First hand experience and suggestions from Mark Longbottom, LinkedIn Group Manager and Social Media Consultant on how to run (and reinvigorate!) a successful LinkedIn Group
Many of us, especially those who are more active on LinkedIn, are members of a number of LinkedIn Groups. Groups, at their best, can be an excellent way to network, learn and to establish yourself as an industry leader. At their worse, groups can be just one more source of endless emails, unwelcome promotions and annoying updates. (If you are being overwhelmed by email notifications, please check out this tutorial to see How to Change your LinkedIn Notification Settings) You can be a member of up to 50 (yes, FIFTY!) groups but, in my experience, it is rare to find even a half dozen that you can honestly say are interesting, helpful and/or rewarding.
Let’s Talk Here is one of the rare treats. An open LinkedIn group with about 270 members, it was started in December, 2011 by Mark Longbottom of West Yorkshire in the UK. Mark is very active on social media; we met online and while we have yet to meet in real life, we do keep in touch regularly. He really DOES practice what he preaches, networking daily and contributing regularly.
Recently, he contacted me, via LinkedIn message, to ask if I wanted to join the ‘Do you want to talk?’ discussion he had just started in the ‘Let’s Talk Here’ group.
While I did enjoy being a member of this group, I had, like many other members, gotten out of the habit of visiting regularly. I had seen the updates but just had not made time to contribute. When I went over to visit after receiving that message, I was disappointed to see that he was considering closing the group. But I could also see a large number of us had come out of the woodwork to say we were interested in keeping it alive.
When he first started the group, it was quite active. Part of this was related to all of us introducing ourselves but the real reason was that Mark kept us engaged. The first ten weeks saw high levels of activity with over 1000 comments. Over the months this declined with weekly comments varying between 30 and 60 although the content was always excellent. Mark had set the tone early – this was NOT a place to promote yourself (though you were welcome to explain what you do) and since he regularly posted interesting and thoughtful questions, it was always worth checking in to see what was new. The prospect of losing this community made me sad. I had left many groups and ignored even more but I didn’t want to lose these networking buddies. It takes a big effort to run a group and even more to turn one around once it has lost it’s momentum but I knew that if anyone could revive a group, it would be Mark!
Here is Mark, explaining what happened:
“So I sent a message to all the members on October 17, asking if they did want to talk and what they would like to talk about if they had time. This became a discussion, with many people adding their thoughts and comments. At the time, I was prepared to delete the group and move on if the feedback was negative. Too many groups are simply filled with promotions and not debate; that is not what I wanted and I wouldn’t just keep the group open if there wasn’t any interest.
In the previous week the comments had dropped to 15 over a seven-day period. After this message was sent, the next weekly stat was 156 comments. That was almost as high as the most active weeks within the time the group has been online! I would like to point out that stats are not the only indicator of the health of a group but they do serve as a guideline as to where it is standing. This was an indication that it was still a viable community.
What had made the difference?
“I advise people to be active both online and offline and show them how being sociable can make a difference. Throughout the time I have run the group I have always been open and engaging, never promoting anything personally. The feedback was fantastic; members were voicing their opinions about why they had been absent but also why this group outshone many others they were in. I have been questioned why I started ‘Let’s Talk Here’, it is simple – to do just that, nothing else!
It didn’t take much to get busy members to re-engage with the group, possibly because they were had been engaged and in their mind hadn’t really left the group. Many commented to this effect, saying that they had, in fact been lurking and following the comments. Most considered themselves part of the group, even though they were not ‘engaging’ or contributing regularly. Whether visible or not, the members had grown into a strong connected community. Within a few days, more discussions were started by people who had re-engaged not out of guilt or as promotions, but instead with genuine discussions because they wanted to either share thoughts and experiences or ask for other people to share theirs.
Managing a Linked In group does take time, but it’s not a 24 hour a day, non-stop chore. What makes people interact, participate and respond isn’t sales or promotions or url’s as titles for discussions. What gets people to engage is other people talking as well as listening to them. Being sociable is a natural part of life. LinkedIn gives us the technology to stay connected and make being social, a part of our everyday life.”
We’re all in networks and communities, but are they connected and engaging? Are they offering you value in exchange for the time you dedicate? This group is not really targeted in it’s approach – I have had valuable discussions and learned things about a wide range of topics, spanning music, art, quotes, networking tips and I even learned about a new tea that I now LOVE! This eclectic approach is directly attributable to Mark and his creative approach to life – he is an artist at heart and it informs all he does. But you need not replicate his exact style to be successful – let YOUR style set the tone and content and to attract the type of people who will appreciate and contribute to the community you create.
If you are the manager of a group that is struggling, you may want to follow Mark’s lead and attempt to re-engage them. Or maybe you might find it more rewarding to join and engage with an established community. When people really talk with each other and engage, that is when we create effective networks that support us socially and help us grow our businesses. (Click here to share this comment as a tweet!) Those are the groups worth searching out and joining!
If you want to learn more and join the group, please visit ‘Let’s Talk Here’
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