Effective Use of LinkedIn Groups Takes Strategy, Time, and Effort

By LinkedIn Ninja | Branding with LinkedIn

Sep 25

LinkedIn Groups can be the most valuable part of your LinkedIn strategy to grow your business, but a Groups strategy can be the most difficult to understand and implement. Add into that the fact that it also takes the most time and I hear a lot of groans and moans when I suggest it.

However, a recent study from LeadFormix on traffic from LinkedIn to their B2B client websites found that 38% of the people coming to the site from a LinkedIn Group resulted in a completed form on their website! True, tangible leads are coming from LinkedIn Groups!

LinkedIn currently has almost 1 million groups! And more are started every day. Some LinkedIn Groups are big and some are small. Some are super active and some are dead. Finding the right LinkedIn Groups for you and your business – let alone the right discussion opportunities within those groups – can be a very daunting task.

To help, LinkedIn created the Daily and Weekly Group Activity Digests that land directly in your email inbox. But if you’re in 50 groups (the limit available in LinkedIn for free and premium members), getting those every day can be just as overwhelming. So having a clear strategy is crucial to your success in using LinkedIn Groups for sales and business development.

Choosing the Right Groups

First and foremost, the LinkedIn Groups that you select should be the groups where your target client is spending their time. Depending on how the group is set up and who is allowed to participate, you sometimes may not be able to get into all of the groups that would be most valuable. Most of the time, I see sales people in mostly industry related groups and they are wondering why they aren’t finding any new clients and customers. The answer is that they’re spending all of their LinkedIn “group time” with their competitors! A few of those are great for professional development, but I would recommend limiting the number to only those that actually helping you.

Essentially, you have to evaluate each group that you join and decide how you’re going to use it. You have to be an Opportunist. I have 3 main purposes for the groups that I’m in.

Market reach to prospects – What’s important is match to target market, size, and a low level of duplicate members in other groups. I’m using these groups mostly for hunting and if allowed, advertising.

Establishing myself as an expert – Those are groups of my target market where there are good discussion happening and I can demonstrate that I really know what I say I do. Those are groups like Sales Playbook. I don’t have too many of these because they take a lot of time so I’m very selective.

Groups for broadcasting/advertising – These are large groups that are a bit more general in their make up so that it may pull in some prospects in need of my services that I may not have thought about. They would be the large local groups and the like that address many different topics.

You probably aren’t going to like this, but the bottom line is that you have to look at and evaluate each group individually to develop the strategies that will work within that group.

Since the owners have free reign to decide who can be in their group, what they can post and how everything operates, you have to abide by their sandbox rules. In some groups blatant self promotion is fine and in others it’s not.

 

Case Study

Let’s use a case study of a popular LinkedIn group focused around the topic of improving sales. Now, nothing that I’m going to say is meant to be disparaging to the group owner in any way, it’s simply a distant, academic evaluation of how I have observed him successfully using groups. (disclaimer: The owner of this group did not participate or provide feedback in my analysis so his views may be different. To be honest when I shared this analysis in response to a question in my own LinkedIn Group – LI Ninja Black Belt – he disconnected from me and wouldn’t reply to my email messages. I can only assume that he was not happy with the light I shed on his activity even though it is very clearly a positive review of his activities.)

The owner provides sales coaching services and training, so his target market is sales professionals and teams. So he built a group around discussing best sales practices. He set very strict criteria prohibiting any and all self promotion. Even if someone is asking for your services, you cannot reply or provide a link back to your site. If you do, these are immediately deleted. Despite these tight restrictions, this group has grown to over 20,000 members and is very active. This is a group where active participation and giving first is a requirement to get any benefit. The owner provides one outlet in the group and it is a running discussion called “Pimp My Company.” Although I get frustrated at how tight of a line he is keeping with not even allowing you to fit in a little promotion where it’s asked, makes sense and you’re still adding value, I recognized the value of that one discussion item. There are over 1,000 comments in that discussion. When you add your comment to a discussion item, an email message with your comment is sent to all who are still following that discussion item (which is likely most). So, I became active for a couple of weeks and built some relationships and visibility within the group. Then I timed how I used that discussion when I was launching something important instead of doing a basic introduction of myself. The result was 3 people buying the program that I “pimped” in that discussion.

Now, the owner has sent out announcements to all 20,000+ members “selling” his free services and resources on his website – thereby promoting himself when he doesn’t let other members do so. He has effectively created a competitor-free fish barrel of prospects for his business. Bravo! That is what we should be aspiring to.

Now, if you were able to watch the owner’s activity in other groups, you would see that he doesn’t live by his own group’s strict rules in other groups. He posts links to his blog without adding a discussion. He promotes himself in the groups where that is allowed. He gives links to other sales related freebies.

To be honest, I was a little surprised when I first noticed it, but I have no problem with the double standard. There are some “true believers” who would find this different behavior practically sacrilege because they believe groups should be these sales free, equal societies. I think it’s brilliant and can only hope to aspire to such success.

It’s brilliant because he has recognized – as should you – that each group is it’s own sovereign entity and that it’s foolish to essentially apply a socialistic theory to a group that is running based on pure capitalism (and that would be those spammy groups that everyone says they hate yet those groups remain some of the largest groups in LinkedIn).

Conclusions

Bottom line is that there is no cookie cutter approach that you can take to truly get the most out of LinkedIn Groups. However, with a well developed, targeted strategy, dedicated time, and true engagement with the groups, you can benefit from participation and get new clients.

As of the writing of this post, I am conducting a LinkedIn Poll to get user feedback on what they see as the biggest challenges to using LinkedIn Groups. It has about 2 weeks left until it closes. If you haven’t answered it yet, I would love for you to participate. If the poll has closed, you can simply check out the results. CLICK HERE.

There is also a lively discussion of the problems taking place in LinkedIn Answers: Click Here.

Feel free to continue the discussion in the comments below. I would LOVE to hear about some LinkedIn Groups success stories!

To join the LI Ninja Black Belt Group where I give out TONS of free LinkedIn advice, CLICK HERE!

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About the Author

Crystal Thies has been known as the LinkedIn Ninja since founding her company, Crystal Clear Buzz, in 2009. Although well versed and experienced in all social media, Crystal specializes in the utilization of LinkedIn for sales and business development. As a past financial planner, Crystal is one of the few social media strategists with expertise to work with those regulated by FINRA, the SEC, and IIROC. She is the co-author of “The Social Media Handbook for Financial Advisors” published by Bloomberg Press.

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(4) comments

Pastor Sherry October 21, 2011

Hi Crystal,

I heard your presentation to the Business Cafe, where you talked about these groups.  You’ve got me thinking about LinkedIn groups!

I’ve effectively been blocked from doing invitations on LinkedIn without supplying an email.  I can’t even checkmark the context in which I know the person.  It’s frustrating.  I think this may have happened because I asked for connection to a couple members of a group I am in, as I don’t send invitations to people I either don’t know or have some connection to.  Whatever’s happened, I’m blocked.  If you have any suggestions, I’m open!

And . . . is my way out of this to take the group route and wait for people to invite me?

Reply
    Crystal Thies October 21, 2011

    Pastor Sherry,

    Try this link to lift your restriction: http://www.linkedin.com/unrestrict?display

    The groups aren’t your problem, it’s likely the invitations to connect that you sent and people clicking on the I Don’t Know button. When you sent the invitations, did you add a personal note explaining why you wanted to connect or did you just send the blank invitation? I recommend sending the blank invitation without a personalized note explaining why you want to connect only if you are 200% certain the person knows who you are.

    Another strategy when trying to connect with group members is to send them a message inquiring if they are interested in connecting before sending the invitation to connect. When you’re in the group and you pull up the mini info box when hovering over someone, you’ll see an option to send them a message. You can also send the message when you’re in the Members list. That’s the safest way to make sure that no one clicks on that IDK button.

    Try that link. If that doesn’t work, send a message to Customer Support explaining that you accidentally sent invitations to connect to group members without explaining your intentions and chances are they will lift the restriction. It may take a couple of weeks if you’re a free member because there is not enough people to handle the requests that they get. Unfortunately, that’s one of LinkedIn’s weaker areas.

    I hope that helps. Please let me know if it does!

    Reply
    Pastor Sherry October 21, 2011

    Thanks for your reply, Crystal!

    I did try the link you sent, and this is the message I receive:  “There was an unexpected problem that prevented us from completing your request.”

    I’ve sent in a ticket for LinkedIn already.  I hope I mentioned in that ticket that I’d sent connect invitations to group members.  Guess I won’t be inviting group members again without following your suggestion of asking first!

    The only others I’ve invited would be fellow pastors in my denomination that while I may not know personally, I would have an automatic connection with.  Maybe it was one of them.

    So how could I connect with these kinds of people who may not be in groups?  Or even with a friend of mine whose specific LinkedIn email I do not know?

    Wow, the way this is set up, one person could get onto LInkedIn & be known, and then really ruin it for everyone.  Is there any way I can see who marked me as “I don’t know?”

    Reply
    Crystal Thies October 21, 2011

    Pastor Sherry,

    The link must not have worked because it was tied to my login. At the bottom of LinkedIn, you’ll find a link that say ‘Help Center.’ Click on that. Type the word ‘restriction’ in the box. Click on the first result. Towards the end of that description, you’ll see a link that says, “Try to unrestrict yourself.” That’s the link I sent. Click on it and follow the instructions.

    It takes 3-5 people clicking on the I Don’t Know or Mark as Spam buttons to get your account restricted – so it wasn’t just one person. To protect the identity of the people who reported you, they won’t tell you who did it as not all people would respond kindly.

    I’m certain your account will get unrestricted after a couple of exchanges; it just may take a little time. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people setting up fake accounts for spamming and data scraping purposes – which hurts the experience for all of us – which is why they have to be so strict. These people have gotten very clever and create realistic profiles of people like nice pastors and do very bad things, which is why LinkedIn can’t make judgement calls and lets the membership police it based on what they think.

    Some people on LinkedIn have very strict policies on who they will connect with. Many also don’t know or understand what happens when they click that button and think that they’re just acknowledging that they don’t know the person. For the most part, I would bet that the people who clicked that on you were not malicious in their intentions and just didn’t know better.

    But, that’s the main reason I never send an invitation to connect with someone I don’t know or haven’t interacted with without a note explaining my intentions. As long as you are authentic and genuine in the message, the worst case outcome is that they just ignore you.

    Good luck and let me know how it turns out!

    Reply
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