Everyone wants to be an industry thought leader. Being recognized as an authority in your field gives you a dramatic advantage over your competitors, resulting in more inbound leads and faster company growth.
LinkedIn Groups offer you the opportunity to position yourself as an industry thought leader by giving you a way to connect with other thought leaders and put your content in front of people that would not otherwise see it.
LinkedIn groups can essentially be looked at as part seminar/part networking event/part job fair and part industry newsletter. They are a naturally segmented audience and a great place for you to quickly build authority for yourself and your business if you use them wisely.
Here are a few tips on how to really use LinkedIn Groups to your advantage:
Select the Right Groups
Picking the right groups to join is possibly the most critical step in building authority on LinkedIn. You must find groups that discuss a topic related to your content that are also active. You can start this process by going to the Groups page on LinkedIn and searching for your topic. Doing this will give you a number of group options, depending on the popularity of your topic.
You will notice that the search results tell you how "active" the group has been over the past day or month. IGNORE THIS. All activities in LinkedIn groups are, but should not be, treated equally. You can blame recruiters and spammers for making this stat irrelevant. You should be concerned with group activity levels, but unfortunately, determining this requires a bit more legwork.
Click on the largest groups that appear to be relevant to your topic. Scan their content and activity. Ask yourself:
Do they appear to be busy and active?
Are other users engaged?
Scroll through a week's worth of wall posts, count them, subtract the number of job postings and obvious spam posts and write that number down. This should give you an idea of how many natural posts have been made in the past week.
Next, click on the "Group Statistics" icon in the lower right. There is a bunch of good information in this section. For our purposes here, you should look at the "comments last week" stat. Comments on a LinkedIn Group post are a good way to judge how active a group is. I usually compare the weekly comments total to my natural post total.
If the ratio of comments to posts is high, then that group is most likely an engaged one and your content will be seen and acted on. If the number is low, then you are looking at a group with a bunch of "drive-by" posters. Obviously, you will want to join the engaged groups and avoid the drive-bys.
Like most social networks, the more you participate in LinkedIn Groups, the more authority and trust you build among the other members. Don't join a group and post a link to your blog five minutes later. Doing so basically tells the engaged members of the group (the ones you want to win over) that you are only there to promote yourself and don't really care about their ideas. Your content will most likely go unnoticed and the group moderators will not be thrilled with you.
Just after you join a new group you should do the following:
- Introduce yourself
- Figure out the key players/most active members;
- Read what others are posting;
- Comment on their posts
Basically, you need to show the other members of the group that you are there to network, learn, educate and engage. Once you have made this powerful first impression, you should be ready to start promoting your own content.
Respect Group Rules
Group rules vary from group to group. Upon joining a new group, take a few minutes to scan its rules. You can find them in the upper right corner of the group page. It is important to follow these rules.
Some moderators take rule enforcement more seriously than others, but since we are targeting the most active groups, the likelihood of some sort of strict rule enforcement, be it from the moderator or from other group members, increases.
Keep an eye on your website stats. Make note of which groups are referring traffic to your site and which ones aren't This should show you which groups you need to focus on more. It may also help you find groups that are not working for you.
Keep in mind that LinkedIn only allows users to join 50 groups, so you may get to a point where you need to shed yourself of the non-performing groups in order to find more to participate in.
Connect with Other Members
If a particular group member is showing more interest in your work than others, don't hesitate to connect with them. LinkedIn makes it easy for group members to connect. When you go to their profile and click on "connect," you have the option of saying you know them through the group. As with any connection request, make sure you personalize the note in the connection rather than using LinkedIn's canned message. Doing so really makes a difference.
These tips should help you build authority among your industry peers and drive traffic to your content. Some of these items are a bit more time-consuming than others, but trust me, they are worth it. In time, you will see awareness of your brand and the inbound leads pick up. Remember, in the case of LinkedIn Groups, quality leads to quantity.