I’ve talked to my workshop attendees about the importance of participating in groups until my advice sounds like a mantra. “You’ll only benefit from a group if you participate,” I tell them. “Start discussions, contribute to discussions, network within your groups…blah, blah, blah.”
But here’s the thing: why should we participate in our groups if they don’t add value? If we’re the Top Contributor for weeks running, doesn’t it mean no one else is pulling their weight? Further, does this say no one cares enough to be part of the community?
As the owner of the group, you are responsible for its growth and productivity. And if it gets to the point where you run short of time and can’t monitor or contribute to every discussion, assign people who are dedicated and will keep your group vibrant.
Recently I inherited a group, and I reflect on the responsibilities that go with owning a group (I already own a group). Can I handle taking on another group? Will I make the members happy to be part of the group? Can I find people who will manage it when I run out of time? To run a winning group:
- Big doesn’t necessarily mean better. I’m talking about the number of members, of course. Many people think joining a group with hundreds of thousands of members is the way to go. It’s quality of members that matters, not quantity. A winning group has the best minds in the industry.
- Great discussions. This is a mark of a winning group. Discussion should be relevant but it doesn’t mean members can’t go off track and raise new issues. Thirty-nine comments are always a good thing; it indicates involvement. Let people feel comfortable introducing new thoughts, ideas, and advice.
- Conducive to networking. Winning groups promote virtual networking among its members, as well as direct communication. Groups are where members can communicate, even if they’re not first degree connections.
- Appropriate shared information. The group’s mission should be upheld, and group members should post discussions that are relevant. I left a group because even its members wondered if the information was appropriate.
- Attracting thought leaders and keeping them in your group. They’re the ones who keep it going with interesting discussions. Thought leaders add value to the group when they contribute to discussions—everyone listens. As a group owner or manager, add your two cents when a great curator provides newsworthy articles.
- Members feel welcome. A winning group makes its members feel welcome. The owner or managers should welcome new members by introducing them and encouraging introductions from them. It’s about creating a community.
- Hold members accountable for contribution. I write this with a huge grin on my face. Years ago I was removed from a group because I wasn’t participating at the rate at which I was expected. I had great respect for the owner for doing this and removed myself from eight groups.
- No SPAM. Spam is considered anything hinting of sales or self-promotion. This may be the breaking point where members start dropping like flies. The owner or managers can delete or move content to Promotions if the entry is spam.
- Group rules, but not stifling. Every winning group should have rules, but not rules that make members walk on eggshells. Rules, for example, on how to pose questions or start discussions are a bit Machiavellian. One group I’m in poses such rules. Maybe it’s time I exit this group.
- No pending submissions. I’m sorry, but if I submit a question, contribute to a conversation, mention a job, or post an article; I don’t want my submission to be reviewed. Trust those who contribute to the group…unless they break rule #2. In addition, some owners aren’t diligent about checking submissions, leaving people waiting for their discussion to show.
- Act quickly on people who want to join groups. Some owners and managers don’t clean house as quickly as possible. (Guilty as charged.) Winning groups act quickly on people who want to join the groups, not making them wait in limbo.
- Variety of contributors. In my group I love to see other contributors. I don’t want to be the only person whose face is covering the page—the top contributor. Winning groups have many people participating, contributing to its community.
- Jobs tab. Not common to all groups, but having a jobs section is nice for those who are looking for employment. It’s great when members contribute jobs that aren’t advertised, so group members are the first to hear about them.
- The articles shared must add value. Whether an article is one you read and enjoyed or one of your own, it must be well written and provide information of value. Include a question or statement with the article you’re sharing with a group.
- Get rid of the Promotions tab. Let’s face it, no one goes to the Promotions tab. It’ a wasteland where some legitimate contributions are banished to. If contributions are too promotional, they can always be banned. In some cases I want people to promote their upcoming job-search events.
Groups is perhaps the best feature LinkedIn offers. Some members encourage you to join the maximum number of groups allowed, 50, while others suggest joining only groups in which you can participate on a regular basis—I’m in this camp. Regardless of the number of groups you join, make sure the winning characteristics outweigh the losing traits.
If you think of any other attributes that make a winning group, let us know.
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