If you are like most of us, you’ve already joined a handful of LinkedIn groups. When you created your account, you were eager to join these niche communities of people who shared a similar interest. But you quickly started to become frustrated with spammers who invaded poorly managed groups. The content wasn’t helpful or relevant, thus the perceived value of LinkedIn groups diminished. You lost interest.
But I’d urge you to reconsider. Don’t let these poorly managed groups leave a bad taste in your mouth. There are currently 1.8MM (yes million!) groups on LinkedIn and your future prospects are in them. It’s really just a matter of finding the right groups and building real-world relationships. They are a niche marketer’s dream come true.
Find the Right Groups
LinkedIn lets you join up to 50 groups but the truth is, you don’t have time to actively participate in 50 groups. So, focus on 10 to 15 to which you can actually devote your time.
Start by joining some basic groups in which you have a genuine. Here are some examples of basic genuine interest groups…
· Alumni groups (i.e. UCLA Alumni)
· Professional peer groups (i.e. Financial Advisor Network)
· Marketing strategy groups (i.e. Oechsli Institute)
· Industry News Groups (i.e. WealthManagement.com)
Now, let’s turn to prospecting. Outside of groups being a great place to learn amongst your peers and other industry experts, they are an excellent place to find new prospects. Think about your target market for a second and ask yourself the following questions…
· What company do (did) they work for?
· What industry are they a part of?
· What school did they graduate from?
· Where do they live?
· What are their hobbies?
· What charities and organizations are they involved in?
I guarantee there is a group that satisfies nearly every answer to the questions above. Take your answers and search the groups directory. Also, keep in mind that you can combine your answers together with some simple Boolean modifiers to really target your search. (i.e. Pfizer AND Brooklyn or “Business Owners” AND “St. Louis”)
Find groups that match your answers and request to join. The more specific the group, the better! Each group that accepts your request gets you closer and closer to your target market. Of course, some groups are locked, but you may be surprised by the leniency of some group moderators.
Be a Valuable Member
Once you are accepted into these groups, you will be tempted to start positioning your professional services. Resist this temptation! Your first step is to position yourself as a valuable member. Comment on other’s posts, post helpful information, pose questions and above all else, keep it relevant to the group. Once you are viewed as a valuable and trusted contributor, you can sprinkle in a few promotional posts (i.e. An invitation to your educational event on social security).
I know what you’re thinking. Not everyone in these groups are people with whom I would want to do business. In fact, there are probably people just like me within these groups. You’re right. One of the best features of LinkedIn groups is getting access to the member directory. Start by clicking on the member’s link in the upper right hand corner of the groups page.
Now it’s time to run a keyword search within the member directory. Think about the types of keywords your ideal prospect would have on their profile and run a search. In the example below, we are looking for business owners.
Now that you have presented yourself as a valuable member and pinpointed specific prospects, it’s time to make contact. You have two options. You can either ask the prospect to connect or send them a direct message through LinkedIn (if you are unsure how to do this, see my previous blog).
Whether you message this person directly or ask them to connect, the first thing you should mention is the group you share together. They will be much more receptive to your message this way. Secondly, you need to personalize the message. You can do this by referencing a post they contributed, a person you both know, something you read about their company, etc. Now you’ve planted the seeds for a personal relationship.
It’s important that you make a genuine effort to build real relationships with group members and not just pitch a sale. This is modern-day networking. The marketing methods remain the same but the medium is changing. Social networks and sub-online communities (like LinkedIn groups) create an excellent forum to prospect at scale and broaden your network like never before.
Kevin Nichols is a thought-leader with The Oechsli Institute, a firm that specializes in social media coaching and training for the financial services industry. Follow him on twitter @KevinANichols www.Oechsli.com