LinkedIn Open Groups

Are LinkedIn Open Groups Great for Members or Great for Spammers?

I’ve seen a lot of back and forth discussions about the new LinkedIn Open Groups.  A lot of the negatives that I see people mentioning stem from the thought that this will further encourage spammers to post promotions and add little value to discussions.

LinkedIn Rant w/ a Solution

In 2010 LinkedIn decided to remove the New Article board from groups or per what they put out “combine the news board and the discussion board”.  At the time people were pretty good about posting discussion questions on the discussion board and links to blog articles, online news releases, and articles to the news board.

I assume LinkedIn felt it would be natural to combine the two opening up a new board called Promotions to give group members a place to promote products and services.  They were wrong. Continue reading LinkedIn Open Groups

The LinkedIn Light Bulb is Flickering

 

It could be argued that much of your LinkedIn experience derives from your LinkedIn strategy.  Do seek to connect with pretty much anyone, like a Lion?  Do you only connect with those that you know very well, like a Turtle?  Or do you connect with those you know and those you would like to know, like a Hound Dog?

If you read this blog on a regular basis you’ve noticed that I keep coming back to these three strategies.  There’s a reason for that.  I find my self changing strategies after almost three years on LinkedIn.

Here is what I used to believe.  I believed that protecting the value of your network required that you know or have plans to get to know those that you were connected to.  I believed that it only made sense to add new connections as I met people within my chamber or other offline networking events.  Since my prospects are in Georgia I believed that there was limited value in connecting to others outside of the state.

Here is what I believe now.  I believe that opportunities are not constrained by boundaries.  I believe that those in my network can benefit from connections that I do not know or have never met with or spoken to.  I believe that there are opportunities out there among people that I do not know.  And finally, I believe that 99% of the time a larger network will provide more value than a smaller network.

It wasn’t one particular thing that changed my perspective.  It was a combination of things and the change occurred fairly quick.

1.  I actually started prospecting using the LinkedIn Companies search to prospect.  My target was simple; companies in Atlanta with 11 to 50 employees, in creative or technology industries.  In my search I identified about 150 companies that fit my profile and realized that I was connected to less than 50% of these opportunities.  Clearly with more of the right connections I would have a higher percentage with employees in my network.

2.  LinkedIn made significant changes to Groups.  Adding the ability to have discussions and post news articles immediately expanded my reach based on the number of members in the groups I belong to.  Each group represents a collection of individuals with a common interest.  In essence they are a specific target.

The next logical step was to identify the groups that my target market belong to and join these groups.  I can now participate in discussions and post news articles to introduce myself.  And I can contact these individual and extend connection invitations without having to use InMail (which is only available on paid accounts and the number available is minimal)

Today I connected with three individuals in my target market.  One was the President of one of my target companies and the other two are simply connected in the target industries.  The first will allow me to have a warm approach to attempt to secure a meeting.  The other two help me connect further into my targetted industries.

In my invitation to all three I simply let them know that I was looking to build my network within the creative community in Atlanta.  I included the names of some common connections.  And I mentioned that I wrote a LinkedIn related blog and that if I could ever help them with LinkedIn to let me know.

The worst thing that can happen is that my connection invitation is ignored.  While I know that I will not have success with every connection invitation, there are a couple of things that are working in my favor.

First people want to help where possible.  Second, people are looking to build their own networks.  Third, the use of common connections established a baseline of credibility.  Fourth, by writing a LinkedIn blog and offering to help them I’m providing value.

About a year ago I started a group based around the county that I do most of my networking.  Over time this group has grown to about 300 local business professionals.  This week I sent an invitation to connect to each member of the group that was not in my direct network.

In this invitation I introduced myself as a fellow member and manager of the group.  I simply stated that I started the group to help people connect and in that spirit I was extending an invitation to connect.  Then I added the value.  I let them know that I was organizing an offline networking meeting for the group and would appreciate any suggestions for a location.

In two days I’ve added over 100 new connections, had several ask me to help them with their health insurance, and received numerous thanks for reaching out to connect.  Each of these connections is in Atlanta.

Little by little I’m building a strong local network.

I had lunch with a new connection that I met in another group (I’ll post the story next week) who is an active open networker.  He doesn’t post his email in his profile, but he uses groups to actively connect to folks all over.  Last week he launched a blog and posted a link to it in each of his groups.  He had over 300 unique visitors in the first day and his blog has grown to over 800 visitors a day.

His content is good and that keeps people coming back.  But it was the membership and participation in groups that allowed him to gain exposure and the initial visits.

I used to believe that there was no right or wrong strategy on LinkedIn.  Now I believe that if you’re not actively growing your network you’re missing the point.  The point is that opportunities are out there and the more connections you have the more likely you are to find them.  Or have them find you.

Detail your profile, join groups, and expand your connections.  A simple strategy to make LinkedIn more effective.

I’m Growing Fond of LinkedIn Groups

It’s been almost a year since I started the North Fulton Business Group on LinkedIn.  When I first created the group I looked at the functionality available, and other than a member having the ability to view additional profiles with a common interest, there really wasn’t much else.  You couldn’t even search groups.  Most people found groups to join by seeing them on other members profiles.

In September of 2008 I was the only member of the NFBG.  At that point I decided that If I wanted to create value for potential members then I would have to create an offline site.  Thus the NorthFultonBG.com site was created.  With it came the ability for members to:

  • Post Articles
  • Post Free Ads
  • Post Events
  • Add Contact Information
  • Participate in Forum Discussions
  • Add their business to the Business Directory

I even wrote a blog post saying in effect that these were the very things that LinkedIn should be providing with their Groups.  Fast forward 6 months and much of this is now in place.

Within LinkedIn groups you can post discussion questions (goodbye NFBG forum), you can post news articles (NFBG Articles), You can add advertisements in the form of a question (NFBG Ads), you can view other members profiles and send them a LinkedIn message (almost as good as NFBG), you can post jobs under discussions (NFBG Jobs), I can now send a weekly newsletter, and you can search group members (sort of like looking at a directory).

So I’m left wondering if there is a purpose for the northfultonbg.com site and does it provide enough value to remain.  It is a pain to have to register on the LinkedIn Group and the NFBG site.  And posting articles and discussion questions is easier on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn could end the discussion by adding a few more features to Groups:

1.  Allow all LinkedIn members to add their contact information to their profile.  In conjuncture, allow LI members to segment their connections and choose who can access their full contact information – Part of this (the ability to classify connections) is in beta testing taking place.  Hopefully once this is launched it will coincide with adding contact inf0…much like Plaxo does.

2.  Add calendar and event scheduling to Groups.  Currently this would be done through adding a discussion.  But it would be nice to have a calendar of events within the Group.  Currently LinkedIn has events, but when I look at upcoming events on my home profile it shows event in NY and CA, not my local events.  Maybe you can set it up to only show local events but I have not stumbled on the “how to” yet.

I’m sure there are some additional things that would improve groups.  For the time being I’m keeping the non-LinkedIn site active, but I am begining to wonder if the time spent on it would be better spent elsewhere.

How about you.  What functionality do you think that LinkedIn should add to Groups?

Why Do People Join LinkedIn Groups?

Back in the old days, pre group discussions or a searchable group directory (less than a year ago), there wasn’t much value in groups.  Sure they helped you see other members outside of your network.  You could contact those members, but there really wasn’t a significant way to interact and build community.

I finally resorted to creating a non-LinkedIn site to provide that sense of community for one group (www.northfultonbg.com).  With the addition of the searchable directory and the discussions features the equation changed.  Now you can interact with others.  The problem is that few people are participating.

So if you’ve joined a group, what are your expectations?  Is it only a cool graphic on your profile?  Is it too simply be able to contact and connect with a larger network without having to pay for a Premium account?

Discussions are the one feature that could truly provide value yet most people either aren’t reading the discussion questions or they just aren’t responding.  I posted a question in a 200 person group asking “What do you expect to get out of being a member of this group?”.  Seven days later and not a single response.

If I asked this same question in Answers I would probably get 30 to 40 responses.  The problem with these responses would be that active participants would be supplying the answers.  The real question is for those not actively participating.  It’s a Catch 22.  They’re not participating so they won’t answer the question, but their input would be valuable.

So if you’re not active (but for some reason you’re reading this blog), what do you expect out of group membership?  By the way if you are active, we’ll welcome any answers to the question.