Tips for LinkedIn Group Managers: 8 Keys to Getting Group Engagement Going
Across LinkedIn, with few exceptions, Group Owners and Managers are noticing that engagement is down in groups. Even when they make a concerted effort to stimulate conversations, many are met with a deafening silence. After the changes that LinkedIn introduced on October 14, 2015, a blog post by JD Gershbein on The Huffington Post described LinkedIn Groups as ghost towns.
There have been a lot of complaints. Group Owners and Managers were very vocal about their concerns in an official LinkedIn Group that had been set up for them. It was the Group Moderators Community with 7.5k members The result? The group was shut down due to the negativity. The feedback fell on deaf ears and, recently, things got much worse.
I'll stick with the analogy. As a result of the changes to LinkedIn Groups related to the rollout of the new interface, the ghosts towns are now overridden with tumbleweed. The only sounds you can hear in some groups are the crickets chirping. Either LinkekdIn just doesn't care because groups are not perceived a source of revenue or it plans to eventually scrap groups. It wouldn't be the first time LinkedIn shut down a popular feature with little notice.
I have already detailed my experience as the owner and manager of large and small LinkedIn Group so I won't re-hash it or my conclusions:
As a group leader, you have two choices:
Migration is a viable option for small groups but much more challenging for large groups. (It is telling that the LinkedIn Experts Group, filled with LinkedIn experts, coaches and consultants, is now thriving on Google+.)
I have been a LinkedIn Group Owner and Manager for over 8 years. I currently manage a group with 350,000+ members and 19 related groups ranging in size from 1,000 - 26,000+ members. I have been through all of the ups and downs as the group grew from 4,000 members in December 2008 into the supergroup that it is today. I also own a number of smaller groups. Based on this experience, here are some strategies that you can try to jumpstart engagement. You need to be prepared to work really hard. It isn't going to be easy. You may need a team to help you.
Why Engaging LinkedIn Group members has Become So Tough
Here are your challenges:
In a previous post I shared that, to find groups, you have to click on the Work icon on the top menu to open the panel where the Groups icon is hidden. Click on it to access your lists of groups. I strongly reccommend that you bookmark it.
The response to a trouble ticket I submitted was that a "known issue" is the fact that, even when the LinkedIn indicates that the announcement went out, in a number of groups, it doesn't. If you are sending announcements and getting no response, that is likely what has been happening.
In the new interface, members receive notifications when someone tags them or if someone comments on a "Conversation" that they started.
If the announcements and digests do get sent out, if members don't open them regularly with images visible and click through to the group, they will stop receiving them. A 1 pixel beacon alerts the LinkedIn system that the member has opened the announcement or beacon. (Try educating a 350,000+ group members to do this consistently....when they may or may not be receiving annoucements.)
How to Resuscitate a LinkedIn Group
Now that you know what you are up against. If you are still ready to tough it out, here are some things to try:
1. When members post, even if they just drop a blog post and run, comment, and then ask a couple of key questions to stimulate discussion.
2. Scan LinkedIn status updates and beBee buzzes.
Look for great content and comment inviting the member who posted it to share it in your LinkedIn Group. (On beBee, with just a couple of clicks you can share great content on the hives you manage and any comments appear in all hives to which it is posted.) After the content is shared or posted, comment, and include key questions to stimulate discussion.
3. Don't ignore the elephant in the room. Send out an announcement. Be honest about the changes and glitches and make some suggestions.
Encourage members to sign up for group digests and check into the group 1 - 2X a week to find great content where they can engage. Identify some of the great Conversations that are live in the group. Create a bit.ly link and hashtag for your announcements and include short link for the most recent announcement:
- above the fold in your group profile
- the welcome letter that goes out to new members
- tweets which you share with the group hashtag
4. If there are no clicks or few clicks, tag individuals in comments on the copy of the announcement in the group.
This will only work in small groups or if you have a team to help you work through the list.
Be careful. If you overtag, your account may be suspended.
You can tag a maximum of 10 members per comment and 20 per "Conversation. If you have a team of managers and moderators, you can divide up the list among you.
5. In large groups, tag the 20 members that have been most active.
6. Post in your status updates that there is an important announcement for group members and provide the link and group hashtag so people become familiar with it.
(This will be visible to some but not all of your 1st level connections who belong to the group. Organic distribution of status updates is down.) Ask members to like the update to indicate that they have seen it. This will make the update visible to some of your 2nd level connections.
7. If this none of this works, set up a temporary communication channel. For example, set up a Mail Chimp list strictly for group members and email group members to explain the challenges you are facing and encourage them to check in regularly.
It will take some time but grab the email addresses for your 1st level connections who are group members.
Email your list, let them know what has happened and provide the link to the most recent announcement.
- Let them know the list is a temporary measure until Announcements are fixed. Don't abuse the list. Keep it for important announcements.
8. For members who are not connections, share the sign-up link to your temporary list above the fold in the group profile and mention it in the welcome letter that new group members receive.
Be honest about the reason yo have set up the list and stress the importance of signing up.
What You Should NEVER Do
- Don't send a private message and copy a bunch of members on it.
There is no longer any BCC on LinkedIn. The names will be visible to everyone on the list and members find this very annoying. What is even worse, every time someone leaves the conversation everyone will be notified.
- To reach key members who are not 1st level contacts, don't individually send out the same message to one member after another.
(Some members who have had their accounts suspended for spamming as a result of doing this.)
If you decide to send private messages to some key group members who are not 1st level connections or after you have passed the 20 tag limit, never send the identical message to everyone. Vary the wording.
- Don't send the messages all at once or it may trigger an alert that flags your account for spamming.
Your account could be suspended. Space the messages out. Explain what has happened. Send a link to the most recent announcement and the e-list sign up link. Send no more than 3 - 4 messages at a time, no more than once or twice a day at different time slots. In a week, you will have covered 21 - 42 members.
Best Practices for LinkedIn Group Management
- Event Planning and Event Management - 350,000+ members (Owned by Julius Solaris, I have had the pleasure of managing it for over 8 years and, at the time of writing, I am still managing this community of 17 related groups plus 2 groups for the leadershp team to communicate.)
- Step into the Spotlight - 5,791 members (This group is a behave of activity and it is ownned by Tsufit
- Expectations are clearly spelled out in the group profile, welcome letter, and group profile.
- The leadership team is serious about spam control.
- Members are encouraged to post Conversation titles in the form of a question.
- The leadership team is visible and active. Group owners and managers regularly post questions to stimulate discussion and share engaging content.
To Blog or Not to Blog
- give priority to questions and discussion topics when approving posts from the Submission queue.
- encourage members to post the Conversation title in the form of a question, include the link, a short excerpt, and key questions to stimulate discussion.
- step in comment briefly and add some key questions to stimulate discussions
- put members who flood the group with blog content on moderation and stagger their contributions
Tsufit uses a different approach. She asks members to refrain from including links in the opening post. They can be introduced later if they are relevant to the discussion at hand. Clearly, there is no one size fits all.
Is this a magic formula that always works? No. I own and manage some groups where engagement is a challenge. Perhaps the reason some groups have weathered the storm is that they engaged in best practices and reached a critical mass in terms of size and level of engagement before LinkedIn introduced the changes in October 2015. Thoughts about this are welcome in comments.
If You are Just Starting a LinkedIn Group
Knowing When to Pull the Plug
Each Group Owner has to decide if it is worth investing the effort and time to try to jumpstart a stalled LinkedIn Group. If you have used all of these steps and engagement still is not happening, you may want to seriously consider migrating the group to another platform like beBee, Facebook, or Google+.
Migration will not be easy for large groups. I will devote a future blog post to this topic once I have figured it out myself. By the way, The LinkedIn Experts Group, filled with LinkedIn consultants and coaches, is now thriving on Google+. Kind of ironic isn't it?
Photo: Public Domain, Thunderchild7 (Flicker)
- Have you ever resuscitated a LinkedIn Group where engagement was stalled? If so how did you do it?
- Do you manage or belong to any LinkedIn Groups where engagement is strong? If you do, please share them with us and identify what the group management team is doing to keep engagement high. We could all benefit from some tips.