Starting a LinkedIn Group
Social networks emphasize conversations and interactions between people and are more often personal in nature versus business networking. LinkedIn brings together professionals and company owners through Profiles, Pages and also Groups for business networking and interactions. LinkedIn Groups provide the platform to bring together business-minded individuals who share a common interest, experience, affiliation, or goal.
Anyone with a LinkedIn profile can start a LinkedIn Group, an open or moderated online community for discussion. A LinkedIn group for your company can:
- 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, vendors, partners and other colleagues.
Why would someone want to join a LinkedIn Group owned by or managed by your company? If you have an expertise to share or want to 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 related to your company although look for 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 staff members from various nonprofits - not only your customers but any nonprofit professional - to talk about the challenges they face getting the word out about their missions. Provide tips and advice that showcase your expertise and entice Group members to hire you.
If you sell guided tours of ancient ruins around the world, form a group for travel enthusiasts interested in the preservation of sacred sites. Share news and information about locales but also about tours you’re organizing with easy ways for people to sign up.
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 interact around shared interests. Use a group to build relationships with others and let them know about your company over time as you manage the community.
The main features of a LinkedIn Group include:
Post a Conversation Conversation topics and threads appear on your group’s landing page and can be sorted by Popular or Recent. Members can post conversations. You can control moderating posts in your Group settings or allow members to post freely.
Announcements - You can send announcements to Group members.
Share a Job Members can post job opportunities to the Group.
Members - A list of members of your Group is accessible to all members and to the public depending on your Group privacy settings.
Search - Anyone in the Group can search discussions by keyword.
Managing Your LinkedIn Group
LinkedIn encourages Standard Groups that show publicly, however, under the Manage section, you can set privacy to make an Unlisted Group. You can restrict who can post content to your Group as well. The more open your Group, the more likely it will grow and the more diverse members will participate.
Add a logo to represent your Group for branding, and you can opt to display your Group logo on your personal profile if you so choose. When people join your Group, this logo can also appear on their profile, further promoting your Group.
When you set up your Group, you have the ability to publish Group Rules - an important aspect of any online community. Edit and customize your message templates under the Manage administrative area. Templates include automatic messages that go out to people who request to join and to new members. 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 your company news. Establish a messaging calendar for your Group consisting of things to share that will provide value to the Group members while showcasing your expertise. Keep promotional messaging to a minimum. Use your Group for informal market research by asking questions and analyzing responses.
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 the purpose of your Group, the value you can provide to group members, and how a LinkedIn Group can be an asset to your company.