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How to Build a Thriving Industry Community on LinkedIn

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For any company looking to hire new talent, LinkedIn has become a must-visit, providing a stream of available candidates with polished resumes and readily available references. But LinkedIn can also serve another vital purpose for your company. It’s a great place to generate leads and pump up your sales, and one way to do it is to build and promote an industry community on the business social networking site.

Here’s a guide on how to set up your community and make it thrive, whether you sell plumbing equipment or briefcases. Let’s go!

Create an Industry Group, Not a Company One

This first step is very important, because social networking logic usually dictates that you set up your group under the name of your company. But LinkedIn is different. While people become fans and followers on Facebook and Twitter, on LinkedIn they’re more interested in business tips, recruiting ideas and industry news.

That means that it’s better to gear the group toward the industry, where you’ll get a larger cross-section of members interested in your topic, than it is to set it up for your company specifically. You should already have a company page, and that’s totally independent from this group. You may want to choose a logo for your group and set up a separate website for it as well, to give your community more dimension and individuality, but you don’t have to do this from the get-go.

Target Your Participants Carefully

Once you have created your group, you want to make sure the right people know about it. Send invitations to coworkers and past colleagues, of course, but also make sure to invite your customers. They may have valuable input into the topics you discuss, and you’ll also have a chance to interact with them beyond the point of sales. Becoming familiar with and sympathetic to the concerns of your customers is a terrific way to generate leads.

You’ll also want to make sure that you invite industry experts and high-profile members of your business community to join. Their engagement will help establish your credibility as a big player in this field. Don’t invite your personal friends unless they have knowledge of your industry and can really contribute. This is an A-list invitation, and you want to keep the membership somewhat exclusive, so that your threads don’t get hijacked into other topics of little interest to your industry. Though you’ll want the group to be open, so that people can find it, make sure you approve every member. This can also keep out anyone who appears to have dishonest aims, such as a spammer or competitor.

Social Media Examiner recently published a great list of ways to grow your LinkedIn group, so be sure to peruse their list for ideas.

Get People Engaged

Engagement remains the key element of any social media campaign, whether it’s on Facebook or LinkedIn, and your group is no different. You must keep fresh and interesting content flowing. Post discussion questions or interesting jobs in your group. Ask about customers’ best sales experience and why it stuck with them. Track the click-throughs on your announcements by tagging your URLs to see what generates the most interest.

Stay on Topic

You’ll need to monitor the discussions and posts in your group to make sure that everything is staying above-board. You don’t want to alienate customers or potential leads with topics that don’t make sense or, even worse, are offensive. If you find someone is abusing their power to post within the group, send them a note explaining that they will be banned if they do it again. Then get rid of them. Though it’s an industry group that should allow all kinds of voices to prosper, you don’t want anything to reflect poorly on your business.

Follow Up

Lead generation is partly about creative thinking. If you notice someone posting about a problem that your company can help them with, don’t be afraid to approach them. Have a solution ready and they’ll likely be happy that you took the time to reach out. However, don’t be overly aggressive and don’t stretch so hard in your sell that you’re approaching people who really want nothing to do with your product. Remember, in sales, much of success is relevancy. If you don’t have that, you don’t have a lead.

Adrienne Erin is a blogger and internet marketer who helps all kinds of clients succeed, from local businesses to online colleges. She spends a lot of her time writing, but when she’s not you might find her in a French discussion group, attempting to cook in her tiny kitchen, or feeding her Pinterest addiction.

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