I’m grateful to Sarah Arrow who runs a Linkedin group for Essex businesses, for alerting me to this problem, which I’m sure is of concern to many of you who use the Groups feature on Linkedin. Groups have become a very important feature of Linkedin with some real potential, but many are going astray.
Groups are New
A few years ago Linkedin didn’t have twitter integration, it didn’t have groups and it was purely focused on connections, which is what made it attractive to the rather conservative professional market. Now that Linkedin has introduced some of these features from other platforms it is important not to let the bad aspects of them damage what we have and put off the core, very special Linkedin audience.
Linkedin Groups are in essence a type of online community of interest. A group of people get together in a group to focus their networking in a common subject – in the case of Sarah’s group, “those that wish to network and do business with Essex Business people.” It is this common interest that should always be the focus of any postings to a Linkedin group.
Focus on Shared Interest
I defined Push and Pull marketing here when I said,
“Push marketing is when the customer doesn’t want your product or service. Pull marketing is when the customer does want your product or service.”
A special interest group can be a good thing for marketing because it narrows the field of people you network with to a smaller group with a shared interest, and if that shared interest is related to your business you’re in benefit.
For example if you run a guesthouse in Essex, people interested in getting a recommendation for a guest house in Essex might ask someone they know in Essex, and they might get that recommendation from someone in the Essex network, so it makes sense to join the network and get to know the people there. The important thing is that you are getting to know them because they may become your advocates, in the same way as they are getting to know you because you may become an advocate for them. Don’t sell to them – you are then a spammer.
Sales masquerading as shared interest
The problem with groups is that the opportunity exists (as it does with your status updates) to post marketing messages as if they were discussions. For example, I recently saw this on a property networking group on Linkedin:
“CHEAP LONDON BUILDERS
We are a building contracting company operating in London, having expanded vastly due to recommendations and clients satisfaction – We have grown in size, quality and ability
WE ARE ABLE TO DO ALL TYPES OF BUILDING WORK including: Extensions (Rear, Side, Single or Double…”
This is not a discussion, it is an advert.
The reason why these messages don’t work on Linkedin Groups is what happens next.
The Damage Sales Messages Do to Linkedin Groups
Linkedin Group discussions are not indexed by Google, so this plea for help isn’t shared with the world. Instead it is emailed directly, or in digest form, to everyone in that group who has chosen to receive updates.
Those people have volunteered to get involved in the activity of the group, and one thing they offer up gladly is their email address. It is clear that the majority of people who receive an ad like ‘CHEAP LONDON BUILDERS’ are going to be rather cheesed off if it arrives in their inbox masquerading as valuable contact from their Linkedin group. A less charitable person would say the ‘CHEAP LONDON BUILDERS’ are hijacking linkedin to do their direct mail campaigns.
Of course this type of behaviour is very bad for your brand image. But worse for all of us, it also damages the group – I have left numerous groups where this type of activity is unchecked, and turned off updates from others. Those groups don’t get much of my attention any more.
What you should do instead
So instead of spamming a Linkedin group with your content, what can you do to generate some genuine good value leads for your business? Here are some suggestions.
1. Get in the shoes of your audience
A linkedin group is relatively closed, so your audience is the people in the group. What do they care about? What issues have they identified? How can what you know and who you know help the situation?
2. Join a conversation
Look at what other people are discussing and see what useful contribution you can make. If you comment on other people’s discussions others may respond, and you may find they contact you privately as well to start building a relationship. This is how you get genuine advocates.
3. Demonstrate your expertise
Remember no-one has your specific knowledge and experience, so share information and opinion which shows you know your stuff.
4. Join the Community
When people start truly participating in a Linkedin group like this, things really take off. In fact, the group really stands out from the crowd and you’ll find more joining. And more people means more people reading your useful, interactive content, which is specifically targeted to them as members of a special interest group.
It is in your interest that a Linkedin group works – or why bother? So stop spamming people on Linkeding groups and join a conversation instead.
Image: Hackney the Old Hospital by L-Plate Big Cheese (creative commons>