LinkedIn Groups 101: How to Build an Engaged Community on LinkedIn

October 8, 2014

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Hey, you – yeah, we’re talking to you. We’re going to let you in on a little secret about LinkedIn Groups. If you’re not putting much into them, then you can’t expect much in return. LinkedIn Groups are a “get what you put in” scenario – and those who do it well are reaping the benefits. The best content marketing on LinkedIn Groups offer a unique experience for the members – but only if those managing the group dedicate enough time to doing it right. For example, Kapost’s Content Marketing Academy group has become one of the fastest growing content marketing groups on LinkedIn in just six months. Why? They are doing it the right way. They have a focused plan and extensive communication with group members. The tone of Kapost’s content - which is inquisitive, challenging and educational - also factors into their success. Do you want to learn how to manage LinkedIn Groups the right way? Use the following best practices to grow and manage an engaged LinkedIn Group.

Stay focused

Content Marketing Institute’s Joe Pulizzi recently wrote a post highlighting the importance of focus in content marketing. Pulizzi headlined this post by saying that “if your content marketing is for everybody, it’s for nobody.” If you merely want to increase followers in your LinkedIn Group, it won’t result in much return on your investment. But if you want to increase followers and spark thought-provoking discussions, you’ll need to keep the conversation focused. Your LinkedIn Groups should revolve around a common theme, which we advise you to clearly share in the group description and policy details. Ask yourself these questions as you create and manage your group:

  • What is the common theme of your group?
  • Are your discussions mostly strategic, tactical, or a mixture of both?
  • What makes this group unique amongst competing groups?

Your managers and moderators serve to maintain the group’s focus, guiding discussions and removing distractions. Keeping a clear focus will ensure that your audience always understands what to expect.

Choose a closed or open community

Depending on your level of targeting, you may decide to opt for a closed group – where only those who specifically match your target audience are allowed to enter. If more broad awareness and scale is your goal, you can keep your group open – allowing anyone the opportunity to join. Use these pros and cons to decide which format is right for you: Closed Group:

  • Pros: Greater control of messaging and membership, able to set approval process; reduces chance of spam accounts.
  • Cons: Creating additional steps for admission can turn some people away, and you’ll need to allocate time to sift through the applications for approved members.

Open Group:

  • Pros: Fewer barriers for entry, and you’ll have a wider variety of perspectives from members. Ideal for open-ended and wide discussion over targeted topics.
  • Cons: Without an approval process, you’ll likely collect members who have agendas other than simply contributing to the conversation. This is where diligent moderation and group management comes in.

Assign ownership and duties

LinkedIn allows companies to designate owners, managers and moderators for each group, and the functions differ for each role:

  • Group owners control membership, discussions, settings, subgroups, rules and more. They are the ultimate gatekeepers for the discussion, and they can set the boundaries for disciplinary action.
  • Group managers have many of the same functions as owners, but they cannot close or transfer ownership of the group.
  • Group moderators can monitor discussions, moderate comments, and feature discussions.

Designate one person on your team to serve as Group Owner, and make sure they already have a strong LinkedIn personal presence. You want the owner to serve as a quotable and recognizable figurehead, while the managers handle daily moderation activities. The defined roles are merely benchmarks for group management. You’ll need to determine who has first ownership of the major group functions – like posing questions to the group, answering comments, re-igniting lagging conversations, moderating comments, and promoting member content. Your managers should have clearly-defined responsibilities for driving the discussion. Have them work with the owner to institute a group policy before launching. Keep these thoughts in mind when writing your group policy:

  • Who is your group’s target audience? State the goal of the group at the beginning of your policy.
  • What posts will be grounds for moderation or removal? Keep this explanation short – you want to have an open discussion, but within the confines of your stated goals.
  • What disciplinary actions will be enforced? In most cases, moderators will ban offending members. You can institute a warning process, but it’s a best practice to be strict with offenders.

Make sure the moderator(s) follow-up each month to see if the discussions are following the group’s stated goals – or if the group policy needs to be adjusted.

Don’t promote

LinkedIn Groups are not the venue for self-promotion – this is a forum for discussion, after all. Your Company Page serves as the informational gateway for the business, and Showcase Pages can highlight specific products and services -- but your LinkedIn Group should be the catalyst for thought leadership and community. HubSpot’s Inbound Marketers Group is a great example. It’s an open venue for conversations about any form of inbound marketing – content, social, or otherwise. While much of the source material comes from HubSpot’s website, the group doesn’t exist merely to promote HubSpot. Instead, group managers allow members to ask open-ended questions to each other and suggest tools that might help their business (even if they don’t include HubSpot as a solution). Whether your LinkedIn Group is open or closed, it should still serve to provide valued discussion and content for members – not to merely promote your company’s products or services.

Build personal branding with leaderboards

A little gamification goes a long way in LinkedIn Groups, and you can highlight your top contributors on the group’s leaderboard. Such rankings serve to boost the member’s influence within the group, and make them more apt to contribute further. While it does take time to scour your group content and promote top contributors, highlighting their content gives them increased reach, profile views, and helps to earn them credibility as an industry thought leader. If these professionals have taken enough time to thoughtfully contribute to your group, it's your job to reward them. Want more examples of stellar LinkedIn Groups? Stay tuned for my next post. I'd also love to hear about your favorite marketing Groups -- why not share your thoughts in our Marketing Innovation with LinkedIn Group. For more insights on creating powerful LinkedIn Groups, check out Charlie Lowe’s article at Social@Ogilvy and Jeff Haden’s article at Inc.

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Become a sophisticated marketer on LinkedIn - learn more about groups and other marketing solutions to help build your brand in our Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn.

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