Realising Value from LinkedIn Groups

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LinkedIn Groups are one of my favourite features within LinkedIn. Groups are a fantastic resource for users with thousands of topics, and tens of thousands of rich, open discussions. But for all my enthusiasm about LinkedIn Groups I’m also increasingly frustrated at how they are being treated and the behaviour of some users.

What Are We Doing Wrong?

I’ve summarised my frustrations into 5 key categories:

  1. Spam – this is a universal problem, not limited to LinkedIn. I often wonder whether the users who jump in and spam a group understand the damage they are doing to their personal brand – or whether they care.
  2. Using topics and download offers to harvest email addresses – a lot of legitimate lead generation taking place on LinkedIn, but there’s also those who use a hot topic or a download offer to harvest email addresses. In most cases the content on offer is either very poor or barely related to what was originally offered. If you want to use a topic as a lead generation tool then do it properly – don’t say “if you’d like a copy of the Guide let me know and I’ll email one out to you”
  3. Useless Posts – this is very common. A user will post a link or make a statement – and that’s it…no suggestion of what the user is trying to achieve, no call for discussion, nothing. Time and kilobytes we won’t get back
  4. Poor Group Management – many groups fall into disarray because the group owner either loses interest in a topic or fails to establish/maintain group discipline. If I look back at the groups I’ve left this year poor group management would account for 90% of the reasons why.
  5. The Group is a Personal Promotional Tool – this is an issue around emerging business trends, and regional groups – a group is created around an emerging topic (i.e. cloud computing) and becomes a personal promotional tool for the group owner and close associates.

What Can We Do Better

I spent some time looking through the Groups that I’m a member of and I identified a number of key points that will guide both group managers and those who wish to start discussions towards better, more compelling use of Groups. There are 3 key areas where we can do better:

  1. Discussion or topic name
  2. Discussion Details and links
  3. Expectation management

I Want to Start a Discussion – What should I focus on?

1. Discussion Name

Like the title of a blog post, the discussion name should be compelling. LinkedIn gives you 200 characters to use – use them well

Don’t mislead with the topic name. I find it infuriating when I click into a discussion only to find the topic is a cover for self-promotion or is unrelated to the actual content or intent

2. Discussion Details + using links

This part of the discussion area is where you the creator can outline why you’ve started the discussion, your thoughts etc. LinkedIn gives you 3,950 characters to use – so tell us what you are thinking (please..!)

If you want to link off to external content use the link box. Note that you need to use a native URL, not a shortened link. Note also, once you include a link you then have the option to edit the summary text of the link. By default, LinkedIn will pick up part or all of the first paragraph of the link – if this summary doesn’t communicate the link content well then use edit to change the summary.

3. Expectation Management

As I noted above, tell other members of the Group why you’ve started the discussion.

If you’re going to do a bit of self-promotion – flag it early. I don’t mind others doing this – but I want to know up front

If you want to start a discussion then ask users for feedback or to add to the discussion

If it’s an FYI post then say so – at least then I won’t be offended if I leave a comment on your post only for you to never engage.

4. Finally – Group Owners

Please be diligent in managing a group and communicating its purpose. If you’re struggling to maintain a high standard then ask some of the regular contributors to help out and assign then manager rights.

Summary

I hope these points help all of us realise value from this invaluable resource – lets not kill the golden goose. Groups need creators, contributors, and consumers of the content to be effective.

As always I’m interested in your feedback or any points you feel I may have missed.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mark Parker
Mark Parker is the founder of Smart Selling, and the specialist business unit – Smart Social Media. The core aim of both businesses is to help companies become better sales organisations by utilising the ideas, tools, and practices of Sales 2. and social media.

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