When LinkedIn was first launched in 2003, many people joined the community to both connect with co-workers and keep an up-to-date professional address book. However, few people could actually predict that nine years later, it would be one of the largest social networks in the world with more than two hundred million users and two new members joining each second, according to this Infographic published by LinkedIn’s Blog earlier this year.
Today, it’s just impossible to ignore the power of LinkedIn and its features. As the leading social network for professionals, LinkedIn has reinvented itself throughout the years and proved to be a great place for businesses too.
As an attempt to ramp up engagement between job seekers and businesses, LinkedIn redesigned its companies pages in 2012. While these new pages benefitted professionals, the changes actually brought amazing opportunities for companies as well. Brands around the world began sharing their culture and values, brand personality, product portfolio, and most importantly, started taking advantage of features like recommendations and endorsements to attract new customers.
By the end of 2012, 47% of B2B companies in United States were actively using the platform to engage and map new leads and opportunities for their products and services. Companies had finally realized the potential of LinkedIn for business. Exploring each feature with this purpose in mind, companies proved it is possible to grow and generate revenue from LinkedIn by creating long-term relationships with influencers, decision makers and/or potential customers.
Assuming that your company already has a company profile on LinkedIn, my purpose today is to dig deeper into one of these gold mines: LinkedIn Groups. If you are not part of one yet, check out this “Getting started with LinkedIn Groups” guide.
Now, let’s digest some numbers first. There are more than 1,248,019 groups on LinkedIn, 7,610 searches per minute and 53% of members usually join 10 groups or more. Despite what you may be thinking, yes, it’s a lot easier to search, find and engage with the right people when you know exactly 1] what you want to achieve and 2] who you want to engage with. Or, you could simply follow these steps.
1. Why do I need LinkedIn Groups?
Before taking any steps forward, first decide why LinkedIn Groups is important to your business, or what you want to achieve every time you participate. Here are three reasons why LinkedIn Groups might be a great fit for you and your business.
Cloud & SaaS Startups is a group created by an employee of a small technology company called MetraTech, to promote discussions around SaaS, one of their current services. By positioning themselves as experts in this field and by helping other startups, they have been engaging with potential clients looking for SaaS, and indirectly creating awareness to problems their products and services can solve.
Educate the Market
Big Data is definitely a hot topic these days, but how many people and companies actually know what it is, and how to be prepared for it? IBM decided to create a group, IBM big data, to discuss and educate people, the market, influencers and technology professionals. Their main objective isn’t to sell IBM’s solutions, but it opens the door for future opportunities.
Influence Decision Makers
Philips created a group called Innovations in Health to engage with health professionals. By sharing new solutions and technologies to improve the health ecosystem, they easily have the opportunity to engage and listen to target decision makers and other influencers, as well as become a resource for the industry. Even though they are not promoting their solutions directly, their name is being associated with all kinds of innovations in health.
Although some companies create their own groups on LinkedIn, it’s not completely necessary, especially if you are a small company that doesn’t have enough resources to create and keep the discussion on going. You can always choose to search and engage in existing groups related to your industry.
2. Who should I engage with?
As a company, whether you are creating a new product or developing a new marketing campaign, you must analyze your target audience and decide who are you trying to reach, right? You should do the same when creating a LinkedIn Group strategy. Spend some time researching top influencers, current customers and potential new customers.
Create a list of relevant keywords and phrases that describe your business and products, or keywords that people would search for on Google when trying to reach your business. It also might be helpful to gather a list of characteristics, skills and expertises people in your industry probably have.
Identifying LinkedIn Groups in Your Industry
In addition to the Groups you already follow, LinkedIn also suggests groups you may like based on your personal profile, companies you have worked for, and your connections. You can also use your keyword list to search for new groups.
For example, let’s imagine a software company that has developed a mobile app for runners. Using the keyword “runners”, LinkedIn returns some excellent suggestions for groups dedicated to marathon runners or runner lovers.
Some Groups are open and you are allowed to view all the discussions, but some Groups will ask you to join first. Before starting any new discussion, gather more information about the group.
Who is the owner, what are the goals, how many followers do they have, why are they participating, and what type of content do they share?
It’s always nice to know who are you talking to, and this knowledge will guide you through a more engaged LinkedIn Groups experience.
Connect with Top Influencers
Every industry has a limited number of people that usually share their expertise, experiences and give their recommendations to other people willing to try these products or brands. LinkedIn allows you to search for them, and see what groups they follow, giving you the opportunity to be part of that group and engage when appropriate. You can also use external tools to map potential influencers, and then search for them on LinkedIn.
If you are a technology company providing educational solutions to schools and universities, you may search for people who have an IT Manager position in the Educational industry, and then search the groups they are following. Understand the group, listen first and start sharing relevant content, always striving to add more value.
To search both groups and people, LinkedIn also has a great tool called Skills & Expertise. Remember that list of skills and common industry characteristics you created earlier? Use that to search for the right people and groups to follow and engage with.
3. How do I position myself?
Just like any other social media channel, your primary goal at LinkedIn shouldn’t be to sell, but to build credibility, and a trustful and long-term relationship with your current and future clients. In fact, it’s all about earning the love, and yes, it is a long path.
Always listen to the discussion first, and make sure you actually understand other people’s needs, what they are looking for, what type of value they expect from the group and how exactly you can help. After a while, your goal is to be seen as a trust advisor, or in other words, someone the group can trust.
4. Is there anything I *shouldn’t* do on LinkedIn Groups?
It doesn’t matter if you are a single professional, a small or medium company or a huge multinational business, there are some things you simply cannot do. When using LinkedIn Groups to engage with prospects and influencers, here are some guidelines you must follow to avoid losing customers.
- Don’t use LinkedIn Groups to directly advertise your company, products or services
- Don’t share product and services catalogs, unless someone has asked for it
- Don’t ask for meaningless recommendations for your business
- Don’t write bad things about your competitors or partners
- Don’t flood groups with self-serving links
- Don’t only share your company’s articles, blog posts, links or content
5. So exactly how DO I engage on LinkedIn Groups?
Keeping in mind who you are, what you want to achieve, how you want to participate, and who your target influencers are, you can now work on a content strategy to engage with each group. You can do this by 1] starting a new discussion, 2] asking for member’s opinions, 3] answering their questions, or 4] sharing relevant content.
At this point, your success depends on quality, and not quantity. It’s not about your business, products and services anymore. Is about helping other members in the group to succeed, using your professional expertise and knowledge. Is about value. Don’t be selfish, but be strategic about what do you want to share. If you’re a web designer, share tools to facilitate another’s job, but don’t give away all your design templates. Choose one to be your bait and then go fish.
Sometimes, it helps to think of Social Media, in general, as a relationship. You don’t venture out and start kissing just anyone (at least I hope you don’t). You work hard every day to understand the other one’s needs, likes, and interests. You try different approaches, hoping to finally earn their trust and love. You build a long-term relationship with that special person, and work on and on, in order to keep that love alive.
Yes, it takes time, lots of research and resources. But when you reach the right person, at the right time and with the right content, the results you can get are simply amazing. You’ll definitely have a customer for life, and that’s something you can’t put a price on.