LinkedIn is different. The network cuts across all demographics and is the social media common denominator for a lot of people anxious about other social networking sites.
In my experience, people that may be hesitant about Facebook and terrified of Twitter have almost certainly set up a profile on LI. On LinkedIn, I connect with everyone – what’s called a LinkedIn Open Networker (LION).
I use it for 100% professional purposes – no fun Vines of my daughter riding her bike, no cute Instagram pics of me and my friends and no political rants. In this way, I feel comfortable connecting with everyone who requests it.
LinkedIn Groups are powerful tools for building community. LinkedIn Groups have value because they are much more social than individual profiles or Company Pages.
Successful LinkedIn Groups have thousands of members who are posting discuss topics, answering questions and connection on the site every minute.
NOTE: LinkedIn Groups are much more time consuming than just putting up a general Company Page. As with any new social media endeavor, you have to carefully evaluate your organization’s goals and your capacity to effectively manage a Group.
Ready to take the plunge? Here are 10 ways that your nonprofit can use a LinkedIn Group.
1) Set up your Group around the issue, not your organization.
People do not join LinkedIn Groups to talk about a specific company or organization. They join Groups to discuss issues of importance, to share advice and to get support.
Do not name the group after the name of your nonprofit. I’m willing to bet that no one wants to have a heated discussion about your mission, your programs and your services.
Your supporters want to discuss the cause, the issue that connects you – how you are changing the world!
2) Post up-to-the-minute topics and questions that relate to your mission.
Post current events articles and spur on the discussion by asking a question. You do not have to take a position one way or the other, just get the dialogue started.
Posting relevant, timely news and eliciting topical discussions will help you establish your nonprofit as a go-to resource on issues of importance.
3) Drive traffic back to your website or blog.
One goal for managing a LinkedIn Group should be to get more traffic to your website and blog.
- Put your key words in the Group description and keep the group public.
- Add your website URL to the Group profile section.
- Add your website URL in the Welcome message and in all communications to the Group.
4) Identify Brand Ambassadors.
Groups are a great way to identify your biggest Online Ambassadors – those supporters that actively promote your nonprofit and endorse your mission to others.
Find the most active people in the Group and connect with them individually. Check out their profiles to see where else they are connected – these people can open doors for you.
5) Solicit feedback.
Wondering where to hold your next event? Ask the Group!
Need help getting last-minute volunteers? Ask the Group!
Keep in mind that asking the Group for things too frequently will be off-putting. Use sparingly and always acknowledge people who do take time to reply.
6) Reward Group members.
Think about a creative way you can reward your LinkedIn Group members. T-shirts? Other swag? Exclusive tickets to an upcoming fundraiser?
The key is to make the Group a place people want to connect with your nonprofit – different from other places you are engaging them (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
7) Use your Manager privileges carefully.
Don’t spam, of course. (Do I really need to say that?)
Send important messages to the Group once weekly and keep it brief.
Like John Haydon always says, “Promote awesome”. Don’t promote a post that received no activity in the hopes that it will spur discussion. Highlight a discussion the Group found important and continue the momentum.
8) Connect people to each other.
Encourage the Group members to support each other on and off line, to connect, to network, to act as resources for one another.
The real secret to success in social media is about providing value to your audience. This can be in the form of education, job leads, referrals, events of interest, linking them to other ways to help.
ALWAYS think about your community first and what they are interested in, and your agenda second.
9) Share stories.
Ask LinkedIn Group members to share their experiences volunteering or donating to the organization. A subset of members may have received services, and if they are willing to share their personal stories, encourage them to do so!
The more that people engage in dialogue, the more others will be willing to step up and share their testimonials and their experiences with your organization.
Stories do not have to relate to the organization – they can relate to the cause or issue at hand. For example, an Autism awareness organization can ask: “How has your family been affected by autism?”
In that way, this nonprofit can accomplish their mission of raising awareness and connecting those affected by the disease, but the question does not directly relate back to their individual organization.
10) Don’t give up!
Don’t get discouraged. Building an engaged online community takes a huge investment of time and expertise.
Search for other Groups related to your industry and cause and see what they do well (and do poorly). Learn from others, and keep on
Resources: How to Build a Thriving LinkedIn Group, Social Media Examiner
LinkedIn for Nonprofits, Community Organizer 2.0
Does your nonprofit have a LinkedIn Group? Is it working for you?