linkedin Archives - Harris Social Media

15 helpful tips to grow your LinkedIn group into thousands

on Sep 05 in hints and tips, linkedin, social media, social networks, tools posted , , , by

huge crowd crossing a bridge

(Image courtesy of NASA)

After LinkedIn’s revamp to its groups and bringing teenagers onto its platform, competition for eyeballs is going to increase dramatically.

Here is a 15 step guide to starting and enhancing your group so that it will grow—hopefully into the thousands. These tips will help you get started with your LinkedIn group. They will also help established group managers boost their group’s numbers.

These techniques are based on my own experience with my Biodiversity Professionals group, started in November 2010. The group is close to more than 10,000 and still growing.

Set up

1. Pick a great name

LinkedIn gives you five chances to change the group name. It’s best to get it right first time. Choose a name that’s relevant and easily recognized. That’s why brands shoud create a Company page. A Group page is for creating a community, not for raising brand awareness. To pick a winning name, think about the focal topics of the group, and about LinkedIn users. Most LinkedIn users are professionals looking into expanding their network. A good name might include “Professionals,” or “Network.” In any case, keep the name to two or three words max.

2. Choose the right topic

Make sure the topic of your group is going to resonate with LinkedIn users. (See LinkedIn user demographics.) To connect with your target audience, apply the Goldilocks principle: consider a topic that is not too specific nor too broad. A very broad topic will mean that you’re competing with a lot of other groups. For instance if you call your group “Social Marketers”, you’ll need to battle for attention among more than 5,000 other groups. On the other hand, “Marketing Statistics Experts”, would not be a specialty for more than a few users. So a topic such as Social Media Analysts might work well. You’ll also have more success helping your group grow if you have some basic expertise in your topic. If you can respond with authority on posts, you will build the group’s credibility. If you’re on thin ice, reach out to experts who are able to respond with some gravitas.

3. Provide some branding

LinkedIn’s new group page format now allows you to feature a nice big (640 x 200) banner or “Hero image” at the top of the page. Do not neglect the opportunity to replace the generic blank graphic! At the very least, use stock photos and screen shots if you don’t have a design budget. There are a bunch of free graphics tools if you don’t have Photoshop.  Even easier to use, Cooltext enables you to create an attractive logo from a menu of preset graphics and templates. Another easy technique is to use a word cloud generator, such as Wordle. Create a text document with your topic keywords. Repeat keywords with a frequency that reflects your focus. Choose your color scheme and font, and hey presto, instant great looking banner!

4. Optimize description

When you set up a group you need to create a summary about your group and a full description. Craft these carefully! The summary serves as the page description that appears in Google Search results, so it will be key to ensure your page does well if people are searching in Google. Use the longer description to give members a thumbnail sketch of your group’s interests, goals and activities. This is where you entice members to include your group as one of only 50 that LinkedIn allows them to join.

5. Create a welcome banner

The page banner is a slider, but only the first slide features your hero image. After that, content is determined by the items in your list of Manager’s Choice posts. (Click the Search tab to access the Manager’s Choice list.) To create a welcome message for the slider, first post a welcome message to the Discussions. Then set the order of Manager’s Choice items so that your welcome message is first in the list. When your banner image slides over, users will see the welcome message next. You can create additional posts that help users with the group, such as etiquette when posting.

6. Create an automated jobs feed

Remember your audience! Many LinkedIn users are networking to look for jobs. Your group’s Jobs tab provides a place to discuss and post jobs. The tab gives you the option of creating an automated jobs feed that pulls in job opportunities from across LinkedIn. Click on the Jobs tab, and click Edit in the Create a Feed box. Choose keywords that align most closely with your group’s topics. You might need to fine-tune the keywords to get the most relevant jobs. You can also customize the feed by selecting various filters such as countries, junctions, industries and experience. Be sure to let users know about your jobs feed in your messaging. You can also create a post and make it a Manager’s Choice so it appears in your banner area (see #5). If you try to put more than ten discussions in your Manager’s Choice list, you might encounter bugs with the list. Keep it to ten or less and things should work fine.

7. Create a URL shortener

A URL shortener is useful to post information about your site in Twitter. To get a link to your group’s About page, click Manage>Send Invitations, and you will see a box labelled “Link”. (See #9 for tips on sending invitations.) Use Bitly to create a user-friendly URL that helps users recognize the URL’s topic. The best thing about the URL shortener is that you can use it to track the number of clicks. So you could create variations on a URL and then track it to specific networks and webpages. For example, post only to Twitter. Post only in emails. Post in the comments of influencer blogs. Then you can compare which posts get the best response. Hootsuite (free for up to five social accounts) provides a URL shortener with various analytics tools.

8. Post some initial content

Before you put effort into promotion, seed your group’s Discussion page with some initial content. The easiest way to start is simply to post links to information and news that will interest your group. Be sure that the content is relevant and useful. To find up-to-date content, you can set up Google Alerts and Twitter streams.

gold star with text tipPOWER TIP! Be sure to optimize your own profile before going wild with promoting your group. Users will check out your profile. If it sucks, they might be a bit reluctant to join your group, especially just as you are trying to get it off the ground.


9. Reach out to your network

Once your group is primed and ready for action, now is the time to begin promoting. The first step is to use the “Send Invitations” feature, under Manage Group in the Manage tab. However, group invitations cannot be customized. My advise is don’t use the generic messaging. Send invitations one-on-one to your network. This is your network, so speak to them about your group, why you’re inviting them, and how they can contribute. Always personalize the message!Here’s an example:

“Hi <Contact Name>, I hope you don’t mind a message out of the blue! It’s just that I am so excited about this new LinkedIn group I created. It’s called <Group Name>, and it features news and jobs for professionals like you. It’s also a great opportunity to contribute to relevant discussions about <Group Topics>, and your opinions are sure to be valued by group members. Just click the link to join. Thank you so much! Regards, <Your Name>.”

10. Post on other social networks

Once you have a few members in your group, start reaching out on other social networks. Twitter and Facebook are good places to start. Google Plus also has an audience that may be interested in professional networks. My biggest successes have come with posting links on Wikipedia. You do need to be careful, since Wikipedia editors are very strict about external links and will quickly delete any links that smell at all spammy. It helps if you’re already an established Wikipedian. Otherwise, get an established Wikipedia editor, if you can, to help you post a link to an appropriate page. (Contact me if you’re interested in this option.) 

11. Use message templates

Automated messages are sent to a user when they request membership, or they’re approved. I am not a huge fan of automated generic emails, and neither are your group members. Message templates (under the Manage tab) are a good way to personalize those messages, and to set the stage for building a relationship with your group members. For example, you can customize the welcome message. If you don’t, the default LinkedIn confirmation message will be sent instead.


12. Approve members promptly

If you have a closed group, you need to approve members. Don’t let this job linger! By approving people quickly, you maintain their initial interest. New members appear in the feed on the top right of the page, along with new discussions. By approving members regularly, users can see that more people are joining, and will be more likely to participate in the group.

gold star with text tipPOWER TIP! The profile that you approve the last appears in the the Latest Activity box first, so you want to make sure that your most recently approved member has a nice photo or a good profile, improving the group’s credibility. This also helps to push lower quality content off the prime real estate of the Recent Activity box.

13. Moderate gently

When moderating posts, again exercise the Goldilocks principle: don’t be too strict or too lenient, just about right. If you are too strict, you might put off users who overshare, which might work against you when other users aren’t posting much. Some activity is better than none! Also, some users may not be familiar with etiquette. If posts tend to be spammy, create a Discussion with appropriate guidelines and make it a Manager’s Choice, so users can see what’s expected. In any case, unless posts are totally inappropriate, you can move posts to appropriate tabs.

14. Thank frequent contributors

The backbone of your group and its key to success are the users that most often contribute quality content. Take a few moments to thank them with a personal message. They may even appreciate being thanked in a Discussion (be sure to ask!). These “ambassadors” can help in other ways, such as sharing your own content with other groups and social networks. Bottom line: social media is about building relationships. Use that

15. Send announcements sparingly

One of the best things about the LinkedIn groups is that you can email all members with the “Send an Announcement” feature. But remember that some members might have opted out of receiving the announcements. To avoid more opt-outs it’s a good idea to send only important announcements with relevant information. In other words, don’t spam your group! One way to get buy-in is to post a Discussion asking for news and other items that will be of interest to the group. This way, you can embed your own news, links, etc. in the message, while also serving the needs of your carefully nurtured community. If you follow the advice above, you have every chance of growing your group into thousands strong. I’d love to hear of any other thoughts or suggestions that aren’t mentioned above, or of your own experience with any of these suggestions.

More helpful hints and tips


  • Starting your LinkedIn group page


LinkedIn groups for beginners

LinkedIn Groups – How to Encourage, Entice and Engage

LinkedIn Groups for PR: A beginner’s guide

Top 10 Reasons To Start A LinkedIn Group


  • How to engage LinkedIn users


Engage the experts: winning content strategies for LinkedIn Groups

How to engage your LinkedIn followers


Why you should include Wikipedia in your social strategy – now more than ever

on Jul 23 in linkedin, social media, trends posted by

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia. (Image courtesy of The Independent)Social media consultants rarely even mention Wikipedia, let alone include it as part of a social strategy. But recent changes to the site could change that.

Wikipedia is turning over a new leaf. According to this article in The Independent, Wikipedia’s new open initiatives include “a simplified user interface and a better-publicised API to attract developers.” What that means is that Wikipedia is likely to attract new audiences, both users and contributors.

Despite Wikipedia’s strict editing guidelines, editors can find ways to provide value on the site and ultimately drive traffic or build audiences. You just have to be smart and not greedy. The place to start is to build a presence on the site. If you contribute by editing existing articles, other editors can see that you are actively engaged and not just trying to add spammy links. As you build credibility, you can judicously add relevant links to appropriate URLs.

The results can be impressive. For example, I grew a group on LinkedIn to more than 9,000 members in about 2.5 years. I attribute that growth largely to a link I put on Wikipedia. Due to my work on Wikipedia (which includes several hundred edits), I now have a group of 9,000 users that I can email anytime I want.

So if your social strategy does not include Wikipedia, maybe you should think how it will. Until then, you are missing the opportunity to tap into the audience of one of the web’s top ten most visited websites.Actual growth of LinkedIn Biodiversity Professionals group from November 2010.

LinkedIn social media veteran gets a lesson in social media marketing

on Jun 09 in linkedin, marketing, social media posted by

I was so excited yesterday when I received an email from Michael Crosson (photo left), group leader of one of LinkedIn’s top social media groups, Social Media Marketing, which boasts almost 80,000 members.

Coming from the group’s leader, the offer for a free ebook, “42 Rules of Social Media” by communications professional Jennifer Jacobson, seemed too good to pass up.

So I clicked on the link, highlighted with the exclamation at the end of Michael’s post, “Get your FREE copy here.”

I was taken to the publishers page. But a header on the page reads: “Receive Your Complimentary eBook Excerpt NOW!”

Oops! The offer was for an excerpt only, not the entire book. Of course, an excerpt can be a few sentences from a few chapters but still might have been worth it. So I clicked through to the form. Then I saw that the form to get just the excerpt required about 20 pieces of information including job and company information as well as detailed contact information.

I balked. And so did many others who saw the offer.

The discussion thread exploded. Within less than a day dozens of comments had been posted. Most lambasted the offer, feeling misled about a free ebook when the offer was only for an excerpt.

The first comment started the discussion “Sounds interesting, but just to be clear – This is an excerpt from the book, not a free ebook as stated.” by Brendan Shanahan. But things spiralled down from there.

As the incident unfolded, comments ranged from disappointment to vitriol:

  • “The ebook is not free as you claim. … since you were not sincere in your promotion (and this is after all Social Media where authenicity is everything) I think I’ll pass. — John Doble
  • “Umm, you’re trying to mislead a group of savvy, smart-mouthed people” — Marilyn Casey
  • “A core pillar of social media is trust. … I trusted the link to the free ebook found that the link was bogus… For a social media veteran – this is a huge fail.” — Walter Pike
  • “Alas, I was duped. I would not have provided my info had I known it was for an excerpt.” — Kris Tazelaar
  • “Complete scam! and then reiterated in message above that it was a free book and not an excerpt – very bad practice.” — The Think Tank London
  • “An excerpt instead of the full book and involving a questionnaire that was only missing my shoe size – a reason good enough for me to leave this group. Foul play, guys, shame on you.” — Lukasz Dabrowski
  • “ would do well to ban and bar Michael Crosson, or whomever created his/her profile on LinkedIn …from the obvious and justified complaints here, you’ve hurt & compromised a lot of people, information and privacy-wise…” — Brian Uytiepo

Ouch! So Michael Crosson, self-proclaimed “Social Media and Interactive Advertising Industry Veteran” slipped up big time.

Well we all make mistakes! But how would the “industry veteran” respond?

Michael was soon on the thread with his mea culpa. He admitted the mistake in presenting the offer as a free ebook rather than the excerpt. Apparently, he’d been misled himself by the promoter from whom he’d received the information. He also forwarded the discussion comments to the promoter. And, very importantly, he also said that he would “personally check out these offers next time before posting.”

The ebook’s author also responded to distance herself from the incident. “I did not approve of the above referenced co-marked ‘seemingly spam-ish’ offer,” she wrote.

Lesson learned. What’s instructive here is to realize that yes, mistakes happen in social media. But their impact will depend on the response — its timeliness, taking responsibility and appropriate measures as needed. Michael Crosson demonstrated all of these with aplomb.

Some group members might agree. Marilyn Casey wrote “this was probably a valuable exercise for everyone involved.” and Tim Scapillato thinks that “This entire episode was a very graphic illustration of the power and speed of social media. You handled it well, Mike.”

Visit the discussion and see how social media pros respond when one of their own gets it wrong. Here’s the link to the discussion on LinkedIn.

Caution – Suspicious Activity on LinkedIn, Please Read

on Nov 30 in linkedin, trends posted by

Hmm. I received an email from Greg Hyer, the admin of a LinkedIn group to which I belong and founder of It seems like Greg is conscientiously alerting us to an issue that is of increasing concern on LinkedIn: spammers.

The individual subject to Greg’s ire has apparently been creating multiple profiles and groups, contravening LinkedIn’s EULA.

Greg alleges that Don “Kevin” Brailsford of the Digital Grapevine in Wilmington, NC “has been creating multiple profiles.” He points out that any LinkedIn member can create and be a manager of 10 groups max. Greg then lists more than a half dozen profiles that appear to have been created by Mr. Brailsford (if that’s his real name) that are associated as a founder or manager of Linked Local In groups. Greg mentions that he has contacted LinkedIn at and asked them to investigate.

The upshot here is that even sites that set a high bar for spammers can be gamed, so it behooves each of us to take care joining groups and linking to others. Greg suggests, “I recommend proceeding with some caution before connecting with a profile or joining a group on LinkedIn. There is [a] level of screening that should be done. LinkedIn recommends that you do not connect with someone unless you have met that person.”

Good advice. We’d be smart to heed it.

Posting tweets to your LinkedIn profile

on Nov 10 in linkedin, News, tools, Twitter posted by

LinkedIn is the premier professional networking site. It’s invaluable for building professional connections, establishing yourself as a leader in your field and for getting answers to business-related questions.

One of the nice features of LinkedIn is its status (or network) updates. These appear in your profile just below your profile picture and name and title, so they’re highly visible to your profile visitors. 

Up until today, the only way to update your status in LinkedIn was to visit your page and type it in. Now, LinkedIn and Twitter have joined forces, so you can now tweet your status updates directly from Twitter (or your Twitter app of choice). You can also update your Twitter timeline from LinkedIn.

It worked seamlessly when I tried it. On your home page is your status update box with a checkbox next to the Twitter icon.

LinkedIn profile status update with option to update your Twitter timeline

Click this and you are taken to the Twitter app page where you sign in with your Twitter user name and password. Back on the LinkedIn page you have a couple of options, such as including all tweets in your LinkedIn profile, or just those with the #in hashtag.

It took a minute or two for my first tagged tweet (from Twitter to LinkedIn) to appear, but thereafter the update was right away. 

Likewise, posting from LinkedIn to Twitter was seamless and took no time at all to appear in my Twitter timeline.

This will greatly enhance the value of the LinkedIn status updates, and will probably boost use of Twitter by LinkedIn users who are not completely sold on it.

Here is a screen shot showing the new feature in action on LinkedIn.

Your tweets can now be fed to your LinkedIn profile.

Instructions on configuration and options are available on the LinkedIn blog

Questions about the CIA monitoring social media buzz

on Oct 20 in facebook, google, linkedin, monitoring, search, social media, technology, Twitter posted by

Advertising Age today reported on government investment in online social media monitoring tools. This enables the CIA, among other government agencies, to listen to your conversations on your favorite social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and so on.

Some questions arise:

  • First, will the CIA really find any actionable intelligence? And even if they do, will they know how to respond?
  • Second, what kinds of privacy issues are at stake? While anything on the public timeline seems fair game, what about direct messaging, which is supposed to be private? (To my mind, searching DMs is equivalent to tapping a phone line.) It seems to me that a prospective terrorist would not be dumb enough to post anything incriminating on the public timeline. That said, a couple of high profile incidents emerged recently where crooks were nabbed as a result of carelessness using Facebook. (e.g., Thief logs into Facebook at scene of crime) But this kind of thing is small beans for the CIA (maybe not the FBI).
  • Third, given the kinds of uncertainties, is this an approriate use of taxpayer money? Do these services offer much more than what could be achieved configuring searches on Google? It seems a fair bet to me that the CIA could monitor enough innocuous data on social media that they may be able to pick up encrypted or disguised messages. In that case, such expenditures would be appropriate. But if they’re just on a fishing expedition, on the chance something might turn up, perhaps a more strategic approach would be warranted.

I wonder if this like a company deciding, oh let’s get into social media because everyone else is, and then falling flat on their face.

Ten steps to evolving your personal brand

on Oct 18 in blogging, branding, facebook, google, hints and tips, linkedin, reputation management, social networks, strategy, tools, Twitter posted by

Anyone who has an online presence needs to understand the importance of personal brand. The person on Facebook who got fired because she posted on her profile that she hated her job did not get the concept of personal brand.

But there are many social media channels. Most people have several profiles, which they maintain to a greater or lesser extent. What is the point of perfecting your LinkedIn profile if you inadvertently sabotage it with a lackluster blog or indiscrete Tweets? The solution is to evolve your personal brand.

By evolving your brand, you start from simple principles and create an increasingly complex presence. Before you start on any of this, you must understand the process of biological evolution. Broadly speaking, it is a process of experimentation, ruthless selection, survival and propagation of what is successful. Here are 10 steps to implement as you evolve your personal brand.

1. Establish goals –– Decide what you want to do with your personal brand. First and foremost brand is about perception. Your basic goal is to craft perception of what people think. What do people find when they search for you on Google? Do you want to be seen as an expert, thought leader or influencer?

2. Consider your audience — Who are you communicating with via social media? If your personal brand is your professional persona, what kinds of topics interest your audience the most? Find the common ground with the topics you are knowledgeable about. By sharing your unique knowledge you provide value to your target audience. It’s vital also to consider the kinds of online behavior typical for your audience. Does your audience create and upload content, will they comment on blog posts, or are they content to passively consume content? (Charlene Li’s “ladder” model of social media participation is a good starting point to classifying user behavior.)

3. Research platforms — If you want to use Facebook just for family and friends, it might be unwise to “friend” work colleagues as did the unfortunate Facebook user in the example above. If your professional network is mainly on LinkedIn, tweak your profile and engage on Answers and Discussions. Bear in mind your audience might not be active on the platforms on which you’re active. For instance, in regulated industries (e.g., pharma) you’re unlikely to have a large audience in social networks. Do some research to find out where your peers are. In choosing platforms consider whether it gets traffic (one reason Facebook is the 800 pound gorilla), relevance, the value of content and if you are comfortable using it.

4. Create a strategy — Once you have identified where your audience is active online, and what kinds of topics you want to engage in, create a social media strategy. A common mistake starting out is to assume strategy is simply engaging your audience. It is not. Think of strategy as similar to a business plan. Your strategy needs to include long- and short-term goals, evaluation of the competitive landscape, resources you plan on using, success benchmarks, a tactical summary and a schedule for executing tactics. Be sure to try something new and unexpected. Mutations are the raw material for evolution. You have to have unusual approaches to survive in a competitive and changing environment.

5. Implement your strategy — The schedule in your strategic plan will guide your day-to-day activities: for example,  what to blog or tweet about, how many posts or tweets, what kinds of content and what kind of integration (such as cross-linking with your other online presences on LinkedIn, blog comments, forum posts and so on). A common mistake for beginners is to start their social media branding at this stage, rather than including implementation as part of a strategic plan.

6. Measure your results — Your strategic plan’s benchmarks will include metrics for you to assess your progress. There are endless different ways to measure social media. If you are advertising, a good start is the IAB’s Social Media Ad Metrics Definitions. If you have a WordPress blog, use a plugin that provides a good overview of basic stats. For more detailed stats, Google Analytics are a must. You can set behavioral goals such as a conversion or clicking on a link to directly measure the impact of specific site content. If you are on Facebook or Twitter, these applications provide a variety of stats. On Facebook, the Fan page provides information on the number of views, fans, uploads and so on. Several third party sites provide stats to allow you to track your progress on Twitter, such as the number of followers, posts, and URLs clicked. There are endless permutations. Again, you need to experiment and see what works for you. (Introduction to social media metrics)

7. Compare your results with your goals — Selection is a key step in evolving your personal brand. In order to begin the selection process you, see if your results are meeting your goals. When you compare your results with your goals, it will help to refine your goals and to get more specific. Say your goal is to be the top blogger in your industry. How will you measure whether you are the top blogger? You could use your Technorati rank or traffic. Or may be you just want to be a better blogger. You could use the change in number of comments over time, so traffic or rank would be less important. The key is to focus on what is most important relative to your goal.

8. Continue what is working — Once you have the first seven steps, the rest is easy. Simply keep up with what works. Do more of what gets positive results, whether it’s more traffic, more comments, or whatever.

9. Quit what is not working — Do less of what doesn’t work. This is selection — arguably the most important step of the evolutionary process. Selection is ruthless. You need to be too. You might have to give up something that’s precious or important. The dinosaurs were awesome animals. They’re all dead. Extinct. For ever. You need to think along those lines. What’s not working? What is diminishing your survivability? If it’s not working, kill it.

10. Start all over — Yup. Evolution is iterative. Just like the environment, the online ecosystem is always changing. Life’s evolution is always ongoing, and always will be. To survive and thrive in the online ecosystem, you too will need to continually evolve. Start from Step 1 above and continue the process as long as you want to stay in the race.

Does it work? Sure. If you stick to your plan and persist, your personal brand will evolve and you will get results. Here’s a screen shot of my stats on this blog since have focused on evolving my personal brand. It isn’t the only measure of success, but it illustrates that you can evolve your personal brand applying the above ten steps.

New LinkedIn feature allows you to save and organize profiles

on Oct 01 in business, hints and tips, linkedin, marketing, tools, trends posted by

Of course, LinkedIn is an essential part of any professional’s social media toolkit. But it can be hard to keep track of all the profiles you visit, especially if they are outside your network.

To make the job easier, LinkedIn launched Profile Organizer, announced today. The tool lets the user save profiles, organize them into folders, and add notes. It’s sure to be a useful tool for a variety of purposes. You could make groups of profiles based on employment or education background, number of connections or specific expertise.

The new feature is sure to be valuable to job seekers and recruiters, and to marketers. Hmm.

For now, Profile Organizer is available only to Premium subscribers, but LinkedIn is offering a 30-day free trial for any member. With the Business option at $24.95 per month it allows 5 folders. The Pro option at $499.95 per month allows you 25 folders.