How to grow your LinkedIn group (and keep them coming back for more!)

My, how time flies.

About two and a half years ago, I started the SEO Copywriting LinkedIn group. Someone told me it was a “good idea” and “it wouldn’t take that much time” – so I thought “Why not? If someone is going to run a group discussing SEO copywriting, it may as well be me.”

Fast forward to 2012. Moderating the group was a great idea – I’ve met some fantastic folks and landed a few leads. Plus, the group has a definite Cheers vibes – everybody knows your name and greets you with a friendly comment. That’s a happy thing.

But I also learned that moderating a group (especially a new LinkedIn group) can be a challenge. It takes more time than you’d think.   Spammers will leave discussion droppings pimping their services, Viagra, whatever. And although 99.9 percent of group members are very cool folks, there’s that .1 percent that you want to grab and ask, “What WERE you thinking?”

Interested in starting your own group? Here are some successful LinkedIn group-building strategies – and some tips for new moderators.

You’ve got to tell people about your group…the right way.  One of the fastest ways of building a group is simply promoting the fact that you’ve created one!  Be careful with this tactic – don’t spam your entire network and say, “Join this great group.” We’ve all gotten those emails and thought, “This isn’t relevant to me. Delete.”  This is similar to what some people will do when they’re promoting a new Facebook fan page…and it’s typically not a successful strategy.

Instead, promote the group on your social channels, and invite key people personally. It may mean that you start out with a small, core group of 50 people. That’s OK. At least you know those 50 people want to be there and will participate in the discussions.

You’ll need to seed the board with discussions until things get rolling.  Starting a new LinkedIn group is like being one of the first people at a cocktail party. It’s uncomfortable and weird…and all you want is for someone to come up and start talking to you. In the case of a LinkedIn group, you’re going to have to make the first move. Post questions that engage your readers. Inspire discussions. And for goodness sake – acknowledge folks when they do post. There is nothing worse than seeing a lonely post out there without the moderator even saying “thank you.”

The bigger you get, the more spam that you’ll see.  I belong to a number of LinkedIn groups that I rarely visit. Why? Because every time I check out the page, it’s filled with spammy posts that scream, “Hey, this board hasn’t been moderated in awhile.”

I have a hard and fast rule: If someone drops a link (to either an article that they’ve written, or to an industry article,) they must comment on the link and share why they think it’s useful. That helps get rid of 85% of the spammers who would love to do nothing but promote their own sites. If people break that rule, I warn them. If they keep doing it, I ban them. Am I hard-nosed? Sure. But the group stays spam-free.

Sometimes, you have to be the “off topic police.” A little bit of off-topic talk is OK – it shows that your group is engaged. But there are times when the discussion goes off in a wildly different place – for instance, people start discussing the Presidential election when they’re supposed to be talking about insurance marketing. That’s when it’s time to step in.

Simply remind folks that the group is about X, and to please take the off-topic discussions elsewhere. If you need to, send a private message to the “offender” and ask them directly. Or, if the topic is on-topic for the group – but not for that particular thread – start a new discussion. That helps keep the boards cleaner and cuts down on the non-relevant noise.

Remember that the group wants to hear from you, too.  I experimented with letting the discussions fly without input from me. I thought people didn’t notice (or care) until I started reading, “What does Heather think about this topic….Heather?” You don’t have to respond to every single poster every single time, but you’ll want to chime in here and there.

Remember that you serve the group (not the other way around,) so input is crucial. LinkedIn gave moderators the option to create an “open group” – and the discussions would be available on Google searches. I admit, being the SEO fiend that I am, I almost flipped the switch. And then I asked the group how they felt. The sentiment was overwhelmingly “No way – we want to keep the group private.” So that’s exactly what I did. If you’re thinking about making a major change, check with the group first. You may be surprised with what you’ll learn.

Have fun!  LinkedIn groups are a great way to get to “know” folks on a deeper level. Have fun with the group. Smile while you’re writing your posts. Share your successes (and encourage folks to share their successes, too.) That way, you can build a loyal group of people who enjoy visiting your group – and return day after day.

Yes, SuccessWorks does provide SEO copywriting services!  We aren’t cheap, but we are good. :) Contact me directly for details – I’m happy to help.