Actively participating in LinkedIn Groups can help you grow your network, amplify your content’s visibility, and help you reach your perfect prospects, says Becca Fieler, Marketing Manager, Tax and Accounting at Thomson Reuters
LinkedIn Groups are often overlooked hotspots for business development, relationship building and pipeline growth. As hubs designed for professionals in the same industry or with similar interests to connect, discuss ideas and find answers, these online networking cliques allow you to broaden your exposure to prospective clients outside your immediate sphere of influence.
Join groups that make sense for your goals
Finding the right groups to join on LinkedIn is fairly straightforward – you can start with a simple search. Take advantage of the “groups you may like” feature for LinkedIn’s suggestions based on your profile and activity, or dive into your existing (or desired) contacts’ profiles and see which groups they belong to. Another approach is to identify which groups your competitors belong to.
Consider joining two types of groups: groups where your clients and prospects engage, and industry-specific groups comprised of fellow professionals (competitors, friends, colleagues) in addition to your target market. Focus your attention on representing your personal brand and cultivating relationships in those few groups.
Once you’ve narrowed down your list of groups, do a little due diligence prior to requesting membership. How large is the group? You may not want to join a group with 50,000 members if you are just starting out. What are the demographics of the group? If you’re hoping to connect with executives and decision makers, you may want to avoid groups that have a significant percentage of entry-level staff or those focused on execution. How many active discussions are being held? You will have a better chance of finding relevant conversations to add value to if there are more discussions in progress.
Actively engage in conversations
Merely being a passive member of a group will not help you earn new business. You must participate actively by engaging in discussions – or, better yet, starting a new dialogue. According to LinkedIn, participants who comment on group discussions get four times the number of profile views. More profile views means more opportunities.
The best way to add value and stand out in a group discussion is to provide educational, helpful and authentic content. Answer questions without falling back on your elevator speech or sales pitch.
Be sure to tailor your content to each group you belong to. Customize your content and comments to best fit the tone, purpose and audience of each group. Personality and relevance will also help increase your chances for likes, further discussion and post shares.
Present yourself as a thought leader
The best way to get your message seen and responded to is to create irresistible curiosity. Inspire people to read and want to know more. Encourage them to reply and engage in the discussion. Ask questions. Take a poll. Emphasize the value they’ll get out of your content. Request feedback on an idea or opinion. Share your own experiences (or those of clients that mirror your ideal prospect). What is most important to your audience? Speak to the challenges they face, discuss solutions to their problems, provide tips and strategies that will improve their lives and help them overcome obstacles to success. Offer third-party resources that answer questions posed. Position yourself as a go-to resource. The more value you can provide to group members, the more likely you’ll be viewed as a trustworthy source. LinkedIn promotes the top contributors in each group, which gives your content enhanced visibility – and additional recognition – which can lead to more connection requests and inquiries.
Leverage group members for better connections
Make a list of potential clients by using the search function within the LinkedIn Group and filter by title, company and location. Simply go to their profile and send them an invitation to connect.
However, be very conscientious about your invitation. It is critical to customize your invitation rather than lazily depending on the default message that LinkedIn provides. Outline your common interests, presumably based on the group you both belong to.
Get started with groups sooner than later
LinkedIn Groups provide a private space to interact with members that share common skills, experiences, industry affiliations and goals. You are able to send direct messages to group members, a benefit that can’t be overlooked for anyone trying to drum up more business. There is no downside to joining the right groups – you can always leave the group if you feel that it is not valuable to you and your goals. ◆