I spend a lot of time in LinkedIn groups and have learned a bit about maximizing their potential as conversation-starters. Here are 15 of my favorite tips. Please add your own as comments.
1. Ask Questions
The best way to provoke discussion on LinkedIn is to ask questions. Rather than sharing a link to an article, use it to kick off a discussion. For example, instead of posting a headline and a link to an article about cloud security, formulate it into a question:
“This article on Cloud Computing Path makes the case that the recent Dropbox security breach proves that the cloud is not yet secure enough for the enterprise. Do you agree?”
2. Make it Personal
LinkedIn is the only major social network that doesn’t permit brands to interact as members. Only people can post content. With that in mind, make sure your posts have a personal tone. For example, instead of saying, “This webinar on the benefits of platform as a service has particular relevance to business partners,” try “This webinar on the benefits of platform as a service looks interesting. I hope you’ll join me there.”
3. Follow Up
This is very, very, very important. Don’t post a question and just walk away. When people do you the courtesy of responding, return the favor by responding to them or simply “Liking” their post. Remember that you started the conversation. That means you own it.
4. Fill Out Your Profile
When you contribute something interesting to the group, people will want to find out more about you. It’s disappointing when their click takes them to a skeletal profile page with no photo. It’s a lost opportunity for you, too, because you’re missing the chance to create a professional contact.
5. Use Active Voice
Why “facilitate the implementation of” when you can just “do?” Corporate speak doesn’t work in social channels because you communicate there as a person, not as an institution. Cleanse your prose of passive voice, buzzwords and superlatives. Write like you talk.
6. Keep Headlines Short and Avoid the Ellipses Of Death
LinkedIn gives you 120 characters for a headline, which is pretty generous. Headlines over 120 characters are truncated with an ellipsis (…). You want to avoid this because you’re forcing readers to click through to read the rest of the headline. The more clicks you require the more visitors you lose. The “Add more details” field gives you plenty of space to spread out.
7. There Are Three Parts Of Any LinkedIn Post. Use Them All
- Headline – Keep it brief and use it to communicate basic information or arouse interest.
- Add more details - Provide background and explanatory information. Tell people why you think this information is important.
- Attach a link – Use this area to post links. Never include links in the headline. If you need to have more than one link in your post, use a URL shortening service (see below) and include it in the “Add more details” section.
For example, instead of writing a headline like “Can anyone recommend a useful eBook on cloud computing? I’m looking for something oriented toward professional developers that has recommendations for the major PaaS and/or IaaS solutions.” post the question as a headline and the second sentence in the “Add more details” section.
8. Think of the Benefit to Your Audience
Success in social channels is all about helping other people. Keep that in mind when composing a post. It’s not about you, it’s about them. For example:
- Instead of “A Primer on PaaS,” try “This Paas Primer could be a great conversation-starter for your prospects.”
- Instead of “Spot Market Pricing, New Services Fuel Amazon GovCloud Growth,” try “What You Need to Know about Amazon’s Government Strategy”
Use words like “you” and “I” a lot. This is a discussion, not a billboard.
9. Minimize Copy and Paste
Respect your readers’ time by minimizing pointless verbiage. Don’t just copy and paste the promotion from a webcast. Boil down the basic facts and tell the reader why you recommend it. The more you make your post a personal message from you, rather than a rehash of somebody else’s message, the more compelling it is.
10. Don’t Copy From Twitter
When I see hash tags in a headline, it tells me one thing: This person was too lazy to customize the message for me. The language we use on Twitter doesn’t fit well in the more generous confines of a LinkedIn or Facebook post. Rewrite the message for the network you’re using and the people you’re hoping to reach. Think of the context, too. Facebook is more playful than LinkedIn. The Sales Best Practices group on LinkedIn has a different membership than the Construction Professionals group.
11. Avoid Repetition
LinkedIn does you a favor by copying the first few words of any article that you post as a link. Don’t copy and paste those same words into your description field. You have 15 minutes to edit anything you post in a group, so check your work to make sure your description isn’t a carbon copy of the item to which you link.
12. Take Advantage of Polls
Polls are a basic tool you can use to solicit feedback. You can specify up to five answer choices and choose how long the poll runs. Try mixing it up; instead of posting a question, occasionally formulate the topic as a survey.
13. Use Trackable Links
It’s easy to measure the response to content you post. URL shortening services like Bit.ly and JotURL make it easy to shorten links and then track the number of clicks they generate. LinkedIn processes these short links just like regular URLs. You can also use Google URL Builder. It generates longer links, but they’re compatible with Google Analytics. You can also shorten those links with Bit.ly prior to posting them.
14. Be Provocative
I don’t recommend overusing this technique, but it’s fun to try from time to time. Instead of a descriptive headline, try one that piques curiosity. Here are a couple from the Sales Best Practices group:
Eat that Frog!
If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first. ~ Mark Twain
How do you start your day? Do you ‘eat that frog?’ Do you have a ritual that starts your morning?
Who’s ruining it for the rest of us?
The member goes on to ask why sales people continue to use spamming tactics that don’t work and give the whole profession a bad name.
15. Connect with Other Members
When you request a connection with another LinkedIn member, the service asks you to verify that you have an existing relationship. If you don’t, it denies the connection request. You can get around this by joining a group to which the other person already belongs and requesting the connection as a fellow member. Be aware that if your request is denied, LinkedIn won’t let you try this trick a second time.