re interested in whatever it is you’re discussing, but if your description doesn’t paint you as the authority on the subject or show you have an interesting perspective on it, they’ll look for one that does.
Have you ever gone to a party and thought “This would be so much fun if only so-and-so weren’t here.”? As host of your LinkedIn group you don’t have to deal with unwanted guests, in fact you shouldn’t.
Though it does take time, you want to pre-approve all new members. In her recent post for Social Media Examiner, Stephanie Sammons recommends confirming each member has the following:
• Profile picture
• Membership of 30+ days
• Criteria to fit membership (Do they work in your industry? Live in your area?)
If you allow anyone to enter your group, anyone can post. Those who don’t fit your criteria may share content that’s not valuable and distracts from your main discussion. Competitors can spammers may also damage your group’s reputation.
If you want your group to run smoothly, you have to establish a strict set of guidelines. These guidelines should establish what type of content can be published on the group page and how often members can contribute.
If you don’t set this in stone, you’ll likely have members self-promoting left and right and your group page will scream SPAM. LinkedIn Groups are meant to serve as discussion panels where users can gain valuable insights and resources. Clearly articulate this in your policy. Define what discussion is and penalize members who don’t use the group for this purpose.
You’ll want to have this policy written before you launch your group. Post it on the group page and also send it out in welcome e-mails to new members as they filter in.
As leader of the group, it’s your job to get the conversation going. Before creating your group, do some research on your target market (chances are this is the same market to which your business appeals, so you likely have this research on hand). What are their interests? What questions might they have?
Generate conversation with either an interesting piece of information (news from a latest study perhaps) or a thought-provoking question. After a while, your members will become comfortable enough with each other to engage in and incite conversation on their own, but in the first few weeks they’ll be looking to you for fuel.
Even after these weeks there will be times when the conversation falters. I recommend having a reserve of interesting content to offer at these times. That way, if you notice a lull when you’re swamped at work, you can simply go to your rainy day folder and pick out the piece on top.