Today’s post is a guest post by Lewis Howes, former pro athlete and founder of SportsNetworker.com and the Sports Executives Association. Lewis is a social media expert and co-author of LinkedWorking: Generating Success on the World’s Largest Professional Networking Site. Get more LinkedIn tips on his blog.
LinkedIn groups are by far the most powerful aspect of LinkedIn. Hands down.
I have seen people build their entire business, market a number of products and services, sell out their paid events, and become thought leaders in their niche all around a single LinkedIn group.
Most people who have created groups on LinkedIn know the benefits. However, for those who have not created one yet, or don’t think it is valuable to do so, here are my top 10 reasons that you must start one today (before someone else beats you to it):
1. Builds Thought Leadership
I have several LinkedIn groups. One has more than 20,000 members, and around five of them have 5,000+ members. Each group has (one of) my websites as the featured site for the group. This is one of the first things people see when they join the group. My name is also featured as the owner of the group. Based off of perception alone, the owner is a thought leader for that groups niche (until proven otherwise). The more you back this up with quality content, and positive group management, your community will support you and anoint you a leader in that niche.
2. Connects A Thriving Community
People love to belong to a community, or a Tribe as Seth Godin puts it. The more you are able to connect like-minded people together, the more they will appreciate you for doing so. Create an opportunity for passionate people to come together because the leader that does this *usually* reaps the benefits.
3. Drives Traffic To Your Site
Looking to drive traffic to your blog or company website? Look no further, a LinkedIn group is a great way to do this. Here are a few ways you can drive traffic to your site from your group:
- Put your website link in the group profile
- Add the site RSS feed to the News Section
- Send a weekly message to you group, and include a niche related article from your site
- Add your site in the group welcome message (more on this below)
- Create a discussion and include your link
4. Builds Personal Network
I get roughly 15-20 new invites to connect (as a 1st degree connection) every day. Most of them come from my groups. Why? People love to connect with the community leader. Since I run a number of “communities” within my LinkedIn groups, I am looked at as someone to connect with. This is almost true for all group owners, they seem to rack up bonus points from starting the group, therefore having more connections than the average LinkedIn user.
5. Sending Weekly Messages
This may be the most powerful feature within the groups. A great example is Robert Flemming, who runs the eMarketing Association group on LinkedIn. It has almost 200,000 members. Instead of having to spend thousands of dollars each year on email marketing you could simply create a group, and send them a weekly message for free.
The downside to this is you can’t brand your emails they way you could from a custom email marketing provider (affiliate link), but you can still do some damage in terms of getting your message out there to your members.
The upside, Robert has events with ticket prices of over $1,000 and he sells a ton of them because of his group. His LinkedIn group helps him achieve his event marketing goals, and it doesn’t cost a dime. Tough sell, eh?
6. Create Auto-Responder Email
This is a no-brainer. Who wants to send a message one-by-one to someone every time they join a group? Not me, that would take hours of management time every week. LinkedIn was wise enough to make this easy for the group managers by enabling a welcome message. Every time someone joins, you can send your own automatic message that delivers to their email account (not their LinkedIn account, but their actual email provider).
This means that you can create a decent sales funnel by first welcoming people to the group, telling them a little about how the group can benefit them and where they can go to get more information. Hopefully you have them sign up for your newsletter, or connect with you on other social networking sites. This will help you generate sales in the long run… if you set it up correctly.
7. Lead Generator
The more you give, the more you will receive. Dr. Robert Cialdini talks to us about the proven power of reciprocity in his best selling book Influence, and it holds true within a LinkedIn group as well (on LinkedIn, or any other social networking site for that matter).
Connecting people, providing job leads, referrals, valuable content to help them achieve their goals: these are things that you can give to people, and by doing so they will give you an abundance of leads (or whatever it is you need in your business) in return. It has happened to me, and a number of other group owners who are “doing it right”, and it will also happen for you.
8. Creating Sub Groups
Want to target people in various locations around the world, or sub niches within a niche? LinkedIn allows you to create up to 10 subgroups. It’s a great way to throw events all around the country and only have to send a message out to the subgroup, as opposed to the entire group about a regional event. Make sure you take advantage of this feature (in an ethical manner of course).
9. Managing Content
If people are posting MLM type content, or someone is using foul language or attacking others in an unproductive way, you have the ability to remove individuals or delete inappropriate content. Simple as that. If it isn’t helping the community, you have the power to make it better.
10. Helping Others
Ultimately, every good leader helps his team or community rise to the top. I’m sure 99% of group owners have their own agenda when creating a group, but the more they focus on helping it’s members achieve their goals, that group owner will achieve their goals as well. It feels good to have the opportunity to help others. LinkedIn helps us everyday by letting us see how we are connected to one another, and allows us to build stronger, more meaningful relationships. Let’s face it, business (and life) is about all about the relationships we have, right?
In closing, LinkedIn is a powerful platform to help you achieve your business goals, and the groups aspect is a vital part to helping you achieve those goals faster and in a more meaningful way. Be willing to take some time to better understand them, as you may find a new way to help yourself, or others, by using them each day.
Got a question for Lewis? Post it in the comments below, and you’ll get an answer from Lewis himself.
Elena is founder of a technology PR agency that works with startups to billion-dollar companies. She is passionate about helping marketers and small business owners with practical publicity strategies, which she's also using for her own bling flip flop company.
Did you enjoy this post? Subscribe now and get new posts either via RSS feed or your email. Please click on the RSS button below or type your primary email address below and click "Subscribe."