5 Tips for Managing an Engaged Community

April 15, 2013

More than two millions groups exist on LinkedIn, run entirely by our members. By building and engaging in groups, marketers can build relationships within a lively community, and encourage brand advocates. But how do you keep this community happy and engaged?

In the last year of moderating comments and facilitating discussions for the first managed group run by a dedicated LinkedIn Community Manager, I've discovered five great tips to keeping an online community interesting and active:

• Empower members. A Community Manager shouldn't care about starting the most discussions or having the most-liked comments, but instead focus on empowering group members to claim those spots. To encourage members, send individual messages to those who post interesting topics and thank you notes to first-time contributors. When members feel appreciated and noticed, they have a sense of belonging and are more likely to come back.

• Keep it relevant. Every link, discussion or blog post isn’t always relevant to the group. Check all links members submit to make sure the content is interesting. Don't be afraid to delete submissions that are off-topic or inappropriate. To cut down on the spam and self-promotional posts, moderate and approve comments and discussions. But don’t worry about trying to get your submission queue down to zero. Focus on the best content and deal with the rest when you have time. By populating the group with only relevant content, group members will know that when they come to your group, they'll find discussions that matter to them.

• Have a plan, but be prepared to abandon it.  We started Connect with an editorial calendar to create more focused discussions. But we quickly found that members wanted to talk about a range of topics all of the time. It's important to know what topics are important to your audience, but stay flexible about when you bring them up. Don't wait until National Mentoring Month next January if your group wants to discuss how to find a mentor now.

• Bring in experts. You don't need to know everything about a subject, but you do need to find people who do. If members are asking questions about getting an MBA, bring in a career counselor to offer advice. If financial planning is a hot topic, invite a money expert to address their questions. Then encourage your experts to stay involved in the group — have them share their articles or poll the group for feedback on a story they're writing. The experts get a captive audience and your members have direct access to professional advice.

• Highlight group activity. Each week I send an email to group members recapping what went on that week and recognizing the most influential members. By calling out members who left insightful comments and sparked popular discussions, you let them know how important they are to the group and encourage them to keep the valuable contributions coming.

Keeping a community up and running is no small feat. But with a few tricks, you can make the experience better for the people running and participating in it. To see these tips in action, become a member of ConnectSucceed or Jet and learn how you can build and manage a LinkedIn group that matters.