This is the first in (what I hope will be) a series of posts in the coming months about what it takes to run a successful LinkedIn group. I’ll be talking to owners of some of the best-managed groups on LinkedIn so that we can all learn from their insights.
If there’s a group owner you think I should talk to, please let me know in the Comments section below.
Toby Marshall and his team at Lead Creation based in Sydney, run 7 successful LinkedIn groups (plus a further 7 subgroups), including Small Business Evolution / Entrepreneurs and SMEs, which has over 10,000 members, 4 subgroups and NO spam!
I asked him what makes a successful group, what’s worked well for him and what advice he’d give to others looking to set up and maintain an engaged community.
What makes a LinkedIn group successful?
“A group is just like an industry or professional association. A lot of people join groups but don’t revisit them. The success of a group really comes down to three things; how much time the owner puts into it, the size of the group, and the focus of the group – is it narrow enough that the majority of discussions will be relevant and of interest to members?”
Including your keywords in the group name (so that it can be found by those searching) is also important.
Toby believes (and I agree) that 99% of LinkedIn groups are either full of spam or have under 500 members and are dead. His advice for spotting a good LinkedIn group? Look at the ratio of comments to discussions (this should be at least 1.5 comments per discussion and ideally 3-4).
He advises that, when starting a group, owners ensure there are at least 20-30 members and 3-4 active discussions before they begin to invite VIPs.
What’s worked well for you when running LinkedIn groups?
Sponsorship is a key area Toby and his team have focused on – “we’re not starting any more groups without a sponsor to cover the costs of set up and ongoing maintenance.”
The benefit to sponsors is they can position themselves as experts and it gives Toby and his team the ability to invest time in the group, actively growing and engaging with members.
Ensuring each group is really focused has also worked well for Toby and his team. They’ve set up sub-groups that address one topic within each category. “If a group is too broad in focus then people won’t be interested in it. LinkedIn has given us the ability to subdivide topics.”
Other things that have worked well include:
- building on discussions by summarising them (with comments attributable to various group members) and pulling out the key answer/findings in a blog post. You can then start a new discussion ‘The answer was X, do you agree/disagree?’ and spark further debate. Here’s a recent example of curating comments from a discussion thread and turning them into a blog post.
- Personally writing to everyone who requests to join the group to ask them what they want to get from it and then responding to them accordingly. You can set up templates to help with this and engage outside help to ensure the process isn’t too onerous. Knowing this information helps you to shape group discussions.
What hasn’t worked so well?
Toby believes “there has to be a blog or website behind every successful group as otherwise there is nowhere to post content.” That’s something he didn’t have initially but has now set up.
What advice would you give others considering starting a group?