Groups are the hottest thing to hit LinkedIn in the last six months. Sure they’ve been around longer than that, but without any functionality they were a shell of a feature. Updates that allowed member to communicate through discussion posts and news articles have changed their relevance.
Something as simple as a functional group directory made it possible to find groups to meet specific purposes. If you live in Georgia and want to join a group with other Georgia Residents you can search on Georgia and find a group such as Linked Georgia. If you’re self-employed in Atlanta a quick search find the Self Employed Atlanta group.
There have also been some goodies added for Group owners. You can now send a weekly announcement to the group. You can configure automatic email responses to group inquiries to join, a welcome message to new members, and messages to those you decline or block from future requests to join.
Groups are becoming a powerful tool in using LinkedIn effectively. Here are 5 Key Benefits to LinkedIn Groups
1. Groups expand your Reach
You might have 500 people in your direct network (first degree connections) but join the top 50 groups on LinkedIn and you’ll have a group reach of close to two million members. I live in Georgia and the top 50 groups have over 40,000 members.
You likely can’t join the top 50 groups on LinkedIn or in a state…there are requirement’s that you might not meet. Doesn’t matter because you want to make sure you join the top 50 groups that are relevant to you.
I have a combination of national and local group that I’ve joined. The national groups were chosen because of how they might impact Linked Intuition, this blog. The local Georgia groups were chosen for their relevance to my two insurance companies, Atlanta Health & Like and XL Benefits.
Nationally my reach is about 525,000; locally it’s about 20,000. That’s more than the 650 direct connections that I have.
2. Groups allow you to communicate
If I want to talk with other insurance professionals I can post discussion questions or statement on my two insurance related groups. If I have thoughts or questions about online marketing I can tap my marketing related groups. Each group is based on a common factor and that allows you to target your communication to an appropriate group.
The news articles section allows you to share relevant information with fellow group members. It’s a great way to provide value and to drive traffic.
Over the last 3 months my blog traffic has grown from 2,200 visitors in March to over 20,000 in May (based on the results in June, visits are on track to exceed 40,000). LinkedIn groups have been a large part of the growth.
3. Customized Group Views allow you to parse information
Under the member tab of each group there is an advanced search function. On that page you can choose to view a basic or expanded view of the members. There’s a third option currently available that I love: Create a New View.
When you create your view you can choose what information is displayed about each member with the search results. I’m not going to list the options; you should play with the feature to see what’s available and how it is relevant. (a word of caution – this option is designated as a Premium feature and will only be available to Free Account holders for an undefined duration. Just be aware that it will disappear one day.)
Here’s an example of how I am using the feature. I have some groups that I am trying to grow. Some of the other groups that I belong to have members that would benefit from joining my groups, they just may not be aware of my groups. I could post a group announcement in the other groups that might be seen (you also want to make sure that it is OK with the other group owners to do so). Or I can notify the people directly about the group.
I just need to know who in the other groups do not belong to my groups. Creating a custom view allows me to do this. Here’s how:
~Go to Advanced Search under the Members tab in a group
~Click on the View drop down and choose Create New View…a pop up with options appears
~Click on the check boxes for Groups, Location, and In Common
~Name the View and save it
Now when you search the group it will display the member’s name, there location (if that matters), usually up to 4 groups, and a hypertext link to the number of groups in common. Click on the Groups in Common link and it will show you all of your common groups. You’ll know whether or not the person is a member of your group
If not you can now send them a notice of an additional group they might be interested in. I try to send out about 50 to 100 notices a week and my groups have been growing.
4. Groups can help you expand your connections
Remember groups are made up of people that you have something in common with. The North Fulton Business Group is a local Georgia group of people networking in and around Atlanta. These are people that it makes sense for me to be connected to. I can simply go through the membership list to find people that I want to connect to.
There is a formula that I use in sending connection invitations within groups:
1. Introduce myself as a fellow group member
2. State that the purpose of the group is to network, so in that spirit I am extending an invitation to connect
3. Add a value statement…how I can help them
4. Include my full name
When you send an invitation you have several factors working in your favor.
1. People are open to connecting when there is common ground
2. People are looking to build their own networks
3. Membership in the same Group and having common connections establishes a baseline of credibility
4. By writing a LinkedIn blog and offering to help them I’m providing value.
You just need to identify the value you bring to the table and offer to help others.
Be careful because there are some who might be offended that someone they don’t personally know would try to connect to them and they hit the “I Don’t Know this Person” button.
I’ve seen a lot of invitations that add a message at the bottom saying “If you choose to not accept this invitation please Archive the email instead of choosing the “I Don’t Know” response. This will hopefully prevent someone that doesn’t understand the effects of clicking the “I Don’t Know” button, but there will still be some that do.
If enough people choose the “I Don’t Know” button you may find your account restricted or suspended. Send out invitations in small amounts and track the responses you are receiving. **Personalizing your email will make a difference in your responses.
5. Group Ownership is a Great Way to Create Your Community
The value in creating a group is that if the group grows large enough you increase your exposure to other LinkedIn members. The more value your group provides the more likely you are to receive positive benefits from starting and managing the group.
If you choose to start a group, first look to see if there are any similar groups in existence. Competing groups could impact your ability to grow the group and you might be better served by simply joining the existing group
As the owner of the Group you have the additional ability to designate discussion posts as a Featured Post which keeps them at the top of the discussion board, approve and remove members, and send out a weekly announcement. Group owners often can influence the direction of a group since they are seen as the group leader by members.
You can be a manger or an owner of up to 10 groups. Starting a group is easy. You simply create a name, create a large and small group logo, and write a description of the purpose of the group. The hardest part of starting a group is growing the membership. Groups rarely grow on their own until they reach at least 100 members. There are 1,000’s of groups on LinkedIn with less than 5 members.
Make sure the group will be of interest to a significant number of people. A group such as a BNI networking chapter may only be able to add 20 to 30 members based on the chapters size, where a group for all BNI groups would have the ability to grow tremendously.
The final part of the puzzle is to invite a large number of people, at least 150 to 200, to join the group. This is where having a large direct network will help you grow your group. Not everyone will join and your goal should be to at least add 100 members.
I recently experimented with advertising one of my groups, Linked Georgia, on LinkedIn. I decided I would commit $150 to promoting the group on LinkedIn. On the positive side in one week I added over 100 people to the group. The negative was that each new person cost $1.37 to add.
Financially it’s not sustainable to continue adding members at this cost and I’m not sure I would recommend this approach. But if each of those people results in 10 others joining the group it could be huge. I think growing this group is important to the members and to me personally. I’m willing to invest the time and some money to help it reach the group goal of 10% of Georgia residents (which is about 100,000 people)
There are currently 41 million people on LinkedIn and 300,000 groups. Doing the math, that’s 136 members per group. With a limit of 50 groups per month you’re competing with other groups for members. The time to grow your group is now.
That’s it for today’s discussion of groups. Groups have changed how people interact and find value on LinkedIn. If you do not belong to 50 groups, do so. If you’re not interacting with your groups through the discussion board and news boards you’re leaving clubs in your bag. If you’re a group owner and you’re not actively promoting your groups you may find you get left behind.
What do you think? Did I miss anything significant?
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