How to Use LinkedIn Groups: 6 Benefits for B2B
It’s no secret that LinkedIn can be an effective way to grow business. Companies have been exploring this versatile social media tool for more than 15 years now, making valuable connections and learning the dos and don’ts of LinkedIn marketing. Participation continues to grow – last year the company reported a 41 percent increase in session time for its main app year-over-year. But many companies are still missing out on some of the best advantages LinkedIn can offer.
Using LinkedIn for business development means more than having a great company page. The platform offers multiple ways for business-to-business (B2B) companies to form and nurture the deeper relationships that can eventually lead to significant business. Among these, LinkedIn Groups is an especially valuable resource.
Hits and Misses
About half of LinkedIn’s 610 million members are involved in at least one group, and there are more than 2 million groups on the platform. Some use groups for job searches or talent searches, others simply to keep up with co-workers from a former employer. But groups can also be powerful tools for companies to connect with potential customers and commercial partners.
There’s a difference in simply having a group and making good use of it. Poorly administered groups have discouraged some professionals from remaining active in them. And significant changes that LinkedIn made to Groups a few years ago -- including breaking Groups out into its own app and pushing it to a more private, less noticeable spot on the LinkedIn site -- drove some users away and ended up being widely viewed as a mistake. Among other problems, LinkedIn has acknowledged that the separate Groups app couldn’t keep up with improvements made to the main LinkedIn app.
Despite a few missteps, the concept of LinkedIn Groups is still as viable as ever. A B2B that is willing to put in the time to build a strong group and is savvy about maintaining it can create a competitive advantage for itself with prospects that don’t respond to pushier sales approaches. Cultivating relationships pays dividends, and LinkedIn Groups remains a useful way to do that.
What’s New with LinkedIn Groups
The best news is that, beginning last September, LinkedIn introduced a new round of major changes that improve the Groups experience by making interactions easier, richer and more rewarding. If you haven’t tried Groups in the past few months, you might be surprised how much more accessible it has become.
As LinkedIn’s Mitali Pattnaik wrote in September, LinkedIn has “rebuilt Groups from the ground up.” Recent changes include:
- Groups has a more prominent place on the main LinkedIn website and is back in the main app. Users asked for this, and LinkedIn responded.
- Several improvements made to the main LinkedIn site in 2017 are now part of Groups as well. These include video recording and sharing, faster and more flexible messaging, and being able to see when fellow group members are online.
- Groups now notifies members when other members comment on their posts and notifies managers of new membership requests.
- Conversations are more conversational, with easy replies to comments and visible comment threads.
- Group administrators now can perform all management actions from the mobile apps, allowing faster response to membership requests, spam or inappropriate posts.
These changes should make the experience more rewarding for anyone who uses Groups, but the new tools should be especially useful for B2Bs managing a group to build and sustain professional relationships.
B2B Companies and LinkedIn
B2Bs have a long and well-established association with LinkedIn. The reasons are easy to see from LinkedIn B2B marketing statistics:
- 38 percent of B2B marketers say LinkedIn helps them generate revenue.
- 79 percent say LinkedIn has generated leads for their companies.
- 46 percent of social media traffic to company websites is from LinkedIn.
As impressive as these numbers are, could they be higher? Probably. A company can know how to use LinkedIn for business marketing and still miss some opportunities. One way to drive leads and revenue is to make the best possible use of LinkedIn Groups. This resource can help a company establish and grow a leadership role in its industry.
An important thing to remember going in is to take your time and do it right. Before starting your own group, join some existing groups to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. LinkedIn makes it easy to find the most relevant groups through keyword searches and to use data to identify the most active groups for your primary interests.
Do some “listening” before you start talking and get a sense of group etiquette. As you become an active part of a group, you’re forming relationships that can later bear fruit when you create your own group.
Managing a group well requires a significant commitment of time and attention. Put some serious thought into your initial messaging. Make sure it sets the tone you want and gets the conversation started in the right way.
6 Benefits for Business-to-Business Companies
Now that LinkedIn has brought Groups back to its main stage, the same strengths that made the feature so attractive to B2B marketers in the first place are easy to spot. It takes some time to reap the full rewards available through LinkedIn Groups, so be patient. The potential benefits are well worth it. They include:
- Regular contact with peers and prospects. LinkedIn’s sophisticated searches, along with the contacts you’ve made in other groups and elsewhere on LinkedIn, can help you build a membership base. Once the base is established and members see the benefits of your group, they can help bring in new members. The exchange of useful information creates valuable relationships.
- A place to let your voice be heard. A group you manage is a place for you to establish your expertise -- not by blasting sales pitches at your members, but by providing thoughtful, well-developed content that answers questions members may have, offers solutions to common pain points and gives them information that improves their professional lives. It’s a perfect forum for demonstrating your company’s depth of knowledge and competence without the hard sell that can scare prospects away in this forum.
- Access to deeper information. As you get to know the members of your group, your data pool deepens. You gradually begin to grasp their goals and frustrations, as well as identify ways you can help, multiplying positive interactions.
- A way to gauge other companies’ needs and interests. The thing that keeps professionals active in LinkedIn Groups is a sense that their needs are being met or their concerns advanced in some way. Sometimes they find value simply in having a sounding board; sometimes it’s the quality and usefulness of the information provided by the managing member or others in the group. One good way to engage the membership is to create a poll or survey on a topic of interest. This can make members feel like their concerns are valued and can give your company information to create more effective content.
- A source of high-quality leads. LinkedIn’s filters allow B2Bs to zero in on the specific groups and membership most likely to have compatible interests. Over time, business leads result from the relationships formed in an active LinkedIn Group, and the quality of the leads is likely to be higher than those generated in many other ways.
- Making connections for future sales. LinkedIn is a social media platform for professionals, and the ultimate aim is doing business – mutually beneficial business, which is made more likely by the relationships developed organically in LinkedIn Groups.
Don’t Give Up
LinkedIn Groups has had its ups and downs, but B2Bs have proven its value over and over through the years. The revamped version makes the feature easier than ever to deploy as a key component in a multilayered marketing strategy. If you need help finding your company’s place in LinkedIn Groups, Spot On is ready to help.
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