As marketers and consultants we are constantly looking for new ways to engage with our clients. LinkedIn as a business social network, always appeals to us in B2B and as HubSpot (the inbound marketing leaders) research shows: “Of the three top social networks – LinkedIn converts 200% more than Facebook or Twitter.”
A LinkedIn group is a new medium that could break the email monotony, and all the profiles and accolades of the customer and consultant are on display in the profiles. You’re not dealing with @sillybilly on Twitter and figuring out who she really is. Or competing with grandmas pictures of cats on Facebook. Oh and it can be a little less public than exposing your clients to competitors on Twitter or open forums…
LinkedIn is the business social network. But here are some validation steps and questions to answer before starting your own LinkedIn group.
The start of your LinkedIn group
- Are you target audience on LinkedIn?
If the fish are not there in the first place, there’s no use fishing.
- Is this their preferred medium?
Are you forcing them out of their inbox or away from the BBC, FT (or the Sun and TechCrunch) where they get the updates they need.
The adage time poor money rich can be used to describe many B2B clients, and respecting their situation shows you value their time. We have to consider whether our LinkedIn group provides enough value to draw them regularly away from their core day to day websites and inbox.
- Will they engage, comment or relate to the materials?
To find value in a group I for one look for unique material I don’t get elsewhere or a unique discussion or comparison around the material. But it may be that just receiving it in a medium that is different to the flood of info I receive own my inbox or on other social media networks is unique. One caution I give is that repetition of content across platforms without customisation (for the more social savvy) will be ignored as spam.
Imagine you get an email, then a LinkedIn group update summary, and then a Facebook update and tweet, all about the same press release that’s already on your fax machine. My inclination would be to unsubscribe from at least one channel if not all.
- If they are LinkedIn savvy, are the already engaged with one or two topic groups rather than brands?
Topic groups tend to outperform branded groups. Members feel it is more a thought leadership/insights discussion than a sales pitch area or one where their comments are monitored by the group and brand.
It is a major investment time wise, but considerable returns have been noted from groups like the American Express open forum. With their softly labelled content marketing platform, SMEs discuss issues the yare facing in business rather than talking about Amex products all the time.
I’m always keen to join a group where I feel I will be less sold to and find educative articles. That may be my age or immersion in social media, but if I keep getting sales pitches or me, me, me messages from an organisation – the less I value the group. And I presume other customers feel the same.
If your audience are primed for a group – are you?
- Your first step should be to establish the objectives of your LinkedIn group.
Know what success looks like. Maria Poveromo, of Adobe has an invaluable KPI framework for this. Each of Adobe’s social media campaigns include an element of these central KPIs.
- Do you have enough content to spike users to engage?
Setting up a content calendar is you next priority. If one of your KPIs is to measure like or comment or sentiment – then you will need fresh content to measure this off.
- Successful LinkedIn groups are not all “me, me, me ” and “sell, sell, sell”.
Its social media, and inbound marketing – so provocative engaging content must be there, but also it is more about learning and getting my information in a time conscious manner.The 80:20 rule for content is a proven ratio to success in many fields, and works equally as well for LinkedIn groups.
Posting 4 pieces from other sources to one of our own. Be it legislative updates, industry body releases, mergers and acquisitions, or for the brave, competitors thoughts and your views or support of them.
Side note: Often with success in social media 20% will be you key audience who respond and engage with your content, so focus on appealing to them, as the others may be listening in but shy to engage or comment for fear of being called out.
- Who do you have on call to maintain a content campaign?
Do you have (at least) 3 subject matter experts who will give 5 mins a day to search for news and give opinions?Do you have at least an article or piece of content planned beyond this for at least twice a week?
If you’re in a big organsiation – Are marketing supporting with a stream of new collateral or content marketing pieces? Are Knowledge management setting you up with a stream of 80% market information, and is there a LinkedIn champion within the group, focused on sending a weekly reminder for updates and stats on performance?
With social media, campaigns do not pass from start, middle to end. They restart. As such, LinkedIn groups are about constant engagement. This puts an added emphasis on your content calendars and measuring KPIs.
- After examining what content can be attributed to your success – adapt and repeat.
- Revisit and schedule regular meeting with your Digital Marketing Advisors.
Learning and adapting
As with all mediums, and even even more paramount with LinkedIn groups – keep abreast of platform and social media updates. Look at the new poll functionality on LinkedIn, Embed slideshare presentations and check out the statistics pages to see where you can improve.
Renew your techniques and combine them with regular varied content and your group should flourish.
Here is a summary of the notes above