There are lots of posts out there talking about how businesses that ignore content marketing are doomed to history’s dust-heap of failed endeavors. That may or may not be true (although the data suggest it probably is), but what a lot of those posts ignore is that just having content isn’t enough. First, it has to be great content — because there’s just too much information being published every day to get by with posting something just so you can say you did it. Readers are pretty good at identifying fakes and wannabes — so no going through the motions. But even great content isn’t enough: You also have to know what to do with it. Last time, we talked about the pros and cons of publishing on LinkedIn, your company blog, or in trade/industry pubs. This time we’re going to take things one step further and talk about attracting more eyeballs by posting links to your content — wherever you decide to publish it — to LinkedIn groups.
LinkedIn groups are where people go to talk about things the general LinkedIn population might not be interested in. If you’re having flashbacks to high school — chess club, drama club, etc. — you’re on the right track. Facetiousness aside, however, it’s hard to overestimate the value of LinkedIn groups, because they’re such a target-rich environment. If you choose your groups carefully, you’ll have a ready-and-waiting audience of like-minded professionals. And that can come in handy for everything from expanding your network to asking a question to finding a job. And, of course, putting your content in front of people who’ll be genuinely interested in it.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple (I seem to be typing that phrase a lot lately). As with anything else, there are best practices…and worst practices. Here’s what you need to know.
Pick your groups wisely.
There’s a group — in many cases, multiple groups — for just about every profession you can imagine. That’s always a good place to start. But don’t stop there. There are also industry groups. So if you’re a supply chain professional for a retailer, you could join both supply chain groups and retail groups. And then there are college alum groups, local groups, entrepreneurial groups, etc. Play around and join the ones that seem like they’d be a good fit. If it starts getting overwhelming, prioritize the ones with the most activity. If the last post was a couple of months ago, there’s not much point.
Learn the rules.
Most people will tell you to just hang out and read — or maybe comment on somebody else’s post — for a month or two before you post anything yourself. Personally, I think that’s a little extreme. If you just spend some time reading other posts, as well as their comments, you’ll get a pretty good feel for what’s well received and what isn’t. Most groups also have a “rules” section that will help you avoid unintentionally stepping on toes. When you get down to it, though, it’s another one of those situations in which Mama was right: Mind your manners.
Decide what you’re trying to accomplish.
There’s one question I always go back to: What do you want people to think, do, or feel after they read your content? Are you trying to grow your customer base — in other words, educate people who wouldn’t otherwise be customers? Home improvement stores, for example, do a great job of this. Or, are you trying to get people who already know all about what you sell to choose you over somebody else? That’s what you need to figure out before you can post the right information to the right groups.
Remember that relevance rules all…
Relevance, of course, means posting information that you can safely assume most of the people in a group actually care about. That seems pretty simple on the surface, but it can get tricky. I’ll use myself and this post as an example. The obvious move would be to post this on all of my content marketing groups. But the people in those groups already know this stuff. It would make more sense to post it in groups for retailers, B2B organizations, entrepreneurs, small businesses, etc.: Everyone that could benefit from content marketing but might not have time to study all of the finer points.
Another example: When I first started this blog, most of my posts were aimed at writers. But then I realized that other writers aren’t very likely to hire me. I still enjoy sharing things I’ve learned with new writers. But, from a business perspective, it makes more sense to write content for people who need content marketing than for those who do it. The point is to not waste time preaching to the choir. (And since this southern gal has actually had somebody ask me what that means…it means stop telling people what they already know.)
…and that people aren’t stupid.
Have you ever had someone you haven’t heard from in 20 years reach out via email and, by the second paragraph, start trying to sell you something (while, of course, proclaiming how much they value rekindling your friendship)? That’s pretty much the same reaction you’ll get if the stuff you post in groups is overly promotional. And if you think you’re being subtle…well, let’s just say that this is one of those situations where you may not be as smooth as you think you are.
Case in point: In one of the groups I belong to, somebody wrote a post extolling the virtues of a “sin tax” on soda. It didn’t take long at all for someone to point out that the poster sells flavored water, a competing product. A better approach would have been a series of posts examining both sides of a soda tax: pros, cons, where it’s worked, where it hasn’t worked, etc. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying that would be an ideal topic. But it would be a lot better than one that’s so obviously biased.
The bottom line? Don’t underestimate the power of LinkedIn groups. But neither should you just blanket every post to each of your groups. Be judicious, and give some thought to what keeps that particular group’s members up at night. What are they interested in? What worries them? If the answer has nothing whatsoever to do with that particular post, skip that group and move on to the next one.
Have you experimented with posting in groups? What’s worked for you?