LinkedIn Groups are not merely a place to have industry-related discussions with like-minded professionals. When used correctly, groups can also serve as a channel for business development.
Here are five ways to use LinkedIn Groups to connect with others, create a targeted list of qualified prospects, and generate leads and sales.
1. Join Relevant Groups
“Relevant” is the keyword here, and by the term I mean groups that fit your industry, areas of affinity, and target market. You can join up to 50, but I recommend limiting the number to those in which you can participate actively.
There are at least four ways to find relevant groups:
- Search. LinkedIn Search includes Groups as an option. Click the icon located next to the search field and select “Groups.” Then, use keywords best suited to your industry, location, prospects’ job titles, and target market.You can also use the LinkedIn boolean search feature to find results more closely aligned with the groups you would like to join.
- Discover. Click “Discover,” located in the Groups area. LinkedIn will suggest relevant groups to join, based on what it knows about you.
- Connections. Another way to find groups is by scouring your connections. Pick a connection, click through to the profile page, and then scroll down to see a list of groups in which the person is a member.
- Directory. One more way to find groups is via an alphabetized directory. It’s more cumbersome but includes every group in LinkedIn’s database.
2. Become an Active Participant
There are two primary ways to participate in groups: join discussions and post relevant content.
Join discussions. Engaging in discussions puts you in front of group members who may be unaware of your presence. Add as much value as possible when you comment, as doing so builds social capital.
Post content. Posting original and curated, third-party content builds credibility and positions you as a thought leader. (Just make sure it isn’t overtly self-promotional.) It can also foster discussions, surfacing people with whom you may want to connect and build a relationship, for business development purposes.
3. Use Groups as a Means to Connect
Speaking of connecting, the benefit to using groups is that it acts a “filter,” enabling you to qualify prospects before reaching out with a connection request.
Here’s how to go about it.
- Click “My Groups,” and then insert keywords using the filter option, to find relevant groups.
- Once you select a group, scan through the members list, to identify likely candidates. This can take time, depending on the number, but may be worth the effort. Click the member count link to open the list, then select a prospect and visit his profile page, for further vetting.
- See who participates in discussions. Read what members have to say — this will give you insight into their background and expertise — and then click on their name, which will take you to their profile page where you can further qualify them as a potential lead.
A way to contact group members, without first being connected, is to reply privately to a discussion they have posted. Click the ellipsis (…) icon, located in the upper right-hand corner of the discussion entry, and then click “Reply privately,” to send a message.
There are limits to this option, however. LinkedIn says you can send 15 free 1:1 group messages to fellow group members each month. This limit is set for all the groups you belong to and not for each group individually. If you go over the limit, you’ll see an error message until the next month begins (Visit the help center for more information on private messaging.)
Once you find group members with whom to connect, add them to a prospect list, either in a spreadsheet or CRM platform.
Lastly, personalize your connection requests. Nothing is worse than using the default LinkedIn greeting, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”
Take the time to review the prospect’s profile, to find something personal to mention, and include the person’s name in the greeting. Like the master salesman Dale Carnegie once said, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
4. Start a Group
If you can’t find a group that meets your specific criteria (or even if you can), start a group. Ownership comes with privileges, not the least of which is that it helps position you as an influencer.
As such, publishing your content will come across as less promotional and more as a way to invite discussion. Plus, you get to set the tone, establish the rules, kick out the spammers, and act as a “sherpa,” guiding and giving direction to discussions.
Follow these steps to start a group:
- Click “Groups,” located under the “Interests” tab;
- Click the blue “Create a Group” button;
- Add a logo;
- Name the group (use keywords if possible);
- Write a description, using both the summary and long-form options;
- Include a link to your website;
- Select the visibility (You can choose to make the group “Unlisted,” for example.);
- Pick language and location options;
- Edit the “Welcome” email message;
- Draft group rules.
5. Use Groups to Drive Traffic and Backlinks
Contributing original content (referenced earlier) is a way to generate traffic to your website or blog. Assuming you’ve optimized the site for conversion, you can turn this traffic into leads or sales.
Also, contributing content may inspire other group members to link to you via their web properties, which means you get backlinks that can help improve search ranking.
LinkedIn is an ideal place to connect with others in your industry and participate in meaningful discussions. But social media marketing fails to live up to its value proposition if those conversations don’t lead to an action on the part of the prospect.
When done correctly, your participation in LinkedIn Groups can help generate leads and sales. Follow the steps outlined here, to get started.