Your LinkedIn Group needs to be carefully crafted, nurtured, promoted and measured, just as you would for your website or blog. From the set up, description, interaction and growth, attention must be paid to every detail. The following is a guide to help you envision and create your group. In a later post we will look into promoting and nurturing your group.
Creating a Strong Backbone for Success
Before you create your group, you need to determine the goal of this group. Popular goals include:
- To create a forum of like-minded people to discuss a particular topic or issue with colleagues
- To seek advice on a particular solution to a problem
- To offer a repository for jobs in a particular field
- To create a focus group for peers to discuss common roadblocks in their field, and offer support and suggestions
Once you have a goal, the next bits are the building blocks to your group:
- Group Name – choose a name that easily conveys what the group is about. Consider this your billboard (or in SEO-speak, you title tag)
- Group Logo – Using your business/company logo (or creating a unique Group logo) gives your group a visual recognition marker.
- Group Description – give a concise description of the group, pointing out what makes this group unique. Take advantage of targeted keyphrases that you may have optimized your site for, but don’t be salesy. (This would be the equivalent in SEO of your meta-description)
Determine Your Access Level
LinkedIn provides two levels of access. “Open Access” means faster growth with less control. “Request to Join” probably means slower growth but with more control. You can change the access level once the group has been created, and have an idea of the direction into which the group is organically evolving.
The Power of a Good First Impression: Join Messages
One of the greatest features in your set up is the ability to turn on and customize your request to join and auto-messages for new group members. This rarely-used feature allows you to make a spectacular first impression on your incoming group members. If you want to be really unique, you can also enable and edit your decline and decline and message features, but this, in my opinion, is not necessary. Some relevant points to include on your welcome message are:
- More details about the group that may not have made it to your group description
- Encouragement to contribute to the group, make suggestions and give feedback.
- Information about you as the moderator of the group, along with an option to connect to you.
The First Group Discussion
Your discussions are the Petri dish for success. This is the place where members will come to engage with your group, ask questions & share Information. It is recommended, just like your blog or email blasts, that you create an editorial calendar for your discussions, in case you need to nurture the group to start becoming active, or to inject some life, if activity grows stale. But there are some discussions that are bound to lead to success:
Many groups have unfortunately fallen victim to members and information that add no value. You can avoid this happing to your group by creating a discussion that reviews some rules that encourage people to engage in a meaningful way rather than to self-promote. This is often founf in the Group rules section, but is important enough to create a discussion on, in case members have any questions.
A great way to break the ice is to create an introduction discussion. This gives members the opportunity to introduce themselves, their company, their interests and how they would like to benefit from being a member of the group.
You can ensure that these two discussions always remain featured (the section in the upper right hand corner of the discussions page called “manager’s choice”) so that new members can introduce themselves & familiarize themselves with the rules.
It is Alive! – But Now What?
In Internet culture, there is a 1% rule or the 90-9-1 principle which says that for every 100 people in a community, 90 people lurk, 9 comment and 1 posts. Your goal should be to create a safe and comfortable environment where members can freely share knowledge and best practices around the group topics, with the outcome that everyone gets something out if it.
As in other social media outlets, content is key to a successful LinkedIn Group. It is important that the content, whether posted by you or by members of the group, is relevant to your description of the group and reflects the themes and interests of its members. Some ideas of content for your discussions include:
Asking a question
Encourage members to use the discussions forum to post thought provoking questions and ideas that will generate a discussion and not just in one hit wonder or self promotional type posting
Sharing Links that create dialogue
Links to articles, videos blogs and websites should be used to genuinely support a dialogue. Avoid simply posting a link. Rather, interject your opinion, or ask a question about the link and ask for input from other members.
Allow members to post relevant upcoming events, workshops, webinars, etc. but ensure that there is no spamming or repeat posting.
Engage in Each Other’s Discussions
Encourage members to also actively engage with other members through asking and answering questions & seeking out opinions.
Be a Good Role Model
There is a certain amount of “dirty work” involved in maintaining your LinkedIn Group. You need to monitor for spam and advertising, or for people who post links as part of lead generation. You will also have occasion to delete posts that break these rules, and yes, even block repeat offenders.
The best thing to do is to lead by example, follow the rules, and encourage people to engage by commenting on discussions and creating their own discussions within your Group.
For a community to be successful it needs to be nurtured and have a strong leader, while not being managed. “Managed” infers policing and administration and although this is par for the course, providing community leadership is much more important.
A successful LinkedIn Group starts with the groundwork researched and foundation built, but endures because both online and offline activities. Whether you are in a meeting in a conference room, attending a trade show or having any conversation / discussion with someone — and the conversation is relevant for your LinkedIn group — encourage them to join and post in the group to share with the other members.
What recommendations do you have for starting new LinkedIn Groups?