By now it is common knowledge that LinkedIn is an effective tool for connecting with existing contacts and facilitating introductions to new contacts. If you have read my other articles about LinkedIn, you know the site also offers opportunities for advisors to market to their target market and centers of influence through LinkedIn groups. Participating in various groups is one way you can utilize LinkedIn as a marketing tool, but for the more ambitious marketers out there, creating your own group can present even greater opportunities. Creating and administering your own group is a time consuming strategy but it increases your exposure to your target market and allows direct access to your group members via LinkedIn email.
Before you start your own LinkedIn group, you will want to consider who your target market is. Is there a large enough pool of people in your niche on LinkedIn to warrant a specialized group? If not, don’t waste your time. This strategy is a numbers game, so if you don’t have a large enough pool to start with, it won’t work. But if you specialize in a large niche industry, this could be a very productive way to spend your time.
Create a Group
To start a group, go to the Groups page and “Create a Group.” Fill out all of the profile information requested. When creating a summary and description, make sure you include keywords that your target market would likely search when looking for groups to join. For example, if you worked with employees in the healthcare industry, you may want your summary to say, “This group is specifically created for past and present employees in the healthcare industry looking for information about their retirement benefits including employees of HCA, UHS and Kaiser Permanente” (keywords have been underlined). After all of the information has been submitted, you group is live and ready for content and members.
Before you begin inviting people to join your group, start by adding content so that new members will have something to read when they first join. The first thing you should add is a discussion item which states the purpose of the group and how members should use it. Mark the “Make this discussion featured” box so that it will appear at the top of the discussion list making it the first thing members see when arriving at your page.
The next step is to post articles in the news section of the group. This can include posts from your blog or articles featured on your website. If you have a blog, go to the “Manage” tab and select “Manage News Feed”. You can add your RSS feed so that all posts from your blog automatically post to your LinkedIn group. You can also include feeds from other news sources you think are relevant to the group if you would like to include additional content. Be sure that all of the content you are including is relevant to the group so that your area of expertise is clear to members.
Invite Group Members
Now that you have a new LinkedIn group rich in content, you need to find people to join your group. The first place to start is to go to the group “Manage” tab and “Send Invitations.” This will enable you to invite your existing LinkedIn connections to join your group. If you have a large number of connections in your target market, you will quickly grow your group this way.
The next thing to do is to invite people from your CRM system or database. Go to the group “Manage” tab and “Send Invitations.” This time click the “Upload File” link under the Connections box and follow the instructions. You will be able to upload a .CSV file with your contacts’ first name, last name and email address. Some or many of the people you are inviting may not have a LinkedIn account, so explain LinkedIn, the purpose of the group and include a link to join in the Welcome Message. You can find the “Group Join Link” at the bottom right hand corner of the page.
These first two methods allow you to invite your existing contacts to your group. If you want to invite people you don’t know, you’ll need to take another approach. First, you will need to find out which groups your target market already belongs to. For example, if you are specializing in the healthcare industry, you will want to research which groups these professionals join. You can do this by searching keywords in the “Search Groups” box or look at the groups your current connections belong to. Join groups comprised of your target market whenever possible. Sometimes a group has membership requirements precluding you from joining, but other times no one is monitoring membership. The more groups you join the better as you will soon discover.
Once you have thoroughly researched and have been accepted into the groups, the next step is to find people to invite to your group. LinkedIn allows you to contact group members directly without an upgraded account. The more groups you belong to, the more people you will be able to directly access. You may want to send an invitation to every member of the other groups you have joined. However, you may end up with people that don’t fit your target market this way, so I suggest a different strategy. If your target market tends to work for similar companies, use the “Companies” page to search for current employees. You won’t be able to see everyone who works for the company you searched, but you will be able to see those who are 1st, 2nd or 3rd connections or are members of a group that you belong to. You should have already invited your 1st connections to your group by now and you won’t be able to invite your 2nd or 3rd connections without an upgraded account, so ignore these people. The people you will want to invite are the group members. You can send an invitation to everyone with “group” next to their name. Do this by clicking “Send a message”. Briefly describe why you are inviting them, state the purpose of the group and include a link for them to join. Since you will have to invite each person separately, this can take hours to complete. I recommend you have an administrative assistant, intern or virtual assistant do this for you. Continue to do this with different companies until you have either exhausted all of the possible invitees or have a solid membership base. From then on you can rely on the LinkedIn group directory to continue to organically grow your group memberhip.
A group needs regular activity to be successful. Monitor the group discussions and answer any questions you can – either publically or privately. Discussions and news articles will eventually disappear if there is no activity so make sure that there is at least one new discussion or news article each week. Eventually group members will begin participating on their own which will provide for richer content and will spur more participation. In the meantime, it is up to you to keep the group alive.
If you ever have something of particular importance to share with your group such as a new study or white paper, use the “Send an Announcement” feature to email the entire group. This provides another outlet to contact your target market but use this feature sparingly since you don’t want to be perceived as spamming your members.
As you can deduce from the article, this is an advanced LinkedIn marketing strategy. Make sure you are comfortable with LinkedIn before initiating this strategy or seek assistance to ensure that it is done correctly. Be clear on the purpose of your group, who you are targeting and what their needs are and focus your communication to meet their needs. Finally, let your group know that you are available to answer any questions they may have and provide them the opportunity to contact you so you can measure your results.
About Kristen Luke
Kristen Luke is the Principal of Wealth Management Marketing, a firm dedicated to providing marketing strategies and support for financial advisors. Kristen works with independent advisors to develop effective marketing plans and provides the back office support required to implement the strategies. For more information, visit www.wealthmanagementmarketing.net.