The power of LinkedIn Groups, if done right
By Ian Robson
Above all, whatever you do with your LinkedIn Groups it should in no way disrupt the members' desire to engage. Your audience has too much choice to engage with their chosen content across multiple outlets, so any excuse for it to not be yours will be taken.
But imagine if you could construct clever ways to extract value from your audience that masqueraded as bringing benefit to them? (Or if your audience is reading this – “Imagine if the content you’re reading is worthy of your expert commentary and worth sharing with your extended peer group?”)
Expert voice communities
The benefit of creating a worthy and highly engaged LinkedIn Group is that it will amplifying your voice in a discussion by a factor of sometimes a 100x or more. And on top of achieving an increasingly voluminous reach, the persons reached could be well outside of your 2nd or 3rd connections. But predominantly they will be highly pertinent to your industry, making this amplification most efficient in terms of cost, resource and time considerations.
Here are a few tactics you should adopt for creating a high-value LinkedIn Group:
1. Pick a topic and not an industry
You’d be amazed at how valuable thoughts, ideas and information from one industry can be to another. Industry has been organically siloed over many years, building barriers to opportunities and creative thinking that shouldn’t exist.
2. Resist the urge to build the biggest group
Noise and unwieldiness inevitably put off a large contingent of seriously worthy contributors in very large groups; fast making the usefulness of a group to its members (and to yourself) decline.
3. Engender a thought-leadership club
A private club mentality will develop into a trusted environment with greater engagement, insightful discussions and a more powerful collective contribution of ideas and thinking for all. If you feel so inclined you have the option to make your LinkedIn Group actually private; but this can be counterintuitive, in that the whole idea of having a community is that it should be a service for all who need it. Ideally you should alleviate potential barriers to great minds entering the group and approach your moderating with a strategic mantra for “serious thinkers and positive contributors only”.
4. Invest in kick-starting conversations
This seems obvious; but what’s less obvious is how and when you should be doing this. Paying for expert and timely commentary and strong opinions from seasoned journalists and editors in your chosen subject areas is a must. It’s important to remember also that you may ultimately have commercial engagement intentions, but your paid for contributors don’t need to! And this investment in quality content need not be high frequency if you are strategic in what desired outcomes and observations can be extrapolated from a particular commentary.
5. Incentivise and publicise
Most members of a community will respond well to knowing how valuable they have been to others – as well as to themselves. LinkedIn has a very simplistic method for graphically rating contributors to a group, but you have the opportunity to reward great content further by promoting discussions and posts via a Manager’s Choice window or even directly to the group members or your own…you may even consider making a point each week to highlight the best contributor in a unique post of your own – and link this activity to Twitter also, of course.
So what’s it worth?
You should be chuffed that you’ve built a community of thought-leaders with seemingly altruistic intentions. But you have done a lot more than that…From this representative peer group, you will have a pretty good idea as to what makes your extended audience tick, as well as what they want and what they respond to. You will also have organically developed a coherent content strategy as to how to develop the relationship beyond passive audiences into engaged communities.
Ultimately, you’re aiming to underpin your content strategy with your audience as the marketeers – this is far more powerful than anything you could pay for. We need to make active communities with viral/shareable content, not passive audiences. As Buzzfeed founder Jonah Peretti once stated “Instead of making content that the robots like, it’s more satisfying to make content that humans want to share”. But it doesn’t have to be all about grumpy cats. As Buzzfeed’s Editor-in-Chief states, “If you’re doing something that will get only 50,000 views, that’s fine as long as our piece is optimised to get all 50,000 who should see it”
Peretti also stated sagely how we now need to build content strategies with no legacy business model getting in the way … we need to start from scratch with social and mobile at the core of what we do. And what better way than to do that on the social media platforms where the engagement and conversations are most worthy and easy to nurture?