Whenever I find a tool within a social media platform that works for me, I make the most of it. That’s how I feel about LinkedIn groups. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in; I’m willing to bet there’s a group for it. Groups bring together people with a common business interest. Find the groups that your target audience spends time in, and establish your presence there.
Who Do You Want to Reach?
A common mistake entrepreneurs make with LinkedIn groups is joining groups that cater to people like themselves. Now, there is value in connecting with others in your industry, but if your goal is to increase visibility with your customer base, you’ll want to look at other groups.
If you sell business software, you wouldn’t benefit as much from joining groups that cater to software companies and professionals as much as you would groups for business owners. There, you can participate in conversations, get to know your demographic, and contribute to discussions.
How Many Groups Should You Join?
Another common mistake I see is business owners joining too many groups. It’s better to focus on a handful you actually have time to participate in than to be inactive in 50 groups.
You’ll see the most traction when you regularly contribute content and participate in discussions in your groups, so consider how much time you have to dedicate to these tasks. You can join up to 50 groups with a regular LinkedIn account, but I suggest you start with 7-10 active groups.
What Should You Do There?
Once you join a few groups, first be an observer to get the hang of how members participate. You may see a few key players really driving the discussion. Take note of them; we’ll come back to them in a second.
Some groups are not much more than a place where people post their latest blog articles. While there may be some value in getting your content out to more people, you’re better off really engaging in groups that have more ongoing discussions among members. Here’s a great example: I’m a member of the Writing on LinkedIn group, which simply consists of people who help one another succeed on LinkedIn. People post questions and others respond. It’s fabulous dialogue.
How Can You Benefit?
Now let’s get back to those key players. One absolute must with LinkedIn groups is connecting with other members, especially those who are really active. Click their profiles and connect to them. You can even personalize the message you send to let them know you like what they’re sharing on the group, and that you’d like to connect on a deeper level.
If you become one of those thought leaders, others will look to you for great content and advice. You’ll be the one they want to link to, and that’s a good thing. Your posts might even get selected for Manager’s Choice, which puts it up front and center at the top of the group page, right next to your smiling face.
Go One Step Further
If you have the time and inclination, start your own LinkedIn group. Find a theme that doesn’t seem to be addressed in any other group, and build your new group around it. You’ll have to promote it initially to attract members, but over time, if your group is active and valuable, people will find it and join it.
Remember to focus on delivering valuable content and contribution, not selling. This is personal networking at its best, and the way to succeed is to build relationships over time.
About the author
Melinda F. Emerson, “SmallBizLady” is America’s #1 Small Business Expert. She is an expert on small business start up, business development, and social media marketing. Forbes magazine named her the #1 woman for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She publishes a resource blog www.succeedasyourownboss.com Melinda is also the bestselling author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months and the ebook How To Become a Social Media Ninja.