Like the Philosopher’s Stone, “Groups” alchemically transform LinkedIn from a “rolodex on steroids” into a true social media network. A place where you can expand your network by creating true relationships with your connections. And the magical element? Sharing valuable information and helping people.
Not so magical, and yet many people are still using the “Discussion” and “Announcement” section of their groups, and groups they belong to, in order to sell their crap. (That’s what your website is for – so I hope you have good conversion ratings)
Let’s back up. I’m going to pretend you know how build relationships (hey – you are on Twitter, so my guess is you do.) Where exactly are you going to share this wealth of valuable information you already have access to? You can do this by joining groups and by creating your own groups. (That’s the next post) Let’s take a look at a few best practices..
First of all, with almost 700,000 groups on LinkedIn, which ones should you join? In my opinion, you need to join the following groups:
- Your own industry groups – find out what is going on in your industry, find strategic partners and JV’s, find a job
- Your ideal client’s industry groups – impress potential clients with your knowledge, build relationships, generate interest in your product or service (but NOT by sending out sales messages)
- Big groups – you don’t know who you don’t know – it makes sense to join some big groups just to be able to access some key folks – I recommend LinkedHR
- Alumni groups – because (theoretically) we love to help each other out.
Once you join some groups (you can join up to 50) do a bit of lurking to find out what people are talking about, who is doing the talking, what the “feel” of the group is. Once you get a feel, dive in and begin to participate in an interactive and helpful way.
You can choose the regularity at which LinkedIn informs you about group discussions: The group digest will be sent to you daily, weekly or not at all. It won’t take you too long to see which groups are the most valuable to you. These are the groups where the discussions intrigue you. Where the people are communicative. Where the discussions are active and interactive.
These are the groups that you find stimulating, that seem to be a good source for relationships. These groups you will participate in daily – even if it’s just minutes a day – so you can become an “influencer”, perhaps attracting the coveted “Manager’s Choice” position, getting you more recognition, authority and visibility.
- Do share your knowledge.
- Do help people out
- Do express your true opinions
- Do take time to answer and respond in a considerate manner
- Do re-purpose content you might already have that answers and adds to a group discussion
- Do start your own discussions
What NOT to do:
- Don’t use groups as a channel for your sales letters
- Don’t use groups to share a “business opportunity”
- Don’t use groups to solicit a downline. ( No one will participate in your discussion, you are likely to get flagged, and you’ll just irritate people.)
If you spend too much time in the “don’ts” you’ll also be more likely to get negatively flagged by other members of the LinkedIn group. So just – don’t
From some groups you’ll receive a weekly digest. These are the groups that have interesting information, but you don’t see as much a need to invest your time in creating relationships with the members. At the most you may spend a few minutes a week in these groups, and follow a few of the key members. You’ll keep these groups on the back-burner for potential future connections with members.
Some groups you will connect to only to build your network (Remember you are only as visible as the size of your network) You will join these groups because they have a lot of members (LinkedHR). Or you join the group because a person you want to communicate with is member of that group (Hint: This is the way you can get around paying for an ‘InMail’)
But no matter if you join groups you interact with daily or only very occasionally, you want to remember that you are on groups to share valuable informations and build relationships.
TIP: If you are one of those strategic and organized people, consider creating a database (Excel, etc) to keep track of your groups, how useful they are, what their topics are and key players.
Valuable Information: What have you already created that your network finds useful? (How do you know this? They tell you “That was really useful.”) Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose. What do you have stored in your computer right now? What do you have in your blog site. What have you just read that YOU find interesting. That’s what you share. Groups are not for posting your sales letter. Engage your network. If they like you, they’ll go to your website or profile. They’ll want to learn more about you.
Growing relationships: Ask and answer questions. Really. People love to be helpful. Let them be by asking them questions. Ask them for clarification. Ask them for advice. Ask them – almost anything. And when someone asks something that you can answer, especially if you already have supporting docs (blogpost) answer them.
Its not rocket science, but it does take consistent effort. Even if its only a few minutes a day.
Here is the link to LinkedIn’s latest blog on the new Groups features. Watch the video, it’s worth the time.
And remember. This is social media. We are here to help each other out. To attract clients and partners through relationship and service. To be Go-Givers lending a hand and raising up each other.
Next up? Best practices in creating your own groups.
Let me know how you use groups to create relationships in your business. I want to know!
Viveka von Rosen