Last school year, I managed the Facebook page for my school’s English department, and I later began dabbling in Twitter and LinkedIn as well. With the former, it was fairly easy to adopt a strategy that more or less followed the one already set in place for Facebook. However, LinkedIn was new territory for me. Being a lurker in groups is one thing; managing LinkedIn groups yourself is quite another.
One of my supervisors and I created a subgroup for the humanities department in my school as a way for alumni and current students to network and discuss professional questions or issues. While plenty of people applied to be in the group and I posted something new every week, we rarely got any sort of response back. After five months, we had only one post, two replies, and two likes that were not made by me.
It was a complete flop.
However, I’ve been thinking about this experience lately and wishing I had done some things differently. Here are some of my insights, which will hopefully help you if you find yourself managing a LinkedIn group someday.
1) Create Clear Expectations for the Group
I think one of my biggest mistakes in this project was I simply slapped a description onto the group’s info page and expected members to pelt the forum with discussion threads without further coaching. If I had made it clear that members of the group were expected to post and comment regularly, then no one would be confused about the function of the group. Sure, the number of members would probably have gone down; however, at least the remaining members would not be blindsided by the expectation to participate regularly.
2) Make Discussions Personal
Now this doesn’t mean you should be asking your members to disclose a lot of personal information, particularly if they don’t all know each other (which is most likely the case). What I mean is that people love to talk about themselves, so when you’re promoting discussions, make sure your posts focus on topics that the audience can identify with. Too often, I made my posts vague in the hopes of appealing to everyone, but I soon realized what people wanted to talk about had more to do with their daily lives (e.g. debating whether majoring in humanities had paid off rather than proposing a hypothetical ethics dilemma).
3) Analyze Your Audience Beforehand
This should be a no brainer. However, something I did not fully consider before creating the LinkedIn group was whether or not current students and alumni would even want a group for themselves on LinkedIn. English majors and other people in the arts can have a terrible habit of ignoring professional development skills in favor of creating more art pieces (e.g. poetry, paintings, pots, graphic design logos, etc.). So, even trying to get some of the graduating seniors to brush up their LinkedIn profiles (or create them in the first place) could be like pulling teeth. Looking back, I wonder if the group would have worked even I had followed my previous suggestions. Perhaps some groups just aren’t meant to discuss on LinkedIn.
If you want additional tips on managing LinkedIn groups, some of these resources may prove helpful: