For marketing professionals, LinkedIn groups serve two valuable purposes.
Purpose 1: Building your company’s brand
If you start your own LinkedIn group (like we did) or engage on behalf of your organization, you can build communities around target topics and learn about challenges facing your buyers directly from the source. It’s also a great environment for connecting with potential customers and (one of my favorite ways to use LinkedIn groups) inspiring new ideas for your content marketing.
Purpose 2: Building your personal brand
Nowadays, buyers avoid sales and, according to this presentation, 75% of business executives want marketers to curb the sales pitch. They trust their peers, social networks, subject matter experts and influencers. With that in mind, social selling and personal branding is becoming increasingly important to building business relationships. If people see you as a knowledgable resource, they’re more likely to trust your opinions and engage with the information you share. Besides, the beautiful thing about a personal brand is, well, it’s personal. If you decide to switch jobs, you get to take your personal brand with you.
5 Steps to Rocking LinkedIn Groups
So, whichever of these two is your primary objective, there are five steps that apply to successful networking within LinkedIn Groups. Here we go:
Step 1: Update.
Before you do anything on LinkedIn, make sure you’re happy with your profile or company page. Both should be up to date and reflect your brand. Do you have a photo or logo? Are you sharing valuable information? If not, take the time to update your information. Otherwise, the people you’re interacting with might think twice before following your company or asking you to connect. This also helps with Step 3 (no need to jump ahead, you’ll be there soon enough).
Step 2: Research.
Next, take the time to find the right groups. Currently, you cannot engage in groups as your company (you can only do this on your company profile page). However, as a LinkedIn member, you can join up to 50 groups at a time. But start slow. First, join 5-10 high-value groups. Otherwise, you’ll receive a deluge of notifications, emails, and messages and end up ignoring all of them. Choosing a small number of groups gives you time to find your “LinkedIn legs.” Then, once you’re comfortable starting and responding to discussions, build up to 50. When you’re looking for groups, ask yourself: what are the most valuable categories or industries to your organization and your buyers? Search those keywords and see what you find. Where are my peers engaging? Check out the profiles of people you respect, or top prospects, and see what groups they’ve already joined (there’s a section for groups on LinkedIn profiles). Also, be sure to join active groups where new discussions are posted regularly. The membership number is one indicator, but constant engagement is a sign of real value. Not seeing anything quite right? Consider starting your own group. It’s more work to manage, but it can become an incredible asset for your organization (and for you). Especially for B2B companies, LinkedIn groups can inspire ideas for buyer-centric content and, more importantly, foster genuine conversation.
Step 3: Join.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but in the spirit of being thorough, I added it anyway. Once you find the right groups, join them. Some groups, though, require manager approval. This is where Step 1 comes in. If it’s an exclusive group, the group manager will most likely check out your profile before admitting you to the group. If you haven’t updated your profile or shared anything since 2009, they might hit that decline button.
Step 4: Engage.
Now that you’re a member of a bunch of fantastic groups, it’s time to get in there and get chatting. There is a right way and a wrong way to engage in LinkedIn groups. The right way is to ask questions, share content relevant to group members, and respond to discussions with insights and examples from your own experiences. The wrong way is to treat groups as spaces to share promotional information. But you’re using LinkedIn to market yourself and your brand, right? So shouldn’t you share your marketing in these groups? Well, this is where it gets a little fuzzy. If you created a relevant content asset, webinar, or blog post, great! You should go ahead and share it. After all, if you’re invested in content marketing the content should already be useful and professional. But I suggest telling the story behind that asset. For example, “I wrote this blog post because there’s a lot of confusion around XYZ, and I’ve noticed similar conversations happening in this group.” In this case, you’re not intruding, you’re helping. But don’t only share your content. If you read an interesting article, start a discussion around it. If someone has a challenge you’ve faced or helped a client overcome, share your experiences. The best way to build relationships is to add value to the group.
Step 5: Connect.
Start or respond to interesting discussions, and you’ll find yourself engaged in some great conversations with other members. Connect with those people, and when you do, include a personal note in the message. “I’d like to add you to my professional network” is a lovely message, but it gives no context for who you are or why you’d like to stay in contact with this person. Adding that personal touch is a great way to show you value this new connection, and that they should value it as well. Hopefully, these 5 tips help you leverage LinkedIn groups for your brand, both company and personal. Do you have any tips? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.