Likes? One. Comments? None. That pretty much sums up the pathetic state of many discussion sections within today’s LinkedIn groups.
As the total number of groups on LinkedIn recently hit 1.5 million, it appears quality has given way to quantity. So what better time to look back at a group that forever changed LinkedIn marketing and could serve as an inspiration to underperforming social media failures? The group that changed the game is Citi’s Professional Women’s Network. Theirs is a story of engagement, popularity, and increased brand favorability. And it all started just a little over a year ago back in late August, 2012.
A Change of Scenery
The impetus for this now well-known group was the goal of financial services company Citi Group to further its online connection with professional women. For Citi, women represent an extremely important segment with nearly 80 percent of every household financial decision being made by this key demographic.
Before creating the group, Citi had built an impressive content marketing gem, a website called Women & Co. that offered financing advice and information to women. The LinkedIn group gave the company a way to transplant this site into a new space that had the tools needed to help it reach its full potential and change the topic to more than just finances. This move required a bit of a behavior change on the part of Citi, moving from content generator to platform host.
Initial Engagement: Getting the Conversation Going
Discussions and the majority of content were set up to be user-generated, centering around popular business and financial topics for professional women. Using up-to-date news content, thought-provoking questions and intriguing polls, Citi successfully created an extremely engaging environment. Only four months after going live, the group attracted 43,000 members and was filled with over 4,300 discussions. It also boasted twice the level of engagement of the average group, and between 33 and50 percent of its members visited weekly. In addition, members were mostly business owners or high-level executives, Citi’s primary target.
If You Give, You Shall Receive
While this group provided plenty of benefits for the community of women participating in the group, Citi itself was also raking in the benefits. It doesn’t take any further research to know that there were tons of conversion metrics such as lifetime customer value, market expansion, brand perception, and loyalty among women that came as a result of this group. Therein lies the secret to a successful LinkedIn group—getting value out of offering value.
More Secrets for Engagement Success
What else did Citi change for the better? Here are three keys—beyond its emphasis on helping rather than selling—that set the Professional Women’s Network apart from its fellow LinkedIn groups:
- Monitoring with diligence. LinkedIn group success is mostly predicated on engagement, which requires close monitoring and expert management to keep the discussion focused and free from comments that detract from or derail the conversation. Citi was selective about who could join and what posts could be viewed. It never relied on automated posts and always made sure to keep on top of discussion content on a frequent basis.
- Finding a niche. Of the millions of LinkedIn groups out there it is easy to find multiple groups for the same topic. Citi found a select category that was different from everyone else’s. As a group specifically designed for highly successful professional women with a focus on business and financial topics, the group differentiated itself from other women’s networks. Because there were no other groups like it, it didn’t have to compete for its members, it simply had to make itself known to them.
- Asking for input instead of providing it. It might seem counterintuitive to create a group designed in part to inform and then spend more time asking for visitors to supply the opinions and insights. But fostering an engaging environment means relying on group members to carry the communication load. Citi expertly initiated conversations with stimulating questions and engaging polls. Moreover, Citi rewarded members who prompted popular discussions and posted great comments by giving them free LinkedIn Premium subscriptions.
These strategies have made Citi’s Professional Women’s Network not just a lasting success, but a growing one, too, with nearly 180,000 current members.
Likes? 217. Comments? 966. Those are the numbers for a recent discussion question posted in the group. And what makes them so common on the Professional Women’s Network is Citi’s understanding of the power of getting members involved and harnessing the tools for engagement that LinkedIn groups provide.
Have any other ideas on how to create change and engagement within a LinkedIn group? Let us know.