LinkedIn Groups can be extremely valuable tools for social selling but, I find them to be somewhat of an anomaly based on the relatively small percentage of group members (I’m guessing single digits, on average in any given group) who are actually active on this platform. Active means contributing, not merely belonging.
Certainly, for all of the great features that LinkedIn provides … they have never hesitated to remove functions that they do not feel are getting the appreciation that they deserve. Witness Signals, news feed filters, searching a connection’s connections, and Answers. Most of these former features would tend to fall under the power user category which generally equates to a low adoption rate when compared to the entire membership population.
I have heard the rumor more than once that groups have been in danger of meeting the executioner’s axe so, will they be the next to go? Apparently not. Read the recent news from LinkedIn …
The new LinkedIn Groups
“We’ve been inspired by members like you to make Groups the best place for like-minded professionals to meet and converse. As a valued moderator, we wanted to ensure you knew about the following upcoming exciting changes first.
Simpler privacy settings. Now, there are just two types of groups. Standard Groups are findable in search and members can request to join or be invited by any existing member. Unlisted Groups are not discoverable and membership requires an invite from a manager. In both types, only group members can see the conversations.
- A new mobile app. Being part of group conversations is easier than ever with a new LinkedIn Groups app for iOS. Android app coming soon.
- Images and mentions. Post your images and mention other group members with just a tap.
- Less email. We’ll digest the best content from all of your groups into one weekly or daily email.
- Easy invites and less work. Any member of any Standard Group can invite their connections, making it easier for great groups to grow faster.
In a few weeks, Boise B2B Sales & Marketing Professionals will become an Unlisted Group where you can enjoy these new features. We’ll never show a unlisted group or its conversations to anybody who doesn’t belong until an owner or manager invites them. Groups like yours will be able to become Standard Groups by using the Group Settings menu. For more information on Unlisted Groups, click for more details. If you have questions, join the Group Moderator Community to learn directly from group moderators like you.”
Why be active?
It’s simply amazing to me that some folks can belong in up to 50 LinkedIn groups, get cool looking badges for their profile page, and not be active in any of them? Oh well. This just means greater opportunities for the rest of us!
- Your co-members’ lack of participation means that the cream (you) will always float to top and this visibility translates into selling opportunities. Remember too that your profile headline is attached to your name in group digests as well as on several other LinkedIn activities. I would suggest that your headline be more than your title. It should share how your services benefit your clients. Repeat Advertising = Top of Mind.
- You can rub shoulders with people outside of your first-degree connections because groups are entirely network agnostic. No member connectivity is required.
- Private messaging to other group members (dependent on their privacy settings) is available from within the group interface (regardless of any network level connection). Do not abuse this privilege! You can also @ message individual members.
- You are given the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise directly to your target market and the news feeds on groups will have significantly less noise for your message to compete with than is found on your general news feed.
- It is very easy to take a shared group affiliation to the next level, a first degree connection.
- Attract others, or discover them, and then build these relationships!
What groups should you belong to?
Industry groups, and even those that are inhabited by your competitors, can be a great source of up-to-date information (technical and market) and referral opportunities. For example, you may find other members who sell to your same market but do so with non-competing products. I call these folks power partners. Of course, your direct competitors may also be present so you will never want to leave your kimono wide open in a public setting. In some localities, this type of behavior can get you arrested.
If your territory is geo-specific, find good general business groups in your area
And, if your territory is more widespread, you can find these same types of groups for any geographic area. Now, when you are traveling, your local group can be a great place to go for area advice or for scheduling real-life meetings with the members. Why wouldn’t they want to meet with you. Assuming you are at least 50 miles from home, you are already a recognized expert.
Groups that are frequented by your target market
This type of group can be tough sledding to get in dependent on the group moderator and/or the group membership. Let’s say that I sell dental instruments. Naturally, it would be awesome to join a group of dentists as they will all be schooled up together making this a target rich environment. The challenge is that you, the group moderator, and the members all know who you are, what you are, and have a pretty accurate guess as to why you want to join. Ask yourself … “What can I bring to this group besides an order form?” Actually, there are a lot of things.
I would start with a personalized message to the group moderator expressing your interest in joining. Emphasize that it is your goal to provide solid educational materials to the members and from a wide variety of sources. Ultimately, you want to be the one that they think about should a need for your services arise. You will not pursue members for business. I find that being upfront is always the best policy as is anticipating, and answering, potential objections before they are raised. Worse are the objections that you never hear and have no way of addressing.
Of course, if the moderator looks at your general activity stream and sees that you are a self-promoting spamming sales weasel … it’s game over and before it even got started. The same can be said if you exhibit these behaviors, contrary to your assurances not to, after gaining group entry. For what it’s worth, these same rules and boundaries should apply to your activities in every group that you belong to. That’s simple LinkedIn group etiquette.
Create your own group
If you do not find a group to your liking, you always have the option to create your own! A good example of a new LinkedIn Standard (public) group would be to encourage members to invite like-minded people. My group is designed this way. However, an Unlisted (private) group could be used for your company, your vendors, your customers, or even as a virtual networking (leads) group. As the group moderator, it will be up to you to set the tone for the group.
Your keys to success
Regardless of what groups you choose to belong to, there are steps that you can take to ensure your success …
- What are your goals and the necessary activities to reach them? Define these and then follow them. You are in this for the long-haul and creating relationships will require a consistent effort.
- Before you jump into a discussion, ask yourself these three questions … “Do I have something meaningful to contribute?” “Is this the right time?” “Is it appropriate for me to join this conversation?”
- First and foremost, you are there to build relationships and not sell your gear.
- Stay on topic. Most groups will have a specific focus (some more than others) so please don’t share junk that has no relation whatsoever to this focus.
- This group might be your target market but, the absolutely last thing you want to do is join and then start pitching the other members.
- If you do nothing else but promote your stuff … you won’t get very far.
- Share great stuff, comment and like on other’s shares, and share other’s updates.
Don’t be like the salesperson who is a great presenter but, who couldn’t close a deal if his life depended on it. You absolutely must learn to engage progressively in groups in order to move relationships forward, and ultimately, to a mutually beneficial concluded business opportunity.