A key element of a strategic PR program is the ability to target a specific audience with a message that is relevant and useful to them. The digital era has been the great enabler of this kind of hyper-targeting at levels that have never been seen before.
As LinkedIn has taken off as one of the premiere online tools, its Groups function, which offers a channel to reach influencers in specific niches, has grown with it.
LinkedIn Groups are exactly as they sound—a group of people that meets (virtually, in this case) to carry on professional conversations about an industry or area of interest. All groups are members-only, unless the administrator enables public discussion.
You can search groups here. You’ll be amazed at how many already exist.
The tremendous power of LinkedIn Groups was validated to me several months ago when a client developed a post for a group in which he regularly participates. The post included a link to an article that our firm had placed in a trade publication. Soon after the post went live in the group, the client received a new business call from one of the largest companies in the U.S.
If you’re new to LinkedIn Groups, exercise caution before jumping in. Like any community or social network, there are norms for “acceptable” behavior—you could get flamed, ostracized, or worse if you violate them. (Note that only individuals can post to LinkedIn Groups, not a LinkedIn company profile.)
Here are a few suggestions:
Look before you leap: Before you develop your first post, spend time getting to know the culture of the group, as each one is different. Once you have a good sense of the community, identify posts to which you can respond and add value, and, in turn, establish a positive reputation. Then develop posts and shares links to articles or other resources that will be useful and informative to other group members.
Avoid overt commercialism: Nobody likes to feel like they are being marketed to, so keep your comments factual and informative. Using a group as another channel to distribute the equivalent of a press release will be a quick ticket to the blacklist.
Keep it real: Your comments should be in a casual and conversational tone and free of the hyperbole and buzzwords that many marketing professionals seem to embrace (“best of breed,” “leverage,” “the leading provider of…”, and so on).
Be a resource: Remember that your credibility within the group will be established by the value of your content. Don’t limit your posts to topics that directly involve your company, but rather the industry as a whole.
Make sure your LinkedIn profile is updated: Some groups have automatic membership, while others require the group moderator approve your membership. Make sure your individual profile is updated with the most relevant background for that group to ensure that you make it in.
Dave Fonkalsrud is the co-founder and a partner at K/F Communications in San Francisco. He has worked in public relations for more than 20 years. Check out more blog posts from K/F Communications at www.kfcomm.com or follow them on Twitter @kfcomm.