How and Why I Use LinkedIn Groups to Build My Business

As I’ve written here in the past, I think there are solid business reasons for participating in most social networks these days, but if your business sells primarily to other businesses, you must get more active on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is not the biggest or most talked about network these day, but when it comes to connecting with people who mean business and generating leads, few can compare to the power of LinkedIn. A study conducted by Hubspot earlier this year suggested that LinkedIn is “277 Percent More Effective for Lead Generation than Facebook and Twitter.”

While those numbers were taken from their user base, my experience suggests that the professional decision maker audience that prefers LinkedIn is much more prepared to participate in the kind of traditional authentic networking that leads to lasting business relationships than any other network.

The power tool on LinkedIn is Groups. For me this is the closest thing to the proven offline networking groups that exists online today. Groups can give you access to people and discussions related to an industry, topic or even geographic region. Working LinkedIn Groups effectively is a solid way to build a network and generate leads.

Back up to that last sentence and dwell on the word effectively. Effective networking is about providing value, sharing, helping and informing – it’s not about spamming, promoting and selling. Participate in the latter before you’ve earned any credibility and your efforts won’t gain any steam.

Join groups

Currently LinkedIn allows basic members to join up to 50 Groups. Find industry, topic and location specific groups that contain concentrations of people that you would like to network with and join them. Spend time looking at the level of participation and conversations. If all you find is updates with members promoting their businesses move on as this group will be of little benefit.

LinkedIn has a “groups you may like” function that suggests groups based on your current profile and connections.

Ironically, the best groups for lead generation are those that don’t tolerate blatant self-promotion.

Connect with members

Once you’ve joined a group, you have a natural common connection with each group member and LinkedIn gives you the ability to connect based on the mutual group membership. It’s a little thing, but it’s a step beyond simply saying you want to connect.

Reach out and make some connections and very simple introductions as to why you joined the group.

Look for active members and add relevant replies to a number of posts. This starts the process of some one on one conversation and, since your replies are publicly available to all group members, you can use this technique to demonstrate that you have a lot to offer.

Create groups

Once you get the hang of Groups you should consider creating your own topic group. This is not a company group, it’s one that is set up to discuss a topic that your prospects, customers, partners, and even competitors might find worthwhile.

A word of warning – if you want your group to grow and give you the ability to benefit by virtue of your status as the group’s manager, you have to commit the time to curate, moderate, stimulate and facilitate group participation.

You must add starter content that gets people talking. You must participate in conversations. You must promote. And above all you must not tolerate spam and self-promotion. Tell people this is you intent up front, give them one warning and kick offenders out. If you don’t set this tone from the very beginning you’ll group members won’t want to stick around.

To get the most from your group manager role create a landing page on your own website that promotes the idea behind the group and encourages visitors to join. This will deepen your connection to the group and help people better understand what the group is all about.

Lastly, use, but don’t abuse, the announcements function. As a group manager you can send direct announcements to all group members via email. This is a great way to continue to keep your group and its activity front and center.

Five notes

Once you start to get more active on LinkedIn make it a habit to reach out to five connections each week with the sole purpose of saying hi, thank you, I see you got a promotion, wonder what you’ve been working on, etc.

I’ve done this in the offline world with handwritten notes for years and the impact is dramatic and long lasting.

I can’t tell you how often this simple, personal touch has led to business – even though that was not the intent in any way.

It’s amazing how relationships bloom when you genuinely care about people.

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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • brentmkelly

    Great information John.  I don’t use Linked In as often as I should, but when I do the results are always better than I expect.  It’s not the sexiest social media site, but I think it may be the most effective.  Thanks for the tips.

  • I agree, you get better traction from LinkedIn Groups than Twitter, Facebook or Google+ in the B2B space.

  • I have literally never found a LinkedIn group that wasn’t full of spam. I think I know one actual person that I’ve met there.

    It just isn’t worth the time in my experience.

  • I like the personal touch you advocate of reaching out to five people a week and being cool.

    I’ve yet to play with LinkedIn.

    But if I were going to start, I’d definitely refer back to the 6 tight pages of notes I took on Nathan Kievman’s LinkedIn presentation “How To Get Tons of Leads From LI” he did at Yanik Silver’s Underground Marketing seminar and look him up. He definitely has cracked the code for how to maximize this arena.

  • This is actually where I thrive!  My LinkedIn Group (CWC) became so successful I was asked to join the LinkedIn Group design discussion forum that is responsible for the updated group format we’re used to now.  Discussions in that group regularly had hundreds (yes, hundreds) of comments and there was virtually no spam.  If you’re thinking about creating a group, take these tips to heart.

    The one tip I can recommend for anyone taking their brand and their group seriously is to moderate as if it were a job.  I checked comments and discussions for spammy content every single day and removed it immediately without apology or warning.  I didn’t need to warn members because the group rules stated very clearly what was expected.  And yes, I made sure my group rules were seen before members even joined the group so there were no excuses.  Therefore, it makes absolutely no sense to recommend a discussion for users to read to get to  know how to behave or learn what’s expected within the group.  Those that are there to spam are NOT going to stop and read the rules and those that intend to get or lend quality discussions to the group most likely don’t need them.  Don’t bother cluttering the group with a lengthy discussion about rules.  That doesn’t work.  Period.  It’s like telling a thief not to steal.  A thief is a thief and they won’t care.

    One tip that I suggested regarding the usage of Twitter for LinkedIn Group members is still in use by the Forbes Women LinkedIn Group today – because it works.  

    Lastly, for those who just love social media in general, a well-managed LinkedIn Group can end up offering opportunities unexpected.  There are well-paying jobs now for community managers and being an example of it by having a group that works is a demonstration of such skills.  I do that for my clients now as well!  

    For more information, visit http://www.nixonvs.com/linkedin-groups-101-design-before-sending-invitations/.

  • I am also doing in the same technique as you are doing on LinkdIn and joining or creating a new group that’s give you the chance to interact with  the other experts in your industry that’s boosts your knowledge regarding your niche.

  • This is actually where I thrive! My LinkedIn Group (CWC) became so successful I was asked to join the LinkedIn Group design discussion forum that is responsible for the updated group format we’re used to now. Discussions in that group regularly had hundreds (yes, hundreds) of comments and there was virtually no spam.

    The one tip I can recommend for anyone taking their brand and their group seriously is to moderate as if it were a job. I checked comments and discussions for spammy content every single day and removed it immediately without apology or warning. I didn’t need to warn members because the group rules stated very clearly what was expected. And yes, I made sure my group rules were seen before members even joined the group so there were no excuses. Therefore, it makes absolutely no sense to recommend a discussion for users to read to get to know how to behave or learn what’s expected within the group. Those that are there to spam are NOT going to stop and read the rules and those that intend to get or lend quality discussions to the group most likely don’t need them. Don’t bother cluttering the group with a lengthy discussion about rules. That doesn’t work. Period. It’s like telling a thief not to steal. A thief is a thief and they won’t care.
    One tip that I suggested regarding the usage of Twitter for LinkedIn Group members is still in use by the Forbes Women LinkedIn Group today – because it works.

    Lastly, for those who just love social media in general, a well-managed LinkedIn Group can end up offering opportunities unexpected. There are well-paying jobs now for community managers and being an example of it by having a group that works is a demonstration of such skills. I do that for my clients now as well!

    For more information, visit http://www.nixonvs.com/linkedin-groups-101-design-before-sending-invitations/.

  • Great tips – I love that LinkedIn really does filter out a lot of the spam and makes it easier to network with other professionals. It’s really fun to watch LinkedIn evolve into such a great social network.
    Amy the Expert

  • Thanks for sharing this. Sometimes I go to LinkedIn and just scratch my head. I’ll start looking for groups to join. 

  • Mgconslts

    Excellent advice.

  • I’ve found LinkedIn – or at least the groups I’ve joined – to be primarily a place where people pitch each other.

    I’ll try your suggestion on creating a group though.  I think it’s worth giving LI one more shot before walking away and concentrating on other marketing venues.

    Charlie MacPherson
    http://www.TheAmazingImage.com

    • Charlie – I always check out the group activity before I join a group – you can tell a lot about a group based on the conversations that are public.

  • John Lee

    Well written, informative and some new ideas! Your insights into the proper use of Linkedin are right on the mark. There seem to be a lot of “pitches” bouncing around, without a lot of actual networking. Linkedin is a treasure chest of successful business owners who often share great information and strategies if one does as you say – “reach out” and form a relationship. 

  • Dick Dillon

    Thanks, John!

    Great insights and advice. I have also found LinkedIn to be the best of the bunch in developing quality business relationships. I heading there right now to make sure we are Linked!

    Thanks!

  • Well done, Jantsch!  I could have sworn I’d posted here previously after sharing this post with others to share some information regarding the portion of this article as it relates to creating a LinkedIn Group.

    As most of you who are LinkedIn members have found, a good portion of those groups, even the most professional ones, are littered with spammy content which causes many well-intended members to flee.  So it isn’t enough to simply have a group if it doesn’t reflect your brand well.  

    Regular moderation and filtering of members is mandatory for a group to grow virtually 100% spam free.  It’s a job, but it can be done.  If any of you here have LinkedIn groups of your own, please do share.  I’d love to check them out!

  • I’m the social media manager for a direct mail firm and I use LinkedIn all the time. Communicating within groups is on of my most effective lead gen activities and I generate around 65-75 leads per week. Yes, there has been an influx of spammers and people pitching their businesses. If the group manager is on the ball, they’ll usually delete stuff like that. The trick is to not be a spammer yourself.

    My job is to offer valuable, educational and helpful content to group members. I don’t just go into a group and start posting tons of discussions promoting our company and services. I get in there and start posting comment responses to questions other group members have. If they’re looking for tips and advice and I have good information to share, I will. Yes, I do post discussions, but after I’ve been in the group for a bit and I’ve established myself as a source of valuable information. My discussion posts are similar in nature to my comments and responses, rich with valuable content.

    I also read up on each group’s rules and abide by them.

    • Ferris – thanks for a great point of view about how to successfully participate in groups.

  • I recently started a LinkedIn group, and have seen other companies successfully use it to target their key verticals. It really does require heavy lifting of filling it with starter content and promoting it to enourage participation. I think once I invest the time into those 2 things, I will see results! Great post.

    • Yes I think the real work in getting any kind of momentum can’t be stated enough – but the long term payoff certainly can be worth it.

  • Lucy at SYNTAX

    Thanks for this. I’ve been thinking about posting content of interest to groups in my audience base and now need to figure out how they identify themselves. Also, great webinar this morning. Thanks. 

  • I agree it is easier to actually get to know and form a relationship with someone in a group on LinkedIn. It does take more time than tweeting and liking but then most good relationships do take more time.

  • ellennaylor

    Your tipper on 5 notes a week is excellent! That is easy to do, and takes discipline. People like the personal touch. LI isn’t that personal, but it sure has good reach. Thanks John!

    • Thanks Ellen – it does take some discipline but just put it on your Friday to do list or schedule it on calendar – once you get into it you’ll find it’s kind of fun.

  • Thanks, John. 

    I agree with you that LinkedIn appears to get less of the limelight for social networking compared to Twitter and Facebook. I get more interaction from LinkedIn from contacts than I do on other platforms so i completely agree about its effectiveness. 

  • LinkedIn can be a great platform.  One thought on John’s (good) suggestion that you consider forming your own group.  He’s right when he says you’ll need to devote some time and attention to it if you want it to get traction.  The tempting thing to do is simply open membership up to anyone and be lazy when it comes time to moderate the group.  Before you know it you won’t have a group…you’ll just have one more spam repository.  Do Groups right, or don’t do them.. 

  • I fully understand the impact of LinkedIn Group for a business. However like with any other social media technique, it takes time to build and grow your group. I have created an Internet marketing London group recently. Although it is still relatively new I aim to work on it actively in the coming year.

    • Gillian O’ Sullivan

      What is the group? I’d like to see how it’s doing after 4 years :)

  • LinkedIn agreements specifically forbid adding people you don’t know. As far as I can see they make no exception regarding people who are in the same group as you.