The perils of managing a group on LinkedIn – Part II

Linking people togetherThe New Year sees me once again grappling with the complexities of managing my community’s presence on LinkedIn.

You may recall that last year I talked about the group Who’s who in events in my post The perils of managing a group on LinkedIn.  I’m pleased to say that the group continues to grow in numbers, it is still curated, and everyone continues to be polite to one another.

What strikes me most about managing – or curating – a large group on LinkedIn is that it is very much like parenthood.  While certain rules are all very well for a toddler, they have to be adapted and changed for the older child and teenager.  As participants get familiar with the medium they begin to use it in different ways.  In its early days, the group was inundated with undisguised sales messages that were easy to dispose of, but this is much less of a problem now.  Similarly, the number of people who post irrelevant answers to questions has also diminished, as has (fortunately) the mad ranting that some individuals used to indulge in.

For the individual(s) managing the group this does add another decision layer.  There are far more articles and interesting material available, but where is the line between what is a promotion and posts that are putting very valid views forward, albeit taken from a single, biased source.  Do I, as the group’s curator make the decision or should that be left to the members themselves?  If I manage the content, does this make me a media owner/editor, and if so should I have a clear, published policy which makes it easy for every member to understand what will make it onto the discussion boards?  Even if I did, would everyone take notice of them?

Similarly, who should be in the group and whose membership request should be rejected?  A vibrant group needs a constant influx of new members who are willing to contribute, but large numbers do not necessarily guarantee that this will be the case, particularly as new members tend to attract their own contacts who are often from similar (possibly non-relevant) backgrounds.  As I wade through another tranche of applicants to join I find myself once again questioning whether the group should be a free for all to enter but this is no guarantee that it will continue to thrive.

From a group manager/curator point of view though, here are my top 5 do’s and don’ts for companies and individuals who want to make the most of group membership on LinkedIn:

  1. Check out a group’s statistics (such as they are) before you join.  A group may have a large membership, but if the geographical concentration doesn’t match your own it is unlikely that the conversations will either.
  2. Are the discussion boards actively monitored?  Groups without moderation tend to fill up pretty rapidly with sales messages and content which few people ever comment on or even read.
  3. Do you really need to join all of those groups? Are you up to your maximum of 50 and how many of them do you actually participate in?  Whatever your interest there are bound to be two or three groups that stand out- and you can bet that a core of the same people are in all of them.  Spend a little time checking out which are the most active and relevant and put these to the top of your group listings. (You can change the order of your groups by navigating to the groups page and clicking on the settings icon.)
  4. You are more likely to get a response if you post something that warrants discussion. It sounds really simple, but lots of the posts I see don’t do this.  By making a statement and throwing it out onto the floor you aren’t actually asking anyone to participate with you in a conversation, and if you don’t start talking to people you can’t build that all important relationship.
  5. Get straight to the point. Take a leaf out of the Twitter book.  Practice getting your message across quickly and succinctly.  You have but a blink of an eye to attract someone’s attention so don’t waste it with waffle.  Post snippets of information regularly for the best results rather than one diatribe a fortnight.

Like any medium, used well, LinkedIn is a great tool.  But it is just that.  A tool.  You need to use it diligently and with real enthusiasm if you want it to create wonderful things for you and your organisation.


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