The Business Value of LinkedIn Groups

Picture of Aliza ShermanAliza Sherman is a web pioneer, author, and international speaker. Sherman is the author of 8 books about the Internet including The Everything Blogging Book, Streetwise Ecommerce, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crowdsourcing and Social Media Engagement for Dummies.

The Business Value of LinkedIn Groups

Running a company takes a lot of time and effort. Building and running an online community does, too.

Why would a busy business owner want to start and run a community online? Some of the immediate benefits of a private, online community include:

  • The ability to communicate more directly with customers and prospects.
  • The chance to engage in discussions, not just post announcements.
  • The opportunity to foster greater customer loyalty.
  • The tools to build a platform where you can provide additional customer service.

Not all groups within social networks are created equal. Depending on the audience you’re looking to attract and the conversations you’re hoping to have, choosing the right place to host your group is important.

A LinkedIn Group is geared toward a professional audience whereas a Facebook Group is a more casual, general consumer-oriented channel. A LinkedIn Group can be an ideal platform for connecting with B2B customers, prospects, potential strategic partners, vendors, and other related professionals. Knowing who you’re targeting helps you both determine how the group will benefit your company and who you’ll invite to join in.

Some things you can share to a LinkedIn Group include:

  • sharing news articles related to your industry and your company
  • answering questions about your company, products, and services
  • providing tips and advice on topics related to your business or industry

The main feature of a LinkedIn Group is the Discussion feed where any member can post text, photos, videos, and polls. As the administrator to your own LinkedIn Group, you can limit member posting to require your approval or keep the conversations open.

Posting templates include sharing that you’re hiring or looking for an expert, offering to help members, celebrating an occasion, and adding a profile. LinkedIn Group posts are not shareable beyond the group to keep the content relevant and directed solely to your group members.

When setting up your LinkedIn Group, you will be prompted to name it and include a description of the group. You can pick up to three related industries and include your location if you’d like. Another option is to add group rules. Include guidelines for what is allowed - and what is not allowed - within the group discussions. For example, you may ask that members to refrain from posting too many promotional posts and stick to the topics outlined in the group description.

LinkedIn Groups can be Listed meaning they are publicly viewable although you will still be able to review anyone who wants to join your group. If you choose Unlisted, your group will not be seen on a search on LinkedIn and will require that you invite your LinkedIn connections to grow it. You can also allow members to invite their LinkedIn connections.

The final touch on your LinkedIn Group is your group or company logo and a cover image that appears at the top of the Group page. Once you launch your group, begin inviting others to join. You can also post to your LinkedIn profile or LinkedIn company page inviting people to join.

As with any online presence, plan out what you will be posting about over the course of the upcoming days, weeks, and months. Don’t expect conversations to start without your prompting, and don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear from others right away. Encourage new members to introduce themselves, and regularly remind all members why the group exists.

Running an online community of any kind is like tending to a garden. It takes seeding and weeding to help it grow. Seed conversations with questions, useful information, compelling news, and be responsive when others post. Weed out anyone who violates your group rules to keep the space comfortable for everyone.

More than anything, a LinkedIn Group is a place where you can have a little more control over the environment and the conversations to cultivate relationships and stay in closer touch with others. Hosting a group online can quiet some of the noise of regular social media posts and help generate better interactions with the people who are key to the success of your business.