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Participation, Lead Generation and Communities September 21, 2011

Posted by christinapappas in Lead Generation, Social Media.
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LinkedIn was my first professional social network and MySpace was my first personal social network. While I am actively on Twitter now and only use Facebook to get in touch with people on occasion (like messaging my cousin this morning to call me), I have found that LinkedIn is not only a great tool to connect with my network but I also have the opportunity to collaborate in an open setting (group discussions) with other thought-minded individuals who may or may not be connected to me – yet.

Both Quora & Yahoo!Answers similar online vehicles to either ask questions or respond to questions, but I find both sites lacking in regards to linking that conversation to the ability to continue the relationship after the question has been asked and answered.

So why should marketers and brand owners spend time in the groups on LinkedIn?

In a recent article on Brafton, a recent study was cited that revealed that ‘consumers are getting more involved in industry conversations’ with over half of LinkedIn members actively participating in group discussions.

With over 100 million members and still growing, LinkedIn is a viable resource for marketers and brand owners to ‘tap’ their consumer audience for information and to be a voice in their industry at the exact moment people are asking to hear it.

Participate

  1. Join groups that are relevant to you as a professional and what your interests are and also join groups that are relevant to your business, your customers and your target marketing.
  2. Always be sharing. Update your status message daily (automate it from your blog if you have one so that when you post something new, it gets shared without you having to do extra work) with articles, your latest blog posts, a link to a video you found, etc.
  3. Run search queries. Instead of scanning the daily/weekly email from your groups for relevant discussions, run a search for a keyword or phrase to find active discussions you can participate in. I have found that by using this feature instead of scanning group discussions for relevant items, I can increase my productivity and really get involved in discussions that are relevant. Have a new whitepaper you just published on Facebook marketing? Search for ‘Facebook marketing’ and join the discussion by adding some value and include a link to your whitepaper.
  4. Connect with your network beyond the initial ‘can we connect here message’. Keep in touch with your network. If you are starting a discussion or just participated in one that is relevant to one of your connections, send them a message asking for their opinion and participation. A note to say ‘how are you’ doesn’t hurt either once in awhile.

Generate Leads

While I am most certainly not a fan of intentionally generating leads using LinkedIn (other than the paid ads), there is a way to do it without really doing it. Here is what I mean by that.

Remember how I mentioned that LinkedIn was my first professional social network? Well, I had originally started using it to learn more about marketing strategy from senior marketers but also learn more about the industry I was marketing to (at the time, software-as-a-service within the IT organization). I had not originally sought out to generate leads from the network; I was there to learn.

I started discussion based on articles, news and blogs that I found via Google Alerts and added my thoughts on the content and asked the group members for theirs. I honestly had no clue what I was talking about at the time, but I asked my questions honestly and really valued when someone told me that my interpretation of the content was wrong. I became a voice in the group and people looked forward to my discussions.

At the same time, the group members were looking at my discussions, they would click-through to my profile and then eventually my corporate website. My participation in just a few groups elevated inbound link referrals from LinkedIn to the second highest source of lead conversions for our website and I never once asked anyone to become a lead or mentioned my product or who I worked for.

Build Your Own Community

It’s relatively easy to make a group on LinkedIn, but it’s much harder to build a group.

Consider what process you go through when deciding which groups to participate in. What types of keywords do you search for? Do you look at your network to see what groups they are members are to decide whether they are worth joining? What is missing on LinkedIn – can you find an unexplored niche that you can cover fairly well?

Finding members. Cross promote your group. After a webinar I did for a company instead of sending the recording out via email, I created a discussion in our LinkedIn group with the Q&A and the recording with 2 intents. First, to continue the conversation from the webinar and second, to increase awareness of our group. I got a 30% increase in members as a result. Consider your content and how you can let people know about your group without being too pushy that they join it. Awareness is key here.

Ensure the community is worth joining and staying. People that come across your group are going to be slightly less interested if there is no discussion or nothing worthy enough for them to stay. It’s easier and easier to join and leave groups and with the ability to participate in discussions without even needing to be a member, getting people to commit to joining is getting tougher. Start a discussion at least once per week. Poll your members. Ask a question. Share some content. Then, ask your company to do the same.

Whether you are participating, observing or managing a group, these niche communities on LinkedIn can be a goldmine for information and potentially leads for your business.

How are you using LinkedIn groups? What are your goals of participation?

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