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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


Hootsuite’s tweaks for tweets

on Jun 24 in hints and tips, social networks, tools, trends, Twitter posted by

Hootsuite logoHootsuite just keeps getting better and better. 

It calls itself “The professional Twitter client” and today it went several steps further toward reinforcing that position. The company rolled out a new version of its app, called Hootsuite5 (see blog post). Aside from a a touched-up dashboard, improvements include:

  1. Extensive use of HTML5, which runs quietly behind the scenes to bring yummy goodness such as drag and drop, geo-search and quicker switching between tabs and streams. Anything that improves user experience is a good thing.
  2. Themes to customize your dashboard’s appearance. Not such a big deal but definitely keeping up with the times.
  3. Publish photos to your Facebook wall. This won’t manage your Facebook albums, but it means that when you post a link you can include an image, just as you would posting directly onto Facebook.
  4. Retweet options include using the traditional RT, which Hootsuite incorporated in the early days, or now using Twitter’s built-in retweet option (which sucks IMO). According to the company’s blog “HootSuite users can choose whether to Re-Tweet with initials “RT” or to use the Twitter native auto-Re-Tweet tool.” However, I couldn’t see how to RT in the way you used to with Hootsuite. Now, the function is like Twitter’s. Here’s how:  “Click the Owl > Settings > Preferences > Uncheck “Use Twitter Web retweets” (Thanks to @Hootsuite_Help for clarifying.)
  5. Access your Google Analytics data. Hootsuite now integrates your Google Analytics data into its dashboard. Great time saver, since you don’t need to login to Google to get your latest stats. But wait, there’s more! You can overlay your tweets from various Twitter accounts to evaluate which tweets are providing the most traffic to your sites. This will be a great tool for marketers. 
  6. Attachments! This is getting almost like email. You can include an image or other file as an attachment to your tweet (or hoot). The attached file is automatically linked with a shortened URL.
  7. More goodness! Hootsuite has speeded up the interface, and provided easier access to support, and Japanese users can now use the app in their own language (not so useful for me, I confess).

These improvements are sure to keep Hootsuite as leading application for those looking to streamline management of their Twitter outreach. It certainly came out tops in a recent online discussion on LinkedIn.

If you use Twitter to do more than update your timeline on what you’re having for breakfast, I strongly recommend Hootsuite. To get the most out of it, read Ten steps to becoming a Twitter power user with Hootsuite.

Facebook privacy concerns aren’t impacting traffic

on May 27 in facebook, social networks, trends posted by

The recent kerfuffle over Facebook’s privacy blunders hasn’t impacted traffic, according to stats company

According to data published by the company in an email, daily reach for Facebook is up over last month and unique visitors reached an all time high of 135MM in April (see charts below).

Calls for people to quit Facebook over its privacy policies (or inadequacies thereof) have got a lot of buzz online and in the mainstream press, including an interview with Mashable’s Pete Cashmore on PBS’s Newshour last night. In the interview, Cashmore said that “There’s not a lot of evidence that users fully understand their [Facebook privacy] settings.”

But overall, the confusion among users and negative attention in the press hasn’t translated into loss of face for Facebook. People just can’t get enough of the social networking site, apparently. And they keep on coming. Compete’s email refers to a New York Times article that points out previous Facebook user protests have not affected the company, which continues “to add new users at a record clip.”

Facebook traffic, April 2008 to April 2010

 Facebook reach, April 24 to May 24, 2010

Ning phasing out free social networks

on May 04 in business, social networks, trends posted by

Leading social network provider Ning is phasing out its free option for social network creators.

In an email today, Ning CEO Jason Rosenthal wrote that the company will be phasing out all free Ning networks. In its FAQs, the company announced that it was focusing 100% on paid solutions.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. The lowest tier of pricing is $3 per month. Presumably the company did its market research and found this price point would minimize loss of users.

That said, any cost is going to deter experimentation and innovation. Social media’s dramatic rise to the forefront of the Web has been driven partly by the plethora of free applications. Ning has played a significant role in making that happen.

How long will it be before another free social network application (as easy to set up and use as Ning) emerges?

Should employers be allowed to look at your Facebook page when considering you for a job?

on Feb 17 in business, facebook, search, social networks, trends posted by

An important question is presented in an online poll by a local North Carolina website this morning.

Should employers be allowed to look at your Facebook page, or other social media sites, when considering you for a job?

Employment is a contract of trust between the employer and employee. Both parties have the obligation and right to ensure by any legal means necessary that the relationship will be of benefit to both parties. Does this include reviewing social profiles?

I believe yes, but whether you agree or not background checks are already entrenched as part of the hiring process, and searching online is an inexpensive way to extend such checks. It also allows employers to evaluate aspects of an employee that may not be evident from background checks or interviews.

Searching online and finding social network information is so cheap and easy that it’s a way for employers who cannot afford to hire such services to check on prospective employees.

One could argue that looking at people’s profiles is an invasion of privacy. But first, the information that employers can find is already publicly available. Second, most social applications allow privacy settings that prevent unwanted viewers of your profile.

You need to ask whether you are using social networks for a social experience (i.e., just to have fun) or do you consider such use part of your professional persona? In the first case, you’d be smart to set everything to private and don’t allow access to anyone you’d mind seeing you drunk, stoned, half-naked, etc. In the second, follow my golden rule: don’t put anything online that you would not be comfortable seeing splashed on the front page of your local newspaper.

Finally, how on earth do you police whether or not employers look at your social media profiles? I think the question is a valid one, but framed somewhat naively.

Facebook social game Restaurant City launches in-game ads

on Feb 12 in business, facebook, marketing, social networks, strategy, trends posted by

A few years back, gaming platforms were touted as a virgin territory to be conquered by advertisers. And they have been reasonably successful. According to Wikipedia, in 2005, spending on in-game advertising was $56 million, estimated to grow to $1.0 billion by 2014.

Typically, these messages have been embedded in console games and dedicated Internet platforms such as virtual worlds and MMORPGs. 

These delivery systems limit the audience to gamers, stereotypically a very specific demographic (young, a bit asocial, nerdy, tech-minded and glued to their computers). Recent studies have shown that the gamer demographic is more complex (see e.g., Gamer demographic complex.) But the audience is still limited. 

The explosion in the past couple of years of social games, most notably on Facebook, has opened up a wider demographic.  

One company to step into that gap is Playfish, which produces some of Facebook’s most popular games. In late 2008, the company launched their first in-game ad campaign with Procter & Gamble and Herbal Essences via the Geo Challenge Facebook game in the UK.

But the company has been slow to introduce in-game ads into its varied product range which includes two spots in the top 15 list of games.

But that might be changing. In this screenshot, a billboard ad discreetly placed on the road just outside the owner’s restaurant (from Restaurant City, which claims 15.5 million users) encourages users the chance to visit Moreover, the ad incentivizes the click by offering the user in-game “cash” that can be used to purchase game items.

In-game advertisement for ProFlowers appears as a billboard in Restaurant City Facebook game

Playfish’s caution is well-founded. Their primary business model is based on the game experience itself. The users are hooked by the game’s novelty, high quality and social interaction. Then, as loyalty and numbers grow, the game monetizes aspects of play. So a significant ad presence would detract from the user experience.

Although usage of its products is trending downward, Playfish is surely smart enough to continue this delicate balancing act. In the above example, the company is cleverly using its tactic of seasonal game themes. During, say, the Christmas season, new in-game items are added that are available for a limited time only. In this case, the ad coincided with Playfish’s increased options for Valentine’s Day. Money can’t buy you love, but it seems love can buy you money!

Notes on the word “expert” (and social media)

on Jan 22 in facebook, social media, social networks posted by

Definitely an expert.A couple of weeks ago, I started a group on Facebook, Social Media Expert Directory, and created a social network on Ning. Wow! What a great response. In just two weeks we have 95101 Facebook fans and 23 members on the social network.

I started the group as a response to critiques about the plethora of so-called “experts” who are exploiting the explosion of business activity around social media. Understandably, some group members eschew the use of the word “expert,” and a number of social media star players have questioned the use of the word. (See Chris Brogan’s What I Want a Social Media Expert to Know.)  

It’s become fashionable to bash those who call themselves “experts” (For example, Social Media “Experts” are the Cancer of Twitter.) So it’s a natural response for social media providers to shy away from using the word.

But the danger is that we fall back to synonyms or euphemisms, only further muddying the picture.

Indeed, the positive response to the creation of the group shows there is a need for providers to push back against the negativity. For some, “expert” is a perfectly legitimate label. For the Social Media Expert Directory, I am using the word in its strict dictionary definition. According to, the definition is:

1. a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field; specialist; authority

In this sense, my plumber is an “expert.” Thus, it is fair for someone who has a particular skill or knowledge in social media to call themselves an expert.

That said, the definition does imply that an expert is also an “authority.” This may be where people come unstuck, because having authority may be confused with being well-known or widely-recognized. And having a specialist skill does not necessarily confer fame! I believe that an expert can be an authority without being well-known, but, given the negativity surrounding the word “expert”, the onus is upon the self-anointed to be able to justify such a label.

In the case of someone who does have considerable skill, a review of their profile should speak for itself.

So yes, use the word expert, by all means, but be prepared to back that up. You need more than just being able to set up a Facebook page or Twitter account. You need to show how you offer value and insight to a business unique needs, and to frame this in terms of a winning social media strategy.

Social media is a curse as well as a blessing for Haiti

on Jan 14 in News, social media, social networks, Twitter posted by

Over the last day or so Twitter has been indundated with tweets that the global shipping company UPS is offering free shipments to Haiti for packages under 50lbs.

Kindly users are offering useful suggestions such as “UPS is shipping anything 2 #Haiti under 50lbs for FREE: send a care box with things like food blankets candles tents batteries medicine etc.”

Unfortunately, the rumor is false. The company has in fact suspended shipments to Haiti. UPS’s latest blog post cites the “destruction of roads and communications networks” as the reason to put their Haiti service on hold. 

Another popular retweet was American Airlines offer of free travel to Haiti for licensed medical professionals. Again, airline spokesmen have denied the rumor as reported on CNN.

For social media providers, the lesson here is to verify the authenticity of offers or news before retweeting info

In the longer term, spread of rumors can only damage the value of social media. It behooves us all to double-check information unless we know it comes from a verifiable source.

More immediately, these rumors only compound the suffering of Haitians. Many of the country’s residents are reaching out to the outside world through social networks. Twitter and Facebook were for some the only meaningful contact they had with friends and relatives. (See Social media key in Haiti earthquake coverage.) Given the Haitian’s reliance on social media, how cruel to pile such hoaxes on top of their misery.

Please take a moment to post a Tweet to counter the rumors. Feel free to copy and paste the following: “Free Haiti American Airlines and UPS offers are hoaxes, according to CNN.”

Directory for Social Media Experts

on Jan 08 in business, facebook, social media, social networks posted by

A recent post on Mashable points out that more than 15,000 Twitter users list themselves as some kind of social media “expert.” The post prompted a strong response, getting 129 comments as well as responses from the blogosphere such as 5 ways to identify a social media false prophet by Michael Brito, for example.

The social media ecosystem (more about that term in a future post) is indeed complex. And many social media providers make exaggerated claims about the benefits of social media marketing. Organizations that see the potential of social media are excited about the possibilities, but understandably cautious about hiring so-called experts when there is so much hype and uncertainty about what constitutes an expert.

So it seems to me that there needs to be a place that will bring together legitimate (and modest) social media providers with those who need social media services.

I have created an online community, the Social Media Expert Directory to serve this need. The aim of the Social Media Expert Directory is to provide a place where social media providers can assert their legitimacy as “experts.” Those seeking services can then be assured that the listed providers meet minimum standards of experience and competence.

While anyone is welcome to list themselves, the Approved Members group provides those who are seeking such services with assurances that the member:

  1. Has a strong track record in providing social media services in a variety of commercial settings
  2. Does not make unsubstantiated claims for the efficacy of social media marketing
  3. Offers services at reasonable market rates

If you are a service provider, you are invited to participate in the Social Media Expert Directory free of charge (see site for details).

Those seeking social media services are invited to visit the site and to peruse the list of members. We will help you connect with the service providers that best meet your needs.

You can also connect with the Social Media Expert Directory community by becoming a Fan on Facebook.

Mashable is wrong, Facebook does NOT “slam” Twitter

on Dec 03 in facebook, social networks, trends, Twitter posted by

Today an article in Mashable reported on Facebook’s user stats for its most popular applications. The game Farmville has 69 million monthly actively players according to the data. The article, titled “Facebook Slams Twitter: Farmville Is Bigger Than You” then goes on to compare Twitter’s paltry number of users, projected at only 18 million by the end of the year.

So does Facebook “slam” Twitter? Well, this one’s easy.

First, in terms of meaningful interaction, quality is more important than quantity. Give me a million Twitter users over a million Farmville users any day.

Secondly, this is comparing apples and oranges. I play several Facebook games, and for completely different reasons for why I use Twitter. The collective impact of Twitter users who use it for news, to swap URLs and countless other users is undoubtedly greater than that of Farmville users.

Many of the comments allude to the pointlessness of the comparison. So Mashable really ought to think twice before publishing this kind of article. Perhaps it’s just a ploy to provoke conversation (the article had more than 50 comments when I checked), but it does not contribute to the website’s journalistic integrity or reputation for quality.