Why LinkedIn Groups Can Be Great for Businesses (and How to Create a Successful One)
LinkedIn Groups do not have a great reputation. Many of them are filled with self-promotion and spam rather than valuable discussions and meaningful interactions. Hence, it can be easy to turn down the idea of creating a one for your business. “It wouldn’t work.”
While it is true that there are few good LinkedIn Groups, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t useful for all businesses. With the shift in social media usage in the recent years, closed communities such as Facebook Groups and LinkedIn Groups might be the next best way to engage your audience.
In this post, we’ll explore why your business should have a LinkedIn Group and how to create and manage a successful group.
Read on to find out more.
Why LinkedIn Groups
If you’re still wondering if LinkedIn Groups are useful for your business, I hope the following reasons can convince you of its importance and power.
First, social media as we know it is changing. There’s a significant shift from simply broadcasting marketing messages to engaging fans. Instead of building huge public pages, more and more businesses are opting for niche closed communities. This shift is also encouraged by changes on major social media platforms such as Facebook, where meaningful content in groups is given priority over public content.
LinkedIn has also announced that they will be improving the LinkedIn Group experience, which is “at the heart of what makes LinkedIn a trusted place for professionals to help and support one another”1The screenshot below was taken by David Spinks..
Second, LinkedIn usage is growing. While Facebook and Instagram had received the attention of most marketers (including ourselves) in 2017, LinkedIn has steadily grown its user base to more than 500 million members.
And unlike Facebook and Instagram, people on LinkedIn are there to further their professional network, build their personal brand, and increase their industry knowledge. This makes communities like LinkedIn Groups a great way for bringing your customers together, especially if you are a business-to-business (B2B) company.
Finally, LinkedIn Groups have powerful community management features that are not available on other social media platforms. For example, LinkedIn sends a daily or weekly digest of all activities in the group to your members to keep them updated and engaged. You can also send an admin announcement email to your members once a week — an email that’ll sit in their inbox, not a notification in the app.
If these reasons are convincing enough for you, if you have the resources, and if you want to learn more about creating and managing a LinkedIn Group, let’s dive in further.
How to create a successful LinkedIn Group
1. Pick a topic that your customers care about
A Group, however, should be focused around a topic that has a natural connection to your brand and less on directly promoting your brand or company. People should join the group because they are interested in the topic, not your company. Over time, the audience will create a natural connection with the topic and your brand, through an earned connection, which is much more valuable.
HubSpot’s LinkedIn Group is about inbound marketing; Content Marketing Institute’s LinkedIn Group is about content marketing. They focused not on their own brand but on topics that their customers care about.
Your customers might be interested in discussing your products with fellow customers. They are, however, likely to be more interested in the wider topic instead. For example, if we had a LinkedIn Group, members would likely be more keen to discuss how to improve their social media marketing than chat about how to use Buffer.
Having a topic that your customers care about will not only attract them to be part of your LinkedIn Group. It will also help keep the conversations in the group focused and make it easier for you and your team to manage the group.
Here are some questions to help you decide on your group topic:
- What are your goals for the community?
- What conversations would be useful to your customers?
- What are some questions that your customers often ask you?
- What are the common topics that your brand is related to?
2. Create your LinkedIn Group
Once you’ve decided on your topic, the next step is to create your group on LinkedIn.
Creating a LinkedIn group is as simple as filling out a form. Navigate to your LinkedIn Groups and click on “Create group”. Or you can use this direct link if you’re logged in: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/create.
Here are the fields to fill out:
- Group title
- Group logo
- Group rules (optional but highly recommended)
- Group membership (standard or unlisted)
One aspect that I would recommend focusing on is the group rules. Your group rules will help your members understand what’s encouraged and what’s not. Having your groups rules stated explicitly will also make it easier for you to manage your group and moderate conversations.
Here’s an example by Content Marketing Institute LinkedIn Group:
It might sound harsh that they would “delete any discussion submission which includes a link to posts and articles or are a promotion of services” and “Members who repeatedly submit links will be removed from the group.” From my personal experience, having such rules and enforcing them seem to be the key difference between a LinkedIn Group with meaningful discussions and one that is filled with spam and links.
If you want to check out more group rules for reference, I thought Search Engine Land, Step Into The Spotlight!, and Lean Startup Circle have pretty good group rules. (You’ll have to join the groups to see the rules.)
3. Set up message templates
One handy feature of LinkedIn Groups is its message templates. You can create custom messages that would be automatically sent to people interested in joining your LinkedIn Group. This is a great opportunity to let your brand tone shine. If you do not create a custom message, LinkedIn will send its default message accordingly.
Here are the various message templates:
- Request-to-join Message (to people who requested to join your group)
- Welcome Message (to people whom you have approved their membership in your group)
- Decline Message (to people whom you have declined their request to join your group)
- Decline and Block Message (to people whom you have declined their request and want to block any further requests)
To access this setting, click on “Manage” on your LinkedIn Group homepage and select “Templates” on the left. Then, click on “Create Template” for the ones you want to customize. Here’s how customizing the template looks like:
Here’s an example of how a custom welcome message email looks like (the message is in the middle section while the other two sections are automatically generated, I believe):
If you would like interested people to fill out an application form to join the group, you could include an application form in your request-to-join message, like HubSpot did:
This way, you can ensure that only people that fit your target persona or people who are really interested would join your LinkedIn Group.
4. Invite your connections and grow your group
To help ensure that your LinkedIn Group remains a trusted place for you and your members to gather, you can now invite only people whom you’re connected to on LinkedIn.
To invite your connections, click on “Manage” on your LinkedIn Group homepage and select “Invited Users” on the left.
If you have other marketing channels, such as other social media profiles, email, or a blog, you could use them to promote your new LinkedIn Group. Alternatively, you could also share your LinkedIn Group on your personal LinkedIn profile and encourage your colleagues to do the same.
Here are a few more ideas from LinkedIn on promoting your group:
- Optimize and edit your group information to include keywords that prospective members are likely to search for.
- Encourage group members to invite people.
- Advertise your group with LinkedIn Ads by clicking the Advertising link at the bottom of any LinkedIn page.
It might be tempting to think that the bigger your group is, the better it would be. Before you go about growing your group, here’s a thought to consider: many of the largest LinkedIn Groups have over a million members and are often filled with just links. It’s often the smaller groups with proper moderation that have meaningful discussions. (LinkedIn has now limited the number of members in a group to 20,0002LinkedIn, 2017.)
5. Start discussions and be active
This step and the next are the most crucial ones, which will influence how well your LinkedIn Group becomes. You ready?
Once you’ve created your LinkedIn Group and invited your connections, your group would likely still feel very empty. Members might not post anything if there aren’t any posts in the group (or they might just start sharing links 🙈).
I would recommend creating a “Welcome post” as the group’s first post, where you welcome new members, share what the group is about, and gently remind members to check the group rules.
Then, feature that post so that it stays at the top of the group feed for all new members to read. You can feature a post by clicking on the three dots in the upper-right corner of the post and selecting “Feature”. Here’s an example of how a featured post looks like:
The next thing to do is to start some discussions in the group. This serves two purposes:
- It helps get conversations going in the group, and
- It signals to your group members the type of posts that are appropriate and encouraged.
The question-and-answer format seems to be the best way to start valuable conversations in LinkedIn Groups. According to Inc., James McDonald, who started a successful industrial water treatment LinkedIn Group several years back, posted a question every day and let his members respond to it3Inc., 2013.
Besides starting discussions, you’ll also want to participate in relevant discussions by commenting or liking. This will encourage your members to post more and, again, let them know the type of discussions that are recommended the group.
Starting discussions and participating in them can be quite time-consuming. But your effort will pay off once you have created a culture of having meaningful discussions. New members tend to follow the actions of existing members. If they see only quality conversations and no self-promotional posts, they’ll more likely contribute to the discussions than promote their own things in the group.
6. Moderate all posts and remove spam
This next step is just as important as the previous. Once your members become active (yay!), it’ll be crucial to moderate the posts in your LinkedIn Group. My hunch is that most LinkedIn Groups fail because of a lack of moderation.
According to LinkedIn, “Spam is the top reason people leave groups” and, if I may add, the top reason people become inactive in groups4LinkedIn, 2017. Spam in LinkedIn Groups is usually in the form of links. So I would recommend being quite sensitive to members sharing links in your LinkedIn Group, and deleting the post or removing the member.
To remove a post or comment in your LinkedIn Group, click on the three dots in the upper-right corner of the post or by the comment and select “Delete”.
To help you reduce spam, LinkedIn also has an auto-moderation system that would flag promotional content. You could also encourage your members (or group managers) to flag posts that are not appropriate for the group. Then you can head to your group management page to moderate the posts under the sections, “Moderation Queue” and “Classifier Queue”.
Here’s a little heads up: building an engaged community can take some time and effort. You’ll likely have to repeat step five and six for quite some time so don’t be disheartened if your group isn’t very active after the first month or two.
If you would like to learn more best practices for managing LinkedIn Groups, there are a few good answers in this Quora thread (especially the answers of Alice Fuller, Andy Foote, and Jeff Martens).
Who’s doing it well? A few great examples
In case it’s helpful to take a peek at what great LinkedIn Groups are doing, here are a few of my favorites (from my very limited research). Approval is required before one joins a group so I have not been able to check out many. If you know of any other great examples, would you kindly share them below? Thank you!
Search Engine Land
Search Engine Land is a LinkedIn Group for SEO, filled with many great question-and-answer discussions. They are very strict about not sharing links in the group, except for links from Search Engine Land’s websites. (The assumption is that as it is a Search Engine Land’s group, people who join are interested in getting news directly from the company.)
Social Media Marketing
Social Media Marketing claims to be the largest and most active social media marketing LinkedIn Group as of May 2017. There are many great discussions in the group, such as the one in the screenshot. At the same time, as it is such a big group, moderation can take some time so you’ll often see self-promotion posts in the group.
Step Into The Spotlight!
Step Into The Spotlight! is a business and marketing LinkedIn Group by Tsufit, author of Step Into The Spotlight. Tsufit regularly starts discussions and moderates the posts to keep the group free of spam. While self-promotion in the group is generally not encouraged, there’s a post where members can showcase their work in the comments of the post.
Over to you: Which are your favorite LinkedIn Groups?
LinkedIn is the best platform to reach professionals who are interested in connecting with other professionals. This makes it a great place to build your professional community. While LinkedIn Groups might not have a great reputation (now), the few well-run groups are good indications that it’s possible to create a successful one.
That’s all from me. I would love to hear about your favorite LinkedIn Groups and why you think they are great!