LinkedIn groups are a superb place to connect and collaborate with existing communities that have a shared interest, raise your personal brand and create thought leadership. However, it’s not place to jump in feet first and sell your products or services. Let’s get that straight from the get go.
For me, LinkedIn is about building influential connections, but to do that you have to bring something to the group. Simply being there isn’t enough. Here are ten tips on getting the most out of your LinkedIn Group.
Once you’ve joined the group, browse the current discussions and listen. Digest what people are saying, how they’re saying it, how they interact with each other. This will give you insight into the group etiquette before you get stuck in. It will also give you an idea of what people are genuinely interested in. This insight can be hugely valuable.
If you stumble upon some gems of knowledge within these discussions, like or share them with your audience. The person it came from will love you for it and your audience will appreciate a cracking piece of content. Promoting and connecting like this through LinkedIn can really help to build your own influence.
You know when you attend networking events or conferences and you work the room, easing yourself into conversations gently? Networking online is pretty much the same. Start with listening to current conversations and if you truly feel you can add something to it, ease yourself in. If you can’t, then stay out of the conversation until you have something interesting to say. And whatever you do, don’t try to sell your stuff. It won’t work.
This follows on nicely from the previous point. Your aim is to build your authority and influence around your specialist subject, product or service. So create thought leadership by only commenting when you can add true value to the conversation and show people you’re an expert at what you do. This is the bit that sells by the way.
Once you’ve established a rapport with group members through discussions and you think there’s a valid reason to connect with them outside of LinkedIn, connect (you can use the group as your reason to do this). Tell them you love what they said about X and would like to chat about it further over the phone, skype or coffee. Or tell them that you have something that could help with the current issue they’ve been discussing and would love to talk to them about it. Just make sure your reason for connecting is relevant. There are enough spammers on LinkedIn, don’t become another one.
Once you’ve got the hang of how groups work and what the members are interested in, think about starting your own discussion. Again, make sure it’s relevant. Taking the lead in this way can give you great kudos when done right.
If you disagree with people, debate but don't get aggressive. We all like a bit of passion, but there’s a fine line between passion and being offensive. Unfortunately because people are hiding behind laptops, computers and mobiles, they have a habit of speaking first and thinking second. Try to use an internal edit button and if you’re feeling angry, step away until you can objectively respond. It’s hard to come back from an explosive outburst in online communities, so remember your reputation is at stake here.
Participating in groups can take time and if you’ve been involved in a discussion or started one, you need to check back and respond. The email settings can help you with this and will notify you when people respond, which should prompt you to return and engage.
The more you engage through the group, the more people will remember you. As you build your reputation and influence through the group other members will be more likely to recommend you or your products/services to other people. This, my friends, is gold dust.
Have I said this enough? OK, good.