A LinkedIn group can be one of the most powerful tools to develop and leverage for continued business growth. The subject isn’t approached as often as Facebook page management or Twitter marketing, so here are a few tips and tricks to make the most of the business social network. Consider this a list of LinkedIn groups best practices.
Few communities will thrive without skilled management. Even if they do, if you aren’t an integral part of the community it will certainly be difficult to leverage it at any point in the future.
To begin with, be sure to manually approve each registration. This not only cuts down on spam, it gives you a chance to connect with the person directly and make them feel welcome. Avoid form letters and try to address each new member of your community as an individual.
Stay in touch with the community and regularly offer them truly useful advice and information. The key hear is to offer real value, rather than to promote your own products or services. The point of these communities is to network with influencers in your industry, not to sell to them.
The users who contribute the most should be continuously encouraged and spoken with. Think of them as a catalyst or a seed for your group’s continued growth. Every community needs a few prolific contributors in order to stay relevant and interesting.
When things start to get off topic, politely point the members toward a place to discuss their interests, rather than simply asking them to leave. When you offer value in this way, you will earn more respect and gain more followers.
Skilled moderation walks a fine line. The community shouldn’t tolerate trolling, but criticism and debate are integral parts of a thriving community. Squash all dissent and you risk losing your most interesting and attention grabbing discussions.
Keep in mind that the group is about your community, not you. Offer value and spark genuine discussions. Reach outside of LinkedIn and search for other places online to promote your group. Keep your users interested with polls, meetups, webinars, chats, and ask open ended questions. Pay attention to feedback and respond with action whenever possible.
Start brainstorming sessions. These will not only benefit the community and keep them coming back, they will often also provide you with ideas that you otherwise may not have come across. Be sure to thank people for contributing, and occasionally feature those who have offered the most insight to the community.
Use other social networks to promote your group on LinkedIn. Discussions that seem to do especially well could use a boost from StumbleUpon’s paid discovery, and should be promoted on other social networks as well.
Mention your group whenever you get a chance to do a guest blog post on a prominent site, and let people know about your group when you are contributing to other groups on LinkedIn. Join discussions on forums, Twitter, and Facebook and casually let people know about your group.
Design a badge that links to your group and post it on all of your other web properties. Encourage your community members to use the badge as well.
Any time that you do a presentation, go to a conference, or visit any type of marketing event, be sure to let people know about your group.
Use as many channels as possible to make people aware of your group, but use a very soft sell. Remember, you’re not trying to get people to buy a product, you’re simply trying to get them to join in on a discussion. Your LinkedIn group is, first and foremost, a place. You’ll have more luck mentioning offhand something interesting that you talked with somebody on your group then you’ll have trying to tell people all the advantages of your group.
One of the most powerful tools utilized by all social networks is the ability to share. Share interesting tidbits that you come across whenever you find them, whether or not you were the original source of the information. Encourage your users to share as well. Support them when they do, and use the shared content to start additional discussions.
Remember, LinkedIn is best used as a networking tool, not a marketing outlet. In order to leverage relationships from your community, you’ll need to build those relationships in the first place.
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