Chairman of the Tax Advice Network and BookMarkLee
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LinkedIn for start-ups: Part 5 - Groups

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30th Apr 2013
Chairman of the Tax Advice Network and BookMarkLee
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In this fifth part of his Linkedin series for start-ups Mark Lee explains how you can use the groups facility for lead generation.

There are thousands of groups on LinkedIn, so choosing the ones that are really worth joining is not easy unless you have a plan.

If you scroll down someone’s profile on LinkedIn you can see the groups they belong to.

Note that ‘belonging’ to a group does not reveal whether the person is active in those groups, or if it will be worth you joining. But it is a start.

Many people join groups on LinkedIn and are simply ‘lurkers’, hoping to see something of value -- and they may.

However, you are likely to get more value from joining groups if you are a little more active. By so doing you can emphasise your interest in areas related to your expertise and your practice focus, for example businesses in your local area.  

If you do either start or join in discussions you may well find that prospective clients get in touch, or other opportunities may come your way, probably more than would become apparent if you remain completely passive on LinkedIn.

The groups likely to be of most value to start-up practices will be those your prospects belong to. You can find these by looking at the profiles of prospective clients on LinkedIn and scrolling down to see their groups.

You can also use the groups directory by clicking on the ‘groups’ link on the top menu bar on any LinkedIn page.

After you click on ‘groups directory’ you can search for relevant groups by using key words (eg: Burnley business, Watford business networks, and so on), and exploring different categories (eg: Networking, Professional, Other).

LinkedIn also has a 'groups you may like' function that suggests groups based on your current profile and connections.

To assess which groups are worth joining, consider how many members they have, who established them, whether they are location specific and how active are the discussion forums.

Beware of joining ‘open’ groups that have thousands of members. Many of them will be spammers who will take advantage of the facility that exists to send messages to people in the same group.

I have determined that this is a key reason why some people get lots of spam messages. After all, I get very few and yet I belong to dozens of carefully chosen groups and have over 2,800 direct connections on LinkedIn.  I have also been careful not to connect with random strangers.

Currently LinkedIn allows you to join up to 50 groups. This should be more than enough for most start-up accountants. If you need to you can search for topic and location specific groups that contain concentrations of people that you would like to network with.

It is also worth checking out the level of participation and conversations in the discussions area of a group. If you find these are largely self publicists or recruiters you may well decide that the group will be of little benefit to you.

Ironically, you will often find that the best groups for lead generation are those that don’t tolerate blatant self-promotion.

You may also choose to join LinkedIn groups related to personal, social or other non-business interests. Whilst not crucial, you can choose to ‘hide’ your membership of these non-business focused groups if you wish to do so. This means that they will not appear at the foot of your profile when someone (other than you) is viewing it.

One key tip is to drop out of groups that are of little value to you. For me these tend to be groups where the ‘discussions’ are mostly posted by recruiters or of a self-promotional nature.

You can leave a group at any time if you find that the members or discussions are of no interest to you.

Go to the home page of the group you wish to leave and click on ‘more…’ on the horizontal menu bar beneath the group name. On the drop-down list that appears, click on ‘your settings’. At the bottom right of this page is a button that allows you to ‘leave group’.

However many groups you decide to join, choose just three to five which seem to provide the best prospect of enabling you to be seen by and to connect with your target audience of prospects.

You can always switch your attention after a few weeks if your efforts are not generating a result. Bear in mind that if you go into promotional broadcast mode you will be wasting your time. No one joins groups to be sold to.

I recommend that you choose groups that have between 200 and 2,000 members if you are thinking about prospective clients. If the group is too small the number of genuine prospects will be too small. And if the group is too big it will be hard to make a positive impact, unless the group is very inactive, in which case how likely is that anyone is interested in what you’re saying?

Plan to proactively visit each of your top groups two to three times a week. Don’t wait for the daily or weekly updates that come to your email inbox. Identify your best opportunities and plan to make frequent and consistent appearances.

You may be tempted to start discussion threads in your favoured groups. I suggest that you hold off doing this until after you have contributed to some of the existing discussions.

Also avoid overwhelming things by adding comments to loads of discussions within a short time period. It’s more likely to work against you than in your favour. Imagine someone new arrives at your local pub or club and starts offering their views as regards every conversation they can hear, it would be anti-social.

It will also be worth checking out the contributions of the most active group members in order to understand their concerns, goals and objectives. What seems to be important to them? Study prior popular discussions. What topics have resonated with members?

When starting your own discussion, pose a question, ask for help or advice or post a relevant and interesting article or resource for the group’s benefit. Your goal with starting your own discussion is to encourage as much engagement as possible.

Do not be disheartened if this doesn’t happen immediately. Perhaps your fellow members are just not into commenting or replying to discussions. They may not even be aware that the discussion exists. It depends to an extent on which ‘settings’ they have chosen as regards communications from LinkedIn about that group and how often they log in to read the discussions.

Do ensure that you also join the AccountingWEB and the Ambitious Accountants in the UK groups on LinkedIn. I run the latter exclusively for accountants and it has no suppliers or recruiters to spoil the flow of valuable discussions.

In the final part of this series I will focus on how you can use LinkedIn in other ways to generate leads for your start-up practice. This will include a number of references back to the earlier parts of this series.

Finally

For now, if you have questions, ideas or views on anything above or in the earlier articles in this series, please post your comments below. And, by all means, connect with me on Linkedin.

Mark Lee is consultant practice editor of AccountingWEB and writes the BookMarkLee blog. This is for accountants who want to challenge the boring stereotype and to be more successful in practice, online and in life. He is also Chairman of the Tax Advice Network of independent tax experts. 

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By Arm266
07th Jun 2013 12:40

Linkedin for Startups -printout

I have found your articles very interesting but would wish to print them out.  However, when I try to print them out to follow through on them, they come out so small that I would need a magnifying glass to read them.

Is it possible to download a pdf of them?

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Replying to Mr_awol:
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By Yoyo29
14th Jun 2013 07:02

@anthonymaddison15 - use Aweb's print button

You've probably haven't noticed that there is a print link on Aweb articles and questions which can be used. It is located next to the comments count at the top of the page. Using the print button displays the article in printer friendly format, which can then printed to direct PDF on the Google Chrome browser or by using a print to PDF printer. You can search online for many print to PDF freeware (CutePDF, PrimoPDF are two examples).

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