A Guest Contribution from Fiona Hamann.
Whatever topic you blog about, whether it’s your business or your life, getting your name out there and expanding your blog community can be a challenge. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram are free and work well if you have the time to organically grow a following. But let’s face it, if you are new to blogging or a small business blogger with little or no social media strategy, achieving 10,000 organic followers on these sites is often a pipedream.
Now, you could take the paid route via Google AdSense and sure, AdSense is a great tool for bloggers who want to get noticed online, but the drawback is that it costs money and can quickly eat through your budget.
So what other options are out there for bloggers wanting to increase their blog traffic and gravitas in their industry, without breaking the bank?
The answer is LinkedIn Groups.
Now I’m not guaranteeing that you will receive 10,000 ‘connections’ or that LinkedIn Groups is the only answer for bloggers with no marketing budget; nevertheless if you are considering social media as part of your online promotion strategy, LinkedIn Groups is a must.
What is a LinkedIn Group?
LinkedIn defines LinkedIn Groups as “a great way for organisations to keep in touch with their members about current events and to discuss issues of common interest.”
LinkedIn Groups have a stronger business focus that Facebook or Twitter, and unlike other social media sites, most LinkedIn Groups are industry specific. With its focus on careers, business and networking, LinkedIn Groups is one of the most appropriate social media tool for industry bloggers, and is one of the best ways to attract people to your business blog.
Not only can LinkedIn Groups attract readers and customers to your blog, who have a genuine interest in your topic and industry; it can also create viable financial business opportunities – all without breaking the bank.
The benefits of LinkedIn Groups:
- It’s free
- It’s social
- The members are your targeted audience and either work or are genuinely interested in your industry
- It’s effective at driving traffic to your site
- It’s effective at getting you noticed in industry circles
LinkedIn Groups are not normally open for just anyone to join. This means that in order to be a member of a LinkedIn Group, your profession usually has to be the same as those members within the Group. For example, the LinkedIn Group labeled ‘Sydney Financial Services Industry’ is likely to have the captains of the financial services industry in Sydney as their core demographic – an ideal target audience if you are blogging about Australian fiscal matters and policy.
Give me the stats…
Before jumping in to how LinkedIn Groups works, let me firstly give you a real example on the effectiveness of LinkedIn Groups:
A small Sydney-based, PR firm used a WordPress blog post to attract clients and connections in the Public Relations and Communications sectors. The specific blog post in question was called ‘The 4 Words That Will Get Your Email Opened’ – a dilemma most PR professionals come across in their career.
After pinning the blog post on the Walls of just three different LinkedIn Groups, the blog readership skyrocketed from 212 readers to 736 readers in just 24 hours – a jump of 334%. Not only that, the blog viewership for this PR firm has remained consistent at about 200 hits every day thereafter. In addition, subscriptions to the blog grew by nearly 300%.
As can be seen by the above graph this specific blog did not begin with a huge readership, but to get noticed, you don’t need a huge following.
Let’s look at the bare facts. This company spent nothing and tripled the amount of hits on their site from a single post on LinkedIn Groups.
The table above shows nothing grew the blog’s readership faster, or as organically, as LinkedIn Groups. According to the table, the blog article got as much as 29 times more views from LinkedIn Groups than from Facebook.
This response was enough to get the ball rolling on the PR-firm’s social media strategy, and the blog’s popular commentary helped cement the firm as a thought-leader in the industry. Moreover, another PR firm contacted them with a job opportunity that led to a monthly media monitoring contract.
Ca-ching! Free LinkedIn Groups marketing turns to profit.
Why do LinkedIn Groups work?
Killer content rules in social media circles and this is no different with LinkedIn Groups. If you blog content misses its target audience, or is not well written, it is unlikely to attract readers.
Using the above example on the PR firm, the majority of the content on their blog is about copywriting, social media and Public Relations. They targeted industry LinkedIn Groups that would be likely to read about these topics. In this example, the LinkedIn Groups they joined were ‘Copywriters Guild’, ‘Sydney Media People’ and ‘Public Relations and Communications Professionals’.
Each of these groups had over 250 members and unlike other social media, LinkedIn Groups sends a private email directly to these members whenever a new article/blog has been posted on the Groups community wall.
Essentially, putting your blog post on a LinkedIn Group wall is like direct mail marketing to a targeted audience, who are likely to click back to your site. All for free.
If you consistently post up new articles on the Linked Group wall, it’s as if the members of the LinkedIn Group are already subscribers to your blog.
Obviously, the more LinkedIn Groups you post on your blog to the greater chance of an improved readership. For example, say you post your blog on the walls of five LinkedIn Groups related to your industry, and each Group has around 500 members – essentially, you are targeting an audience of over 2,500 potential clients and connections – at no expense.
Just remember, there is a fine line between targeted promotion and spam. It is highly likely that same industry captains will be members of more than one group, which means they could potentially receive your blog post 3 or 4 times if you share it with too many Groups. For this reason, limit your blog post to the most important Groups: The ones with the most members or the highest level of comments and interactions.
The nuts and bolts – How do I make LinkedIn Groups work for me?
Step 1: Create a blog
Your blog’s purpose is to promote your business and/or your online profile, as well as to drive traffic to your website. If you are unsure if your website has a blog section in its Content Management System, speak to your web developer, they can help you get started.
In my experience, the more controversial or opinionated a blog post is – the more response you will get. However, don’t be rude, insulting or arrogant; after all, the intention of your blog is to sell your expertise, and you don’t want your opinions to come across as ‘rogue’ in the industry. Be professional about what you post, be informative and give some tangible advice.
If you find an edge in your business or in the industry, don’t be afraid to share it. Fellow members and bloggers in the industry will often thank you for it, share your discussion or even send you business – it happens!
Also, if you are a business, don’t make it obvious that you are selling something. This is spam. It is acceptable at most to put a single byline at the bottom of the post like:
“I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the topic, and if you are considering a personal loan, feel free to contact me.”
It is also fine to inject some humour or a funny photograph but keep it in tune with the professional character of LinkedIn and the group. You are talking to your industry peers, not your friends.
And again, be consistent. If you put up one or two posts a week, your face will become a familiar sight in the LinkedIn Group and will give your blog more exposure.
Step 2: Join LinkedIn
Sign up to LinkedIn. You can’t join a LinkedIn Group without a LinkedIn profile and signing up is easy and free. Just go to www.linkedin.com and follow the steps to create an account.
Once you have created an account complete your LinkedIn profile so that the bar on the top right-hand equals 100%. This may take some time as you will need to build connections, seek endorsements and put up a professional profile photo. Note, that some LinkedIn Groups won’t allow you to join their group if your profile is incomplete, so to increase your chances of being accepted into a Group, spend some time giving your profile some love.
Step 3: Join a LinkedIn Group
Once you have a LinkedIn profile, select the tab ‘Groups’ at the top of the page and in the search bar type your profession. For example, if you are in the financial broking industry and is selling personal loans, type keywords such as ‘Financial broker’, ‘Personal Loans’, ‘Financial Planning’ into the search bar. Different groups will appear such as ‘Finance Industry Professionals’, ‘Finance Broking Careers’, and ‘Women in Finance’.
Tip: To find Groups that are more local, type in your country or state or city in the search bar in addition to your profession.
Look for Groups with a strong following – anything above 500 members is fair game. Anything below that may be worth joining but is probably not considered the chief Group of that profession and, if you want to be noticed in the industry, you will need the biggest audience.
Moreover, check out the conversations taking place on the Group’s wall. Sign up if you see a lot of peers commenting in the Group – healthy conversation is a great form of networking.
Once you’ve found a Group, click the button ‘Join Group’. Don’t be discouraged if you are not accepted straight away, as many Group administrators want to check who you are before allowing you into their Group (hence the importance of a ‘complete’ LinkedIn profile). Spamming is an issue in LinkedIn Groups and Group administrators put up these checks in an attempt to keep it spam-free.
Step 4: Post your blog to the Group
Once you have been accepted to the Group, it is time join the conversation.
- Start a ‘Discussion’ or ‘Promotion’ by giving your blog a compelling headline. There are a number of ProBlogger articles that will teach you how to write the perfect hook for a blog headline, but one technique that I normally use to get results is to incorporate numbers and lists. Using a financial broking business as an example, some good titles to use would be ‘5 tips to paying off a personal loan faster’ or ‘4 smart ways to consolidate your personal debt’, ‘the cheats guide to loan applications’.
- Beneath the headline there is a section that asks you to add more details about your post. Fill this space with a quick synopsis of your blog post, e.g: ‘A recent survey revealed 64% of Australians take out a personal loan to buy a car. We all know that cars are a necessary, but bad investment. Check out these five savvy ways to pay off your personal loan in record time…’
- Lastly, ensure you post the link to your blog post where it says ‘Attach a link’, it will bring all LinkedIn traffic directly back to your blog.
In addition, Some Groups have strict rules on what you can and cannot post on a wall and when you post is also important. Some Groups like to use the ‘Discussions’ section, while other Groups prefer that you post in the ‘Promotions’ section. It is important to abide by the rules otherwise your post may be blocked by the administrator.
To illustrate this point, here is a message from the administrator of the ‘Australian Writers’ LinkedIn Group:
And that is it.
Monitor your progress using Google Analytics or WordPress Stats and tailor and time your posts to how your audience responds. It is entirely free to use LinkedIn Groups and it’s an effective way to get traffic to your business site or grow your blogging profile. Good luck.
Fiona Hamann is the senior PR manager at Aussie. She is passionate about all facets of communications including PR, writing, editing, website content, new media, crisis and issues management and branding in the finance industry – home loans, personal loans, credit cards, and insurance.”300%