Do you know that there are more than 2 million LinkedIn Groups? About 8,000 are created each week!
Generating 200 conversations per minute, those communities for business professionals can be a treasure-trove of information and networking, a hotbed of self-promotion and spam…or a ghost town. Or all at once.
So, how can a B2B marketer see the forest for the trees? How can they leverage LinkedIn Groups to build solid relationships with peers, create awareness around their names, and increase leads and sales? Read below.
A quick overview of LinkedIn Groups
On LinkedIn, groups can be:
- Private (Members-only) – They have a padlock next to their names. The content posted there is only visible to members and will not be indexed in search results.
- Public (Open) – Discussions in those groups are visible to anybody, searchable, and shareable. Managers can allow non-members to contribute.
Note: The visibility of a member-only group can be changed to public only once.
Each group is divided into several sections:
- Discussions – The stream of general posts. The content can be viewed by latest publishing dates or popularity.
- Promotions – This is where promoted content will appear. While there is no expiry date for that content, it can be deleted by the poster or by a group manager / owner.
- Jobs – This section is dedicated to job postings and discussions around those opportunities. The latter are automatically removed after two weeks. You can also search through all LinkedIn Jobs directly from that page.
- Members – Looking for a specific group participant? This is the page to visit.
- Search – A handy section to find new content or old discussions.
- Subgroups – The smaller, private groups within an existing parent group. They provide members with a space to discuss specific or niche topics that may not be of interest to other participants.
LinkedIn Groups vs. Facebook Groups
“Should I use Facebook or LinkedIn Groups to promote my brand?” It’s a question that marketers often ask themselves, for good reason.
Each platform offers different pros and cons. Here is a short list below:
- Facebook Groups do not have subgroups or categories. All posts appear in the same stream. And whenever a member engages with a post, it gets pushed to the top of the stream. This often creates a cluttered experience. To find content, you can always use the search functionality, of course.
- LinkedIn Groups do not have any the event or poll feature. Also, members cannot tag others in their posts or upload pictures. However, LinkedIn sends you a digest email for every group you have joined. You can keep tabs on activity directly from your Inbox. How?
- Mouse over your picture at the top right of any LinkedIn page
- Locate and click the “Privacy & Settings” tab in the drop down menu
- On the next page, click the “Set the frequency of emails” link in the “Communications” tab
- Under “Group digest” select if you want to receive daily or weekly updates for each Group.
On Facebook, group notifications blend with regular notifications. You can always change their frequency or opt in for email notifications. However, you will receive them one by one.
Facebook is a social network for people interested in connecting with friends and family. So, even in B2B-centric groups, discussions tend to be somewhat informal — when they happen at all. If you are looking for a more focused, business-oriented, and engaged audience, especially prospects, LinkedIn Groups may suit you better.
How to select the right LinkedIn Groups for your business
In essence, LinkedIn a very solid platform for B2B marketers and brands. Many professionals are ready to connect with others in groups.
With that said, not every community is a good fit. Here are some tips to help select the most appropriate for your needs:
- Decide what your goals are – Interested in networking with peers, engaging with potential clients, establishing your expertise, and/or keeping tabs on the latest trends in your industry? Answer this question first.
- Leverage your “Groups You May Like” page – Nothing like a solid starting point to offer suggestions of relevant connections, details of existing memberships, and information in your profile.
- Use LinkedIn’s Search engine – The results are personalized and can be filtered based on relationships (1st degree, 2nd degree, and 3rd/everyone else), privacy level and language(s). NB: To get the best results, take advantage of Boolean search operators. For example, quotation marks around several words will allow you to search for that exact phrase (e.g., “B2B marketing”). For a complete list of operators, click here.
- Don’t join a group right away – First, look around. Click “i” next to the “Join” button to see the description, posting rules, and statistics (e.g., demographics, growth, and activity). Also, pay attention to the top members for the week.
- Read some discussions (Open groups only) – What kind of content is shared? Is it link-centric or are links mixed with the Q&A format? Is it mainly self-promotional? Is it interesting and relevant to you and your space? How much do people comment? Who are these commenters? Are the managers engaged? How do members and managers respond to disagreements?
- Join a few groups – Take the time to look around and understand how the groups operate. Start joining conversations. Leave comments and answer questions. Then, post a few things. Be consistent, respectful and helpful.
B2B-centric LinkedIn Groups
A quick search reveals that there are many groups for B2B marketers. Check out the three below to get started on the right track:
- eMarketing Association Network (private group) – “Largest and most active Marketing Group with 602,000+ members. Managed by the eMarketing Association, the world’s largest Internet marketing association. – Open to all interested in Internet Marketing. Focus on Social, eMail, Search, mobile and Web marketing. Special offers for members from the eMA.”
- B2B Technology Marketing Community (private group) – “With over 60,000 members, we are among the largest LinkedIn group exclusively focused on digital marketing. This group is designed for marketing professionals to get the latest digital marketing news, enable networking, sharing of ideas, best practices and opportunities.”
- B2B Sales Connections – “B2B Sales Connections is an online sales training website with free sales resources, a specialized job board & free resume listing services dedicated only to business to business sales professionals!”
A few tips to enjoy your experience in groups
Some experts advise joining as many as 50 groups. I would recommend another approach: Be selective. Focus on the communities that will bring you “the most bang for your buck” in terms of content quality, discussions, and contacts.
Follow the rules and choose the right category for your posts (general, job or promotion). Repeated misdemeanours like spamming or heavy self-promotion will get your content deleted. Your future posts and comments could also be moderated and your membership revoked.
Contacting members privately is a good idea if you want to continue a conversation or discuss a potential partnership. However, use this option sparingly. No one likes receiving a heavy amount of unsolicited messages.
Curate useful content. Avoid heavy self-promotion. Interact with other members in comment threads. In a nutshell, build relationships before thinking of sales.
Finally, do not hesitate to host your own group. For example, you can use it to create a personalized (and private) hub for your clients. Subgroups also give you an even more laser focused space to answer their questions and start important conversation.
For more on B2Bs harnessing LinkedIn, read this post
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