If you’re a lawyer, accountant, engineer or other professional looking to raise your profile, find and engage more of your ideal prospects and get new work, LinkedIn groups are a great tool.
Well-run groups are their own community of people with similar interests. They’re a fantastic place to find and engage your prospects.
While you’ll definitely want to join groups to which your ideal prospects belong, you should consider setting up your own group if there’s a gap.
Why set up your own LinkedIn group?
There are multiple benefits of doing so, including:
- Building your profile in your area of expertise.
- Positioning yourself as an authority in your area.
- Finding and attracting those with similar interests or who may need your help.
- Widening your professional network by building relationships with group members.
- Learning more about the views and perspectives of those in your industry.
- Establishing a community.
- Generating interest in you and your firm, including inbound enquiries.
However, if you decide to do so you’ll need to make sure you plan it properly and designate time to build it.
How to set up and run a LinkedIn group that delivers value to its members
The vast majority of LinkedIn groups are a waste of time because they haven’t been nurtured or policed. As a result they’re either very small with little activity or they’re full of spam. To make sure yours doesn’t go the same way, here’s what you need to do:
- Plan – what’s the purpose of your group? What’s the scope of discussions you want to see? Who do you want to join? What discussions will you start each week?
- Create your group – ensure you use Keywords in the name so that people searching the LinkedIn groups directory can easily find it, and write a clear summary and description that will appeal to those you want to join.
- SKIP the step which prompts you to send invitations to join your group – why would anyone want to join an unpopulated group?
- Populate your group with at least 2 discussions. A welcome discussion is always a good one, as people like to comment on these.
- Get your house in order by selecting your settings, permissions, drafting your group rules, templates and setting up sub-groups (if appropriate).
- Pre-approve your group managers (you can have up to 10 including the Owner) and a few ‘friendly’ clients and colleagues who you’d like to join the group early. The aim is to get them to comment on the existing discussions and to add their own so that, when you invite others to join, there is already some activity.
- You’re now ready to invite others. You can use LinkedIn’s standard one liner but it doesn’t really tell people why they should join so you may want to consider a personalised email to each of those you wish to invite. You can work from a template so it’s simply a case of inserting their name each time.
- Commit to ongoing moderation of your group. If people have to request to join or have their discussions approved before they’ll post (a good option to prevent spam), ensure you, or one of the group managers, goes in at least once a day to do so. It’s really frustrating for group members if they try to post something and it takes a week or two to be approved – often it’s out of date by that time.
- Start one new discussion each week in the early days. If you want people to return to your group it’s important that there’s fresh, relevant content. You’ll need to drive this until the group takes on a life of its own.
- Comment on others’ discussions and stay involved in threads that you start. You may want to summarise these at the end or to put together blog posts summarising a discussion. Remember to give credit to each contributor.
- Continue to invite people to join the group and encourage others to do so. You may want to ask your PA to send out a certain number of invites on your behalf each week.
- Promote your LinkedIn group. For example, you could include it in your email signature, on your website, your blog, your newsletters etc.
- Look for opportunities to move relationships beyond LinkedIn. For example, you may want to hold an event or a webinar for group members, you may invite someone in the group to write a guest article, you may seek their opinion on something. The options are endless.
- Monitor and analyse key statistics about your group. This will enable you to track its growth, determine what’s working well, understand what you need to do differently, and track leads generated by the group.
How’s doing so benefited others?
In early 2011, a lawyer I know set up a group on employment law issues for HR Directors and Managers. A little over a year later the group had grown to over 1,000 members and the firm had hosted two HR Question Times in its offices. In total, almost 200 people attended, the vast majority of who were NOT clients of the firm.
The lawyer and his colleagues were able to start to build relationships and to generate work as a result. He describes this as the most successful business development initiative his firm has ever undertaken.
To benefit from running a LinkedIn group you’ve got to be prepared to give it the time and effort it deserves (I spend around 30-60 mins a week on the group I run). However, the effort is well worth it. Remember to focus on others and their needs rather than how they can help you, and you’ll start to see a pay-off.
If you would like more info about setting up and running a successful LinkedIn group, my e-book “Complete Guide to LinkedIn Groups: Network with the right people. Generate new leads. Get new business” is now available for NZ$ 18.97.
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