Starting a LinkedIn Group
Social networks often emphasize the social conversations versus the business networking, however, LinkedIn brings together professionals and business owners through Profiles, Pages and also Groups. LinkedIn groups bring together business-minded individuals who share a common interest, experience, affiliation, or goals.
You can start your own LinkedIn Group, an open or moderated online community for discussion. A LinkedIn group for your company could help you:
- strengthen your relationship with existing customers;
- build a community of your customers for customer service;
- provide information, resources and other benefits to your customers;
- extend your brand’s reach to prospects.
Why would someone want to join a LinkedIn group owned by or managed by a business like yours? If you have an expertise to share or can engage others in dialogue for mutual benefit, a LinkedIn group can prove not only useful to you but to others as well. Form a Group around topics directly related to your company although think of ways your Group can have a broad appeal.
For example, if you’re a marketing firm working with nonprofits, you could start a LinkedIn Group to bring together marketers from various nonprofits - not only your customers - to talk about the challenges they face and share industry news. If you sell guided tours of ancient ruins around the world, you could form a group for travel enthusiasts interested in the preservation of sacred sites.
By creating and hosting a LinkedIn Group - or any other online community for that matter - you are attaching your company name to a group of people who hopefully gather around shared interests. You can build relationships with them and let them know about your company over time as you manage the community properly.
The main features of a LinkedIn Group are;
Discussions - This is the crux of a Group and discussions appear on the landing page of your group and can be sorted by Popular or Recent.
Promotions - You can allow anyone to promote an update or discussion or just Group moderators.
Announcements - You can send a weekly announcement to Group members.
Members - A list of members of our Group is accessible to other members and to the public depending on your Group privacy settings.
Search - Anyone in the Group can search discussions by keyword.
You can also add Jobs to your Group under "Settings" if that is relevant.
LinkedIn encourages Open Groups, however, under the Manage section, you can set privacy to Auto-Join or Request to Join. You can also restrict who can post what kind of content to your Group including setting up moderation for full approval of anything people want to post. The more open your Group, the more likely it will grow and members will participate.
Under Group Information, you can add a small logo to represent your Group as well as a “Hero” image, a larger image at the top of your Group to brand it. When people join your Group, this logo can appear on their Profile, further promoting your Group as well as their affinity to you and your company. You can also set Group Rules - an important aspect of any online community. Edit and customize your message templates under Group Information as well. As your Group grows, consider setting up Subgroups for special interests.
To start conversations in your Group and to keep them going, post relevant and interesting news and information beyond just company or product news. Set a communications calendar for your Group for things to share that will both provide value to the Group members while showcasing your expertise. Keep promotional messaging to a minimum, but you can use your Group for informal market research if you’ve been clear about your intentions every step of the way.
Running a LinkedIn Group is like running any online community. You have to seed the conversation and weed out the off-topic or inappropriate comments. Before starting a Group, determine why you want to build an online community, what value you can provide to its members, and how your LinkedIn group will be an asset to your company.