With the recent changes to LinkedIn groups, many LinkedIn users and social selling experts are questioning the value of LinkedIn groups for B2B salespeople and marketers. Will LinkedIn groups face the same fate as Google+ Communities, eventually deserted when members go elsewhere for great discussions and relevant content?
Why are they questioning the benefits of LinkedIn groups, now?
LinkedIn groups began as community forums centered around members asking questions, answering questions with insightful comments and learning from each other. With the rise of content marketing, many overeager marketers began clogging the discussions stream with self-promotional links to landing pages, white papers and webinars. Groups that were not closely moderated turned into uncurated blog feeds with real discussions being lost amidst the noise. But, the best LinkedIn groups have discovered how to moderate discussions, minimize spam and foster on-topic discussions among their members.
Many salespeople were using LinkedIn groups as a way to send spammy sales messages to group members, neglecting to follow the proper protocol of interacting with a group member, sending a connection request and then gauging the prospect’s interest before sending an appropriate sales message. LinkedIn has addressed this issue by limiting LinkedIn users to a total of 15 free 1:1 messages per month. This has dramatically slowed down the number of uninvited sales messages sent to group members.
Is there still value in LinkedIn groups?
Though the LinkedIn groups user interface would benefit from an extreme makeover, your LinkedIn groups can still be one of the best places to actively prospect, connect with like-minded professionals and learn from top minds in the industry.
The keys to continued success and return on your investment in LinkedIn groups are to identify the best LinkedIn groups for your goals, and then effectively navigate and participate in your high-value groups.
Participating in LinkedIn groups is one of my favorite ways to engage with prospects, industry peers and subject matter experts. Because LinkedIn is a professional social network, interactions within LinkedIn groups are different than the more personal Facebook groups or casual live Twitter chats.
Now that we’ve established the value in using LinkedIn groups, here are my three best practices for using LinkedIn groups effectively, connecting with the right people in your groups and becoming a well-respected group member.
1. Posting Discussions
Be an active participant and share regular, relevant posts with your groups. To be a regular contributor, I recommend sharing a discussion with a group every one or two weeks, depending on the activity level of the group.
If you are eager to create your own posting calendar for sharing engaging content with groups, I would caution you against mass-blasting the same blog article, discussion title and description to ALL of your groups.
Take your time personalizing each discussion based on the focus of that LinkedIn group and the group members (seniority, subject matter expertise, industry). Follow each group’s rules before submitting a discussion.
Using the discussion area to ask questions of group members is another smart way to spark comments and learn from other subject matter experts.
Here’s a good example of a well-crafted discussion:
Here’s an example of a self-promotional discussion:
Bottom Line: Don’t post spam. Don’t post the same discussion in all groups. Follow the group’s rules. Stick to the subject matter of each group.
2. Monitoring Groups
Regularly visit each of your high priority groups on LinkedIn with the intention of commenting on others’ discussions. Commenting in your groups is as important as posting your own discussions. If you never comment on other group members’ discussions, your discussions will often be ignored by group members. They expect fellow group members to both post relevant discussions and comment on discussions. That’s how a thriving community works.
When you do leave a comment, be sure to address the group member who posted the discussion and provide an insightful, unique point of view on the discussion. Generic comments like, “Awesome!” are worthless. And, please do not use the comment box as a place for blatant self-promotion.
Here’s an example of generic, what-not-to-do comments:
Monitoring your groups can take a good amount of time each week. I pick my top 8-10 groups and monitor these on an almost daily basis. As for my other groups, I subscribe to the weekly update email to ensure I don’t miss any relevant discussions.
Here’s how you can adjust your settings in each group to get the weekly update email:
Bottom Line: Comment regularly in your high priority groups while monitoring the others less frequently. Always provide value when you comment. Engaging with a comment is one of the best ways for you to show your support for the group.
3. Connecting with Members
Notice which group members—especially potential prospects—are actively participating in the group and look for ways to interact with them inside the group and to then connect with them.
One of the best features of LinkedIn groups is being able to interact with people outside your network who should become part of your network. Members are again able to search the group membership by job titles or keywords. Another reason to actively post and comment in your groups is to gain visibility you would not otherwise have inside the group.
When you are an active group member, you will receive connection requests and LinkedIn messages from other members because they see you’re regularly providing value to the group. I’ve made some of my most valuable professional connections from those within my LinkedIn groups because I am a visible group member, comment regularly and follow up with those who comment on my discussions.
You can also take a more proactive approach to connecting with group members, but be cautious not to appear overeager to connect. The easiest way to make a connection (that I’ve found) is to comment on a trending discussion and then send a personalized connection request to other commenters. Active group members enjoy connecting with other participants. Win-win.
Here’s a good example of a personalized connection request:
Bottom Line: Be authentic. Do your homework: look at the profiles of potential connections to ensure they are a good fit. Don’t send generic connection requests.