Imagine you walk into a business meeting and someone says to you, “Hi. I know we have never met, but I feel like I know you. I just had to introduce myself. My name is Susan and I work for Smith & Company, CPAs.” You suddenly realize that this is the person that you helped by answering the question she posted to a LinkedIn group. She proceeds to tell you that she was so appreciative of your help and impressed by your knowledge that she wants to hire your company.
Is it possible to use LinkedIn Groups to showcase your expertise? Is it possible to generate revenue from your LinkedIn activities? In my opinion, absolutely!
This article will reveals how you or your firm can create an active online community using LinkedIn Groups.
Step 1 — The Concept
You need to decide the purpose of the group, your target audience and, of course, a name. One of the hardest parts of launching my first LinkedIn group was determining a name. My goal was to build a community in which accounting professionals would gather and discuss social media. I launched a group, SocialCPAs, in March 2010 and wasn’t sure if anyone besides me would want to join such a group.
Accounting firms can use LinkedIn Groups to build communities that include clients, prospective clients, referral sources, employees and other friends of the firm. I recommend to firms that their groups focus on a topic or idea in which they have expertise. The idea is to create a group that will allow you and your firm to showcase your expertise by participating in group discussions.
What is your expertise? Search the LinkedIn Groups Directory to see if any groups exist that focus on your expertise. If not, start one!
Step 2 — Start the Group
Creating a LinkedIn Group is simple. All you need to do is select the Create a Group option on the Groups menu. The following information is required to start the group:
- Group Name
- Group Type
- Description of the group
- Group owner’s e-mail
- Access options
You can also add a logo for your group, a website link, a language, a location and a link to your Twitter account. You also need to indicate if the group will be open to anyone or operate as a members-only group.
Step 3 — Publicity
There are several ways that you should publicize your group. The place to start is LinkedIn. A status update will post to your account when you start a new group. However, I would not assume that your contacts will respond to this as it may be one of hundreds of updates that they receive.
Instead, consider sending invitations to your LinkedIn contacts. This is the strategy that I used when I launched CPA Tech Connect, a group focused on technology and the accounting profession. I sent invitations to my contacts and, overnight, the group went from one member to over 100 members. This type of publicity was very effective.
I recommend turning on the “Allow Member to Invite Others to Join the Group” setting for your LinkedIn Group. This allows the “Share Group” hyperlink to appear on the Group’s page and allows group members to help promote your group.
You should also consider using your blog, Twitter and Facebook accounts to promote your LinkedIn group. Typically, adding members will help increase group activity and the quality of the group’s discussions.
Step 4 — Monitor
If your group operates as a Members-Only group, it is very important that the group owner and managers consistently monitor the group. It is important to reply quickly to anyone that has requested approval to join the group. In addition, you may need to respond to content that has been flagged as promotional or deal with a person who is posting inappropriate content.
Step 5 — Relax and Enjoy the Community
The last step in this group-building process is the most enjoyable. The response that I have received to SocialCPAs and CPA Tech Connect has been amazing. The membership is growing at a rate that I never expected and the conversations have been fantastic. I have learned a lot from the other group members and know that they have been instrumental in helping promote and grow these groups. I truly appreciate all of their support!
Ready to Start
I would encourage you to start actively using LinkedIn Groups and can think of at least two groups you should join!
LinkedIn Groups are easy to set up and should be part of your marketing strategy. They allow you and your firm to connect with others, build relationships and demonstrate your expertiseand just might lead to some new business!
This article was originally published in the AICPA's CPA Insider newsletter.