CSR & Sustainability Communications 101: How to Get the Most Out of LinkedIn Groups
LinkedIn Groups are an often overlooked tool to build expertise, position brands and increase audience reach for companies and individuals alike. We thought we would share some learning and tips from our experience so far:
3BL Media actually manages two Groups. The main 3BL Media Group (2000 members) is aimed at the professional corporate CSR / sustainability communicators community. We also manage the Justmeans Group (6000 members) which has a wider social good remit and membership beyond professionals, and including stronger social enterprise and NGO discussions, but with a strong private sector influence.
Here are some lessons we’ve learned that you could apply to all LinkedIn groups. First we will offer some basics and then some specifics about how to get the most from each Group.
First Impressions Count
Before you jump into Groups make sure your profile is as strong as it can be. Absolute essentials include a photo (rather than a logo or the default image), basic professional information such as who you represent, your title and a brief summary of your role. Get at least a handful of connections into your LinkedIn contact list first to avoid any automatic warning flags when you ask to join any Group.
Read The Instructions First
Make sure you actually read the full description for each Group and check any formal Group Rules before asking to join. Sometimes the name alone isn't as accurate as it could be, for example CSR = Corporate Social Responsibility = Customer Service Representative = Comprehensive Spending Review - very different discussions!
Quality Not Quantity
Be realistic. You can only engage productively with a small handful of groups at any one time. If you fill your 50 Group allowance you won’t have any time left to work! Be selective and focus on your objectives in a much smaller pond to catch yourself some fish. Maybe move around different groups every few months, but be warned, trust and relationships take time to build. Be patient.
You Get What You Give
LinkedIn Groups provide the best rewards when considered as physical communities. Who is more useful, the person throwing promotional flyers around in a bar or the person you sit down and have a conversation with to understand their business and objectives? You put energy in to get energy out. If you are there just to take, i.e. dumping links to your own promotional content, then that is what others will do to you. If you are seen to be generous with actively and consistently offering 'Likes', comments and connections the Group will respond in your favour.
What and How To Share:
Make It Relevant!
Give the members what they want, not what you want them to want. Look at the Group description and also what other topics and formats are generating activity; then provide more of that.
Discussions, Jobs and Promotions Are Not All The Same
The Discussion feed is the main part of each Group and should be exactly that, conversational and exploratory discussions / debate / questions about the relevant topics. If you want to share a job, put it in the Job section. If you want to promote your service / event put it in the Promotions section.
Make It Appealing
Hopefully you've selected a relevant topic, but that doesn't guarantee engagement. Keep the headline short, snappy, maybe ask a question, maybe be provocative and avoid jargon. Try asking questions whether they be specific requests for information you are looking for, or create headlines and content that require an answer to be explored. Aim to entice people into your discussion as if it were a story with a surprise just around the corner.
Keep the format of your post clean too. Is it easy on the eye and obvious to the members what you are saying or asking? This also includes keeping any link addresses hidden and tidy.
Short Is Good. Long Is Good.
If you have amazing content based elsewhere online, use the Groups to hook people in and efficiently encourage members to click on your link, but keep it concise. Tell them what’s in it for them if they were to allocate some of their precious time and their click.
Don’t be afraid to write long posts either and keep the debate within the walls of LinkedIn. Too many people aim to constantly drive traffic to their own sites and miss out on the very community they think they’re engaging with.
LinkedIn like all social networks is populated by people not robots, mostly. Even if your topic is highly technical try to make your online presence as human and as accessible as possible. Leave short comments of support, lose the buzzwords and offer help when you can, it all makes a difference.
Make regular visits to your Groups to make sure you keep any conversations alive by responding to comments or other people's Discussions as promptly as possible. You are more likely to get a reciprocal response if that person has just commented and is still online and thinking about the topic.
Once your profile is done and you're engaging with the Group don't forget to network! Take time to check out who is in the group (many are relatively inactive and could be missed), scan profiles and actively look to connect with like-minded colleagues. LinkedIn is first and foremost a networking tool, even with all the media bells and whistles it has these days. The Groups are a great filter for people you should be adding to your contact lists.