When Linkedin opened up groups a few months ago, I was quick enough to create one for event people (28th February 2008). Ten months later, the group now numbers over five thousand people. Here are few things I learnt in the process.
1. What is the group for?
I made that clear in the Group information page. The group info page helps in keeping naggers away and attract only motivated members. I made the joining criteria even more specific, when one month ago the group felt a stronger need to emphasise quality – more of that later. Try to be clear with what you want and what you don’t want.
2. Bulk approve, but ban misuses
Having a lot of members helps. If I told you at the beginning of this post that I managed a group of 20 people, that probably would have not captured your attention. Therefore, bulk approving is a must.
On the other hand, having great numbers brings a lot of spam and lowers the quality of the network.
Make sure you state repeatedly the objectives of the group with a featured post.
Delete discussion violating rules and warn the abuser.
If you still get annoyances, ban users who perpetrated misuses. You can definitely do without these trouble-makers. Don’t be afraid of losing members, it’s for the win.
3. Follow the input of the community
The group has been like a craiglist for event professionals for a while.
One shiny day, somebody protested about the format and complained about blatant self-promotion.
Apparently this was the feeling of several other members. I respected that and engaged in more severe management, pruning spam and applying more severe rules.
I also made that clear with sticky ‘featured’ posts as well as in the info’ page.
4. Delegate responsibility
In introducing the aforementioned shift towards more quality, I made clear that the community should have been active in reporting spam or abuses.
Since earning a living from a Linkedin Group is quite tough, the majority of us do this as a hobby. If this is your case, I strongly suggest you reinforce the concept that mere complaints are not acceptable in a community.
You complain when you pay for a service, you complain when you are giving something in exchange.
Members have to understand that they can only complain with themselves in a Linkedin Group. Managers are not held accountable if the community acts like customers instead of users.
I got a great response from one member in particular who gave me incredible support and helped me through the “cleaning” process.
5. Praise those who respond positively
Anne was the person who helped me along the way.
What I have just done with you now (telling you the name of a dedicated user), I did repeatedly in the group.
Rewarding positive behaviour is as important as banning negative uses.
6. Advertise your group wherever you are active in the web
A major differentiator of the LI Event Planning and Management Group is that it already had big numbers compared to other groups, way before Linkedin introduced Group search.
This was possible because I was actively promoting the group wherever possible.
I got 10 people registering everyday from my blog alone. I posted about it on twitter and talked about it in all the events I attended.
If you are not convinced about your group, close it right now and dedicate your effort to a new, better project.
If you feel your group is really worth joining, then make the world aware of that!
7. Monetize it
For a while I monetised my group. I worked together with an online event registration/ticketing service.
I made a newsletter to make the group aware of the sponsor and invited the members to have a look at the profile of the company.
Usually groups work more to generate brand awareness rather than converting clicks and you should be aware of that when pitching to companies.
8. Empower members to meet offline
During the aforementioned period, I got the sponsor to support group events across the world. We had more than 7 meetups and it was great fun.
I created a dedicated umbrella for all the events called http://www.spicynetworking.com
I also started a regular London Meetup for that.
9. Know where to address your efforts
While Linkedin had no discussion or news section facility, I created another group on Ning, another social networking provider, for members to interact. I manually invited thousands of people and got 500 members together.
When Linkedin allowed a bit of interaction, I had to let go and move on. I shut down the platform as of 1st of Jan 2009 and am very happy to focus my effort in one place.
10. Linkedin is not on your side so be creative
The platform as it is does not give you management tools such as newsletters, broadcasts, sticky posts in home page or whatever necessary for basic admin.
That is why you really need to be creative, I wrote my own newsletter, learned how to use external broadcasting services, customized a Ning, created a Meetup.
A lot of effort is required and results are not always immediate, so try to shake things up if it’s not working until you find your way.
What’s your experience?