It is important that those at the start of their career continually look for ways to mark themselves out from the competition. Creating and running a specialist group on LinkedIn is one of the newer ways to demonstrate not just your knowledge, but also qualities like organisational and leadership skills.
Mark Williams, founder of ETN LinkedIn Training who is also known as ‘Mr LinkedIn’, reckons that owning a group can have far more impact than merely an addition to a CV.
“A successful group owner will become highly visible in their market and business community and this often brings a multitude of rewards,” he explains. Indeed, as well as raising your individual profile, running a group can help to advance a project, elicit fresh ideas, help you solve problems as well as come in to contact with a host of potentially valuable new contacts.
While the practical side of running a group is relatively straightforward, the key is to approach it in the right way and maintain the momentum. Much like a disregarded CV or online profile, a neglected and poorly run group will do you no favours at all.
Decide on an appropriate subject
Spend time researching existing groups on LinkedIn. It will be more difficult for you to build a new community if there is already a thriving group dedicated to a particular subject. Williams points out that niche subjects work better than generic ones so consider narrowing your focus.
Above all, remember that while it can help to raise your profile and bring other career benefits, the main reason for running a group isn’t about you or what you will gain from it: “It is imperative to remember that the group is run for the benefit of the members,” says Williams. Members must also perceive a value in being part of the group or else they won’t join.
There is an extremely easy-to-follow guide on LinkedIn and the LinkedIn Help Centre provides further information so devote time to reading these. In practical terms you can launch your group by clicking on the ‘Create a Group’ link on the left-hand side of the page and following the instructions.
“Ensure the group name is clear and descriptive and try to use a bright logo that will stand out in someone’s profile. Then you can target specific individuals to invite,” says Williams.
Remember that the onus is on the owner to invite people to join the group, not LinkedIn, and Williams advises owners to search for both people they know as well as thought leaders in the field.
He adds: “Also join other similar groups and send invitations to the main contributors in those groups. Typically, 20 per cent of members create 80 per cent of the activity in any group so you want that 20 per cent in your group.”
Managing and growing the group
Grow the group steadily and adhere firmly to the principle of quality not quantity.
“It is better to have the right people and give them a chance to communicate with each than it is to have thousands of members who say very little,” explains Williams. “These days it is rare for a group to grow very large (5,000+ members). Also be careful who you allow to join and ban anyone that breaks the rules immediately, most people are too tolerant in this respect.”
Make sure you set aside enough time in your schedule to devote to the community and don’t underestimate the time required to manage it. An unmanaged group quickly becomes ‘unmanageable’ says Williams. Share the management responsibility with others by promoting a member to be manager. But if you are considering this option, be certain the individual shares your principles and aims for the group.