Tuesday April 24, 2012
The most complete guide you can get for LinkedIn groups without buying my book!
It’s Tuesday again – so time for another blog and #LinkedInChat. This week we are going to look more closely as groups. How to use them to Encourage, Entice and Engage with other LinkedIn members.
My first challenge today is to take my 40 page chapter on Groups and refine it into a few highlights you can use to really explode your group experience!
Group engagement is one of the best ways I know up to start building strategic relationships. The nice thing about a group is that even if you are not connected with another member, you can still send the messages to that member. And because you share a group, you already share an interest! This is why it is important to join not only industry and company based groups, but a few skiing or golfing groups as well. We all know, you can make as many deals (or more) on a golf course as in the Boardroom. LinkedIn groups can work for you in the same way. LinkedIn defines groups as a “Place for professionals in the same industry or with similar interests to share content, find answers, post or view jobs, make business contacts, and establish themselves as an industry experts.” I think this is a very good definition, and exactly why you want to be using LinkedIn groups.
A strategic plan for finding groups:
Before you start joining groups willy nilly, make a list of these things:
- Your industry, and common keywords
- Your company, and common keywords
- Associations you belong to
- Schools or educational forums
- Your ideal client and industries and subjects that they're interested in
- A person who would hire you, and their industries and interests
- Your own interests
This list will give you the fodder you need to start finding the groups that are right for you. Start searching for groups from the above results. Your group search results will be listed according to size.
Group Limits for LinkedIn Members (according to LinkedIn)
- Groups you can own and/or manage at one time: 10
- Subgroups you can own at one time: 20
- Groups a you can join and be a member of at one time: 50
- Subgroups you can join and be a member of at one time: 50
- Groups you can moderate: 50
- People you can follow in your groups: 5,000
Group Limits per Parent Group
- Owners a group can have: 1
- Managers a group can have: 10
- Moderators a group can have: 50
- Members in a given group? 20,000 (maximum default). There are exceptions
Group Limits per Subgroup
- Subgroups created under a given parent group: 20.
- Owners a subgroup can have: 1
- Managers a given subgroup can have: 10
- Moderators a given subgroup can have: 50
Groups to Join
Let's take a look at some of the different types of groups that you might consider joining.
- Industry Groups
- Company Groups
- Association Groups
- Alumni Groups
- Local Groups
- Big Groups
Have you ever gone to a local Meetup group and found someone really cool who you thought, “Now this is someone I want to keep in touch with” but you lost their card, or didn’t put them into your calendar? Local groups are a great way to find and keep in touch with Influential locals. Just type in your city's name, and a list of LinkedIn groups that are geographically located will come up. Not only might you find some groups you didn’t know about, but also once you join the group, you will be connecting with other professionals in your own city. So it’s easier to take a relationship to the next level by inviting them for coffee. (But don't invite them for coffee to pick their brain.)
“Big” Groups to Consider
Why do you want to join big groups? Because they're big. Big groups grow your network quickly and effectively. Big groups also work best when you are looking for a specific type of person in a search.
To find the biggest groups on LinkedIn (that you might want to join just because they're big,) go to the drop down search box and click on Groups. Don't type anything in the field, just click your cursor so that it's flashing in the search bar, and then click enter.
LinkedIn itself recently got into the Groups game. LinkedIn groups are growing leaps and bounds. They seem to have a LinkedIn group for every industry. You will certainly want to join the LinkedIn group for your industry. Mostly because it's really big. But also because you will have a shared industry interest with other members of that group.
Remember, you're going to want to join your own industry groups, and the industry groups of those people you want to be working with, sometimes these are not the same people.
Now that you've joined a group, or 50 groups, let's look about best practices for creating relationships within these groups.
Discussions, Polls, Promotions, Jobs
So what do you do once you join a group? Well, groups are great because they allow you to start and contribute to discussions, allow you to promote your business, and even post jobs for free.
Discussions are really the best way to start building relationships with other group members. If you're uncomfortable participating right away, then do a little lurking. Take a look at what people are writing about. Take a look at who's doing the writing. You can even follow group members and keep up with them. What a great way to keep an eye on a strategic connection, or a competitor!
Group discussions are incredibly powerful for building relationships.
LinkedIn has also added its polling app to the discussion section. This is another fun and quick way to engage your group members. You simply ask a question, and specify up to five answers or choices.
If you have a promotion you want to post, simply click on the promotions tab, and on the right-hand side you'll see a little green cross with a hyperlink that says “Post a promotion.” This is where you can enter your promotional title, and additional details. By default you will follow the promotion, and this isn't a bad idea, because you want to know what new comments are being made, especially if they're positive, or even potential clients. If a group manager or owner hasn’t enabled this feature, you won’t see a Promotions tab.
You can also post a job in a group you are a member of (if this setting is enabled. It is called a "Job Discussion”, (because LinkedIn wants you to pay for posting a new job) but go ahead and post your job in this section. It will allow people to like your job, comment on your job, and even share your job with other members in their network. This is not to be mistaken with the jobs tab that allows you to post a job, which you will pay for.
Creating Relationships with Groups
It’s really a shame that people are mostly using groups to hawk their wares. Which is making LinkedIn groups less relevant and less utilized by serious networkers. And yet I think its still one of the best places to have a conversation with serious business minded networkers. Here are some ”next” practices when engaging in groups. Less make them our best practices and see if we can’t bring groups back to their glory days!
Understanding Group Rules
It's not surprising that you might not have known that your group had rules. In fact, many groups don't even have group rules. How can you expect a group’s membership to play by the rules if they don't even know what they are?
Once you open a group (one you own or are a member of) take a look on the top right-hand side of the group page. If the group even has rules, you will see a link that says “Share Group” and then another link just to the right of it that says “Group Rules”. If you see the link, go ahead and click on it. The group rules will show in a pop up. If there are no group rules, consider sending a message to one of the group owner or managers.
What NOT to Do in your Group
As I mentioned earlier, one of the reasons groups are less effective than they used to be, is all the spam and product offers out there. I'm not saying that you will never use a group to offer your product, but I really don't recommend using the discussion section to send a sales message.
Mostly you should be using groups to connect and build relationships with other members. If you have a question for the group, read an interesting blog that you think the group might be interested in, have a practice or believe you strongly believe in, or have heard of an event you might want to share, you can use the discussions section.
Sometimes the event or the blog will be your own, sometimes it will be somebody else's. If you are going to post your own blog or article, let your readership know why it's up of important to them. Give them WIIFM (What’s In It For Them). The same thing goes for posting an event.
What is cool about group discussions is that the manager can choose to highlight your discussion under manager’s choice. LinkedIn will also list the discussions that have the most interactivity. Be interesting (or controversial) and get more visibility!
You can choose the regularity at which LinkedIn informs you about group discussions: daily, weekly or not at all. From some groups you will want to receive a daily digest. These are the groups that you find stimulating and that seem to be a good source for relationships. These groups you will participate in daily – even if it’s just minutes a day – so you can become an “Influencer”. That will get you some recognition, authority and visibility.
Here are some things you should do:
- Do share your knowledge.
- Do help people out
- Do express your true opinions
- Do take time to answer and respond in a considerate manner
- Do re-purpose content you might already have that answers and adds to a group discussion
- Do start your own discussions
And some things not to do:
- Don't use groups as a place to place your sales letters
- Don’t use groups to share a “business opportunity”
- Don’t use groups to solicit a down-line. No one will participate in your discussion, you are likely to get flagged, and you’ll just irritate people.
The only time I think it's okay to share your products or services with the group is when a member asks a specific question to where your product or service might be the solution. But even then, don't just say “Buy my product or service at www.buymycrap.com" Give them some background, give them some valuable and useful information, and then add the link. You have to be very careful with this, or a group moderator, manager or owner might put your discussion into the promotion section, or another member might flag it as spam.
The Promotions section is the perfect place to list any product or service you think might be of use to the group. Just being aware that people don't really visit the Promotions section that often, as most people consider promotions to be spam.
Managing your Groups
Not only do I recommend not using groups as a forum to blast your sales message, I recommend that you become a social media NARC! By that I mean, take free license to report any posts on a group you are a member of that are obvious spam.
You can do this by clicking on the “Flag” button beneath the discussion post. (On the main page of the group, you will see the “carousel” and the “Flag” post is right beneath it. ) To Flag an older post, click on the post name and LinkedIn will take you to a page just on that discussion. You will see the “Flag” button there as seen in Figure 6.
Take a few minutes right now to go through your groups. Which ones have potential? Which ones are just one sales blast after another? Which ones represent the type of content and communications you want more of?
Until you are using groups regularly, it might be worth it to organize your groups in such a way that the really useful ones show up first.
Searching Strategic Contacts
What I like about groups, is that you can search the membership by name or by keyword. In order to do this, go into a group that you find think might have members that would make good contacts for you. Click on the Members link .
And on the left hand side you'll see the box that says Search Members, but you can also use this box to search for individuals by name, or by keyword.
You can do a simple search in the search box by adding a string of keywords. LinkedIn will show you the results for any group member who falls into your search criteria. If they are first level connections you can just send them a message. If the search result gives you second and third level connections then simply hover your cursor to the right of their name to see the hyperlinks to “Invite” or Message”. Some people have disabled this ability in their settings section, but I would guess that well over 50% of the time, you can reach out to an individual who is not a first level connection and send them a message from this search results section in your group.
Another way to communicate with individuals you share a group with is what I call “Reverse Engineering.” To do this, do a simple “People” or Advanced search. Click on the profile of the person that you want to connect with or send a message to. If they are a second or third level connection, or do not share a network with you, scroll down to the bottom of their profile and see if they're a member of the group. LinkedIn will tell you if you share a group with someone, because instead of the blue hyperlinks that says “Join,” you'll see a green message that says “Already a member.”
If you are already a member of a shared group, then all you have to do is click on the group name, and in the Groups Member search box, type in the member’s name. (Do not use the Advanced search) Scroll to the right hand side, and click on Send a message.
I usually only join about 45 groups, so that I can add the occasional group to reach out to a member. As soon as I'm done communicating with that member, I'll delete the group.
Creating your Own Group
One of the best things you can do on LinkedIn to position yourself as a thought leader and attract new customers or clients is to create a group. Here are some ideas on how you can get started:
Getting Started (Naming and Setting Up Your Group)
There are a lot of groups out there on LinkedIn. Over two million of them. If you want your Group to get any traction at all, people need to be able to find it! Here are a few tips to make sure you create a group that can get found and get members.
Naming Your Group
The group name field is very important for the Group search algorithm, so make sure that you have your Company name, or your Group cause in this title section. After your name, you might tell them what you do. Use your keywords. You might name your group something like: Marketing for Accountants: Best Practices to Get Your Accounting Business Found.
You can change your group name up to five times. But try and go for the right name the first time.
The Summary section for your group is 300 characters and shares the purpose of your group. This is the section that shows up in a Group search, so make sure that the first sentence is your most impactful. Let them know right away what's in it for them if they join this group. Make sure you get your keywords in this section and perhaps even capitalize any text you would normally up put in bold print.
Your Group description section is 2000 characters. Make sure that you format this section with bullet points and capitalization. This is where you really engage and entice your prospective members. Go more in depth about the benefit of joining your group. Let them know what they can expect from your group. Even though you will also be creating group rules and the welcome template that will have some similar information, spend some time focusing on the type of group member you want. Who are they? What do they do for a living? What are they interested in? Put in your description who you think would make a group a good group member. Why? What types of discussions will you be encouraging? What topics? What kind of bonuses or offers they might expect from you for joining the group?
I also recommend putting in your contact information, as well as your LinkedIn URL in the Group description so that potential members or existing members can more easily connect and contact you with questions they might have. Don’t think of this as a disturbance or annoying, think of it as a potential client or referral partner reaching out to you!
LinkedIn allows you to create templates for group communications. Under the manage tab on the left hand side of the page, click on Templates. The templates that you can create are: Request to Join Template, Welcome Template, Decline Template, and Decline and Block Template.
The Request to Join template creates and automatically sends a custom message to people who request to join your group. Of course if you have an Auto Join group this is not applicable. But for those of you who demand that people request to join your group first, this is a great way to let them know both your group’s expectations and when they can expect to hear from you.
The second type of template you can send is the Welcome Message template. Far too few managers and owners make use of this tool, but it's really your first touch and a chance to engage with your new group member. In the subject line you might write something like, “We are happy to accept you into [group name].” The message section is where you're really going to make an effort to connect with your new member:
- Ask them questions.
- Give them a special offer or promo code to a free product or service you offer.
- Let them know that you are happy to refer them
- Ask them who would make a good client for them.
- Ask them what they want to get out of this group.
- Ask them what they want to achieve in their business.
- Tell them your expectations for the group
- Tell them what is allowed and not allowed in the group
- Encourage them to post jobs in the Jobs tab (if you have them)
- Encourage them to put their promotion in the Promotions tab.
- Give them a link to a free product or service
- Give them your contact information.
- Encourage them to connect with you on LinkedIn
The third template is at the Decline Template. Usually this is used when someone wants to join your alumni or company private group. It's usually a gentle refusal, and you might even give them some other options, like following your company.
The Decline and Block template creates and automatically sends a custom message to people when you decline their request to join the group. It will also block any further future requests. I don't really recommend this template, although I am sure there will be times when it comes in handy (like when you have a very private - almost a secret group on LinkedIn.)
Another tool under the Manage section of your group is “Send an Announcement.” Unfortunately many group owners and managers either don't know this exists, or don't make the use most use out of this. What an unfortunate waste of a very powerful resource.
A group announcement simply allows you to send your membership a message once a week. Its yet another way to stay top of mind with your group members and position yourself as a resource and expert.
A good use of the group announcement is to recap the most popular discussions of the week, reminding people why they might want to interact in your group.
You might let your group members know that you have a special offer just for them, and add a promo code or a link to that free video, webinar or product.
If your group is associated with a company or alumni, and let people know the latest news of your company and alumni, including job posts and events.
You can share a simple tipper truck, and ask for feedback. For that matter, you should probably be asking for feedback from your group members. What did they like about your group. What did they not like about your group. What do they want to hear more of. Who do they want to hear more from?
If your group isn't is associated with an event, like my link chat, I could use the announcement section to let people know about what's coming up on the next LinkedIn chat, to get more people interacting on the chat, as well as in my group.
Are you getting some ideas?
Well you have 4000 characters that you can add to this announcement message, you probably don't want to use all 4000 characters. At least not every week.
That pretty much covers groups. How to interact within them, how to use them to grow your business, and how to create your own group. Remember in the end it's all about being a source of valuable information. How can you help other group members out? How can you help your group members out? How can you be of service to them? What can you do for them to help them grow their businesses? Stick asking and answering these questions and you should be okay.
In fact, let’s find out what you think about Groups in Tuesday night’s #LinkedInChat (April 24th and May 1st at 5 PM PST, 8 PM EST) at www.tweetchat.com/room/linkedinchat
Q1: Are you a member of any groups on LinkedIn?
Q2: Are you getting any value out of groups?
Q3: What groups are you getting value out of? And Why?
Q4: What groups are you getting no value from, and why?
Q5: Do you add or contribute to group discussions?
Q6: What kinds of discussions do you engage in?
Q7: Have you used Polls in Groups yet? What was your experience?
Q8: Did you know about group rules?
Q9: Do you think group moderators play by their own rules?
Q10: Do you have your own group?
Q11: Why did you create your own group?
Q12: Are you having any success with your group?
Q13: What help do you need in promoting your group?
Q14: What value does your group add to the world?
Q15: Where can we join your group?
Transcript and statistics for tonight's can be found on Hashtracking (thanks Charlie!) at http://beta.hashtracking.com/ht-pro-rpt/cjeffers-linkedinchat-2012-04-24/
And of course, please join our LinkedIn Group group at http://linkd.in/linkedinchat
Do you have any questions for the #LinkedInChat? Please add them to the comments