12.07.2011 | Monica GrahamLinkedIn has quickly become a hotbed for professional networking. With more than 100 million users, the site continues to add value to business professionals by offering a variety of ways to increase engagement and boost brand presence. For example, we recently wrote about its new features that allow users to follow companies and give companies the ability to create status updates. With a continuously growing number of businesses looking to increase their LinkedIn presence and engage in conversations with their target audiences, many are leveraging LinkedIn Groups, which enables users to create and manage groups focused on a vast range of business-related topics.
LinkedIn Groups offer businesses valuable networking opportunities by providing a channel to lead and engage in discussions with members of the LinkedIn network. You can leverage a group to build thought leadership, share expertise, market your brand and solicit feedback. If you’re considering starting a LinkedIn group or want to increase the effectiveness of your current group, a recent Mashable article titled, “8 Tips for Managing a LinkedIn Group” shares insight that can help, including:
• Use a personal touch. Like many social networks, LinkedIn allows you to stay connected to your group members in ways that feel personal. The template features allow you to provide automatic responses to new members and to those requesting to join your group. This helps you welcome members into your community.
• Lay some ground rules. It’s important to establish and clearly display posting guidelines so new members can get acquainted with your group. Ensuring that everyone is aware of the ground rules will help you handle difficult situations.
• Praise the good, deal with the bad. Promote member participation by praising and highlighting valuable contributions to the group. This encourages others to share their content and engage. If you encounter negative behavior from a member, issue a private warning. It’s also good practice to give members a warning or two before banning them from the group.
• Help your members promote themselves. One of the biggest complaints about LinkedIn Groups is the number of people who join simply to promote themselves or their business. They usually aren’t interested in engaging with others and can have a negative impact on your community. You can manage this by designating a subgroup, strictly for members to promote their service offerings.
• Add some news feeds. To keep a steady stream of content available for members to discuss, use the “Manage news feeds” feature to add the RSS feeds for relevant blogs. The posts will become automatically available to the members of your group for reading and discussion.
• Facilitate connections outside of LinkedIn. Don’t forget the human connection. It’s natural for members to want to make non-LinkedIn connections after being active in your group for awhile. You can offer a range of options to help your members engage elsewhere on the Internet or offline, such as during relevant industry events.
• Take a poll. Use LinkedIn’s polls application to get feedback from your members on group features and functionality. Create a free poll and then highlight it in your group, either by linking to it on the discussion boards or by submitting the poll’s URL to your News section.
• Promote your group. Some of the strategies you can use to promote your group include low-hanging fruit like inviting others in your network to join, encouraging members to invite their colleagues, and by highlighting your group to other, non-competing groups.
Do you leverage LinkedIn Groups to start conversations around your business and industry? What are your best practices? We want to hear from you!