LinkedIn is now the world’s largest professional network. In fact, in 2011 alone, LinkedIn grew by two new members every second. So smart business owners and smart sales people know how to best leverage LinkedIn for their benefit. One of the best platforms for lead generation on LinkedIn is the LinkedIn Groups platform.
LinkedIn Groups® is a division of LinkedIn. It brings together people with common interests into a single place. This makes it incredibly easy to find like-minded people. They will all belong to the same professional groups. Out of the millions of people using LinkedIn on a daily basis, you can find, target, and engage with those individuals whom you feel will be most receptive to your message; all simply based on the LinkedIn Groups to which they belong.
Step One: Determine Your Audience
Before you join or create a LinkedIn Group, you need to determine who your target audience should be. In other words, who is your target demographic or buyer persona? For example, let’s say you are a manufacturer of an all natural dog shampoo. Then you would most likely want to target LinkedIn Groups where owners of pet stores congregate.
Step Two: Determine Your Best Groups
A word of caution. Don’t jump into every group you find. Your best chance of leveraging a LinkedIn Group for lead generation is to identify the absolute best groups for your audience. LinkedIn allows you to join up to 50 different groups, so you might be tempted to join them all.
Don’t do it; here’s why:
You want your message to be heard.
You need to connect your message with the best audience. So don’t think that the larger the audience the better. You must concentrate your time and effort into some laser sharp focus on a very narrow yet deep target audience. It’s the only way you are going to be able to connect with the right people. If you join a group of 500 or more people, your message will potentially get lost in the crowd.
Here are a couple of guidelines and criteria you should use in determining which LinkedIn Groups to join.
- Choose groups that are specifically focused on the subject matter you’ve identified as your target.
- Make sure the groups have at least a few hundred people, but no more than about 500.
Remember, the objective is to maximize your visibility and to get your message heard. Getting your message heard (and responded to) is the single best way to leverage LinkedIn Groups for lead generation.
A Side Note On LinkedIn Groups
What if you’ve done all your research and simply can’t find a group that fits your needs? Not to worry, you can start your own group! However, when creating your LinkedIn group, give careful attention to the name you choose. You want a name that will garner interest and start conversations. Don’t come off spammy or as if you are constantly only trying to sell something.
Always Be Helpful.
You are practically guaranteed to not get an audience if your insight is always flanked by a sales pitch. Here is a perfect example of what NOT to do. This group only has one member. Here is an example (in the same pet industry) on what to do. This group has 49 members and it’s growing. The reason why this is a better strategy is because the Tail Blazers group is a forum where admins encourage group members to ask questions and engage with the community. In contrast, Bert from WholePetDirect is pushing a retractable leash. Make the agenda of your group helpful and not salesy.
Step Three: Join The LinkedIn Groups You’ve Identified
So you’ve done your research and you’ve come up with a list of LinkedIn Groups that meet your criteria. Now refine that list and pick the top three to five groups that best represent your target audience.
If you’re a busy business owner, you’ll never have enough time to visit more than three to five groups on a consistent basis.To be successful in leveraging LinkedIn Groups for lead generation, you will need to make frequent and consistent appearances. Plan on visiting your groups 2-3x a week. Overextending yourself on any social network is a recipe for disaster.
Step Four: Target The Most Popular Threads In The Group
“Thread” is the industry term that is used to refer to an online discussion within a given forum. What you are looking for are discussions which have the most activity around your topic of helpful expertise. These discussions get the most visibility, which is key when leveraging a LinkedIn Group for lead generation.
A Word of Caution On Commenting In A LinkedIn Group
Never, ever, ever, sound like you are trying to sell something–at your worst, this will come off spammy. Most active LinkedIn Groups are very closely monitored and admins move quickly to get salespeople and spammers banned from their curated groups, so just don’t do it. Don’t even think about putting a link to your website in your comments either, unless you’ve taken the time to write a helpful article which answers a question from one of the members, or truly adds to the conversation.
Before you comment, study the discussion. Make sure you are adding value to the discussion and not repeating something that’s already been said. In other words, don’t just comment for the sake of commenting. Always, always, always be helpful while adding value.
How, you ask? Respond to someone’s questions with thoughtful and insightful answers. Comment on what someone said. And even better, ask a thought provoking question that people will want to answer.
A Side Note On Discussions And Threads Within A LinkedIn Group
If you join a LinkedIn Group and can’t seem to find an ongoing discussion that you can add value to, don’t worry. You can simply start your own discussion. By and large, the LinkedIn community is extraordinarily helpful. So the best way to start a thread is by asking a great question. Ask for opinions or help. You may be surprised at the positive helpful reaction you get.
Make sure any thread you start is not too similar to an existing thread. Additionally, don’t start any thread based on a question which has already been asked and answered efficiently and thoroughly.
Step Five: Follow Up & Follow Through
There is a reason why you need to constantly check in on the LinkedIn Groups you’ve joined. There simply is no easy way to get updates. By proactively visiting groups you’ve joined, you may stay on top of active conversations. Keep your visibility up. Make sure you keep up your end of the conversation–don’t fail to respond for more than a day.
By taking these proactive steps, you’ll start to establish yourself as a top influencer. This is key to building your authority in LinkedIn Groups.
Once you establish your authority and become the accepted “expert” on the subject, people will turn to you when they have a pertinent question. They will want to hear your opinion and your expertise. This is when you are best poised to leverage all your hard work into generating an engaged lead.
Step Six: Be Committed To Helping Your LinkedIn Group
As we mentioned, once you’ve established your credibility and authority, people will start coming to you. It takes work, but it does happen. That’s when you want to leverage the power of LinkedIn Promotions. Remember, you are here to help.
LinkedIn created a separate “Promotions” section. Here, you can learn new information from people in your demographic, or add your own articles as new posts to generate new traffic to your site.
But don’t let the name fool you; if you post a coupon or a direct sales message in the Promotions section, you’ll likely be ignored and/or removed. Instead, the Promotions tab is a place to share articles and other pieces of content that link back to your site.
Conclusion: with a little planning and some work, you can easily leverage LinkedIn Groups for lead generation. The key, never sell. Take the position of trusted expert that is there to help, and the leads will come to you.