LinkedIn Groups for Nonprofits: The Beginner's GuideTuesday, July 2, 2013
The past few weeks of The Summer of Social Media for Nonprofits have been spent focusing on establishing your presence on LinkedIn, from optimizing your personal profile to setting up your company page. You’ve also learned some strategies for connecting with other professionals. But now, in Week 6, it’s time to sink our teeth in even deeper. Because we’ve arrived at the very core of what makes LinkedIn such a valuable tool—LinkedIn Groups!
What are LinkedIn Groups?
In his book Maximizing LinkedIn for Sales and Social Media Marketing, Neal Schaffer calls LinkedIn Groups a “virtual trade show.” It’s an apt metaphor—groups on LinkedIn are essentially online meeting places for members who work in similar industries and share similar interests and expertise. And just like a trade show, people show up to groups to learn from one another and make new business connections.
Imagine a trade show that’s open 24/7, 365 days a year; where there’s no cost to attend or exhibit; where there’s no need to plan for transportation, lodging or dining. Doesn’t that sound nice? That’s LinkedIn Groups.
There are more than 1.5 million groups on LinkedIn, and most fall into these categories:
- Industry Groups, such as Retail Industry Professionals Group
- Alumni Groups, such as The University of Akron Alumni Association
- Interest Groups, such as A Golf & Business Networking Group
- Organization/Company Groups, such as Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®
Some groups are open to all LinkedIn users; others require that you be accepted into the group by the manager.
Any LinkedIn user can create his or her own group. (I’ll be writing an entire post on creating and managing your own groups in a couple of weeks, so stay tuned!)
All LinkedIn groups feature a discussion board, where members share and comment on content (articles and blog posts), bounce ideas off each other, and ask questions.
How To Use LinkedIn Groups To Make Professional Connections
An extremely valuable activity on LinkedIn is engaging in discussions in LinkedIn Groups. If you become an active participant in group discussions, you’ll create many opportunities to meet and network with potential new members, donors and volunteers for your organization.
Approach LinkedIn Group discussions the way you would a trade show. Here are some ways in which you can engage in group discussions:
- “Like” discussions. When you click the Like button, you are indicating that you find the discussion to be interesting. The act of “Liking” a discussion will place your name and photo under the discussion, which means it’s a great way to make yourself more visible to the group.
- Comment on other people’s discussions to demonstrate your interest and add meaningful thoughts to the discussion. Commenting signifies thought leadership (your ability to be an innovative thinker).
- Post interesting industry articles. Add value to the group by contributing meaningful content.
- Once you’ve developed a relationship with someone in the group, send them a private message introducing them to your organization and the benefits you offer. Your private message could include an invitation to join your organization or a simple request for a phone call.
(Come back next week for a full post on strategies for participating in group discussions!)
Which LinkedIn Groups Should You Join?
As a LinkedIn member, you’re allowed to join up to 50 groups. I recommend taking advantage of as many of these 50 groups as you’re allowed, because you’ll be able to send personal messages to people if you’re in the same group as them (even if you aren’t connected and you don’t know them). But trying to participate in all 50 groups will be very difficult, so focus your efforts on the 5-10 groups you deem to be the most interesting and beneficial.
When determining which groups to join, remember to focus on your two “trade show” objectives:
- Learn new strategies and best practices from your industry peers.
- Network with potential new members, donors and volunteers for your nonprofit organization.
With those two objectives in mind, I have listed some group suggestions for different types of nonprofit organizations:
Chambers of Commerce
- Groups that cater to business owners in your city or region. Example: Charlotte Business Owners
- Groups that cater to chamber professionals. Example: American Chamber of Commerce Executives (Hint: Search “ACCE” in Group Search for ACCE subgroups!)
Economic Development (EDCs)
- Groups for site selectors. Example: Site Selection Network
- Groups that cater to EDC professionals. Example: Economic Development Professionals
Real Estate Associations & other trade associations
- Groups for professionals in the industry you serve. Example: Real Estate Professionals and Vendors
- Groups for association professionals. Example: ASAE: The Center for Association Management
- The group for LinkedIn Board Member Connect, a LinkedIn service that helps nonprofits leverage their board members’ networks to connect with potential new members and supporters
- Groups that cater to people looking for volunteer opportunities in your geographic location. Example: Volunteers Empowering the Carolinas
- Groups for people seeking nonprofit careers. Example: Jobs in Nonprofits
- Groups for people interested in connecting with people who share an interest in learning about and supporting Jewish culture. Example: Jewish Leaders
Searching for LinkedIn Groups
Once you have an idea of the types of groups you would like to join, use these tactics to find them:
1) Adjust your search to Group Search, and type in relevant keywords.
2) Use “AND” to search for groups catering to a specific location. For example, “Economic Development AND Boston” will provide you with a list of Boston-based groups pertaining to economic development.
3) Check out your connections’ group memberships. Message your connections and ask them for suggestions. (Bonus: This gives you an excuse to reach out and strike up a conversation!)
4) Use the Groups You May Like feature. In the top menu, hover over Interests and click Groups. On the right side of the page, you’ll see the group suggestions that were generated based on your profile information.
Evaluating LinkedIn Groups
Make sure the groups you are joining are going to be beneficial. Here are some things to consider:
- Are the discussions interesting and informative? If the majority of the discussions are just self-promotional messages, this won’t be a very beneficial group to join.
- Are there any group rules? It’s always a good sign when the group manager takes the time to create a policy for appropriate topics of discussion.
- Look at the group statistics (you’ll see the button on the right side of the group’s page). If there are a large number of weekly group discussions, comments and senior-level members, it’s probably a valuable group.
UP NEXT: Participating in LinkedIn Groups
Come back next week for another post on LinkedIn Groups! Week 7 of the Summer of Social Media will focus on participating in LinkedIn Groups—commenting, liking, sharing content and sending private messages.
Icon courtesy of RMG Networks