It is finally happening.
Several years ago, I talked about the importance of diversifying your social media portfolio and said somewhat flippantly that you “might wake up one morning and Microsoft may own LinkedIn.” I believe I commented also that Microsoft may diminish LinkedIn into an Outlook add in, to help you manage your business contacts.
Well, that ship set sail in late 2016 as Microsoft acquired LinkedIn, and I started to have a very uneasy dread that my second prediction may come true (also, maybe I should be playing the stock market, with these predictive capabilities?). I am now afraid that I will wake up another morning and LinkedIn groups, which I’ve poured thousands of hours into, might disappear. I mean, why does Microsoft need them? LinkedIn has leveraged communities built by connectors like me to segment users for advertising and to increase visits and engagement on the application. It’s not clear what Microsoft’s end game is, in acquiring LinkedIn, but building communities wouldn’t seem to be one of them.
Based on the title of this post and my tone, you may have just now done a quick check to see if LinkedIn groups still exist. Yes, they still exist, but you also may have noticed that you’re not getting any group email updates, and see only the occasional (if at all) group update in your feed. That’s because LinkedIn changed the groups to “provide a consistent, integrated member experience” and as someone who’s managed many web projects, I agree. However, the way they’ve done it is VERY frustrating for group owners. Our countless hours of building communities seems to be for naught, as we can no longer email our members, and the group updates are barely visible in their feeds.
I should have learned my lesson when LinkedIn acquired SlideShare. Slideshare made it easy to turn PowerPoint presentations into videos, when pairing them with audio. I had several presentations as videos on the platform. When LinkedIn acquired SlideShare, they transferred all the presentations to the LinkedIn platform and did not transfer the audio. So, I lost all of that audio and those videos. Thankfully, I learned that making videos with PowerPoint alone is pretty easy (and I made a howto video). However, finding the audio for the presentations, and pairing them again to the timing of the presentation slides, is a daunting task.
What should I have done, to mitigate the risk involved in storing content on an external platform? I should have instead made freestanding videos and shared them on a platform, or more than one platform. I say more than one platform, because if one platform folds, you may lose all the followers you have there.
Below, I outline steps you can take to salvage your following in a LinkedIn group if you manage one, and the underlying strategy behind this guidance, to diversify your online presence, is useful to any life science company’s digital marketing strategy.
Diversifying Your Social Media Presence: LinkedIn Groups Example
- Find and/or generate useful content. If you’ve been reading our blog, or have heard me speak, you know that I strongly believe that useful content is the cornerstone of a successful modern digital marketing strategy. Bottom line, is that you will need to have useful content for your LinkedIn group members to read, follow, or subscribe, to migrate them from the platform. For SDBN, we’ve built up infrastructure over 10 years to “automagically” feed our website and social media: news, jobs, and events. The technology behind these feeds also powers our RSS Feeds for life science marketers, and our new social media packages.
- Build a website. If you haven’t done so already, develop a freestanding website for your community. Most of this post outlines the actions we’ve taken regarding the Linked group for the San Diego Biotechnology Network, (SDBN) and we’ve always had a website. We’re big fans of the WordPress platform, and like everything else, it’s much easier now than you may think.
- Start a newsletter. Again, we already had this in place for the SDBN, and you do need to have 300-500 email addresses to make it worth your time. If it sounds difficult, don’t be daunted. Applications such as Constant Contact (my favorite) make it easy to put together and send content.
- Capture website visitor emails. Yes, I sound like a marketer…because I am one! But how else will you get messages out to your community members? They obviously joined the group and stayed a member because you have a shared interest with thm. Create content for download, or simply ask them to subscribe to your newsletter with a popup form. If you’re using WordPress, there are myriad popup plugins, etc., and even the smallest organization can leverage a CRM like Hubspot to capture leads.
- Host events. If your group is regional, or large enough to have regional meetups, what better time to “cement” the connections. If your group is closely aligned with any conferences, you can also meet up there. You WILL have a hard time reaching your group members, but hopefully with the tips in this blog post, you’ll be able to pull something together.
- Leverage other LinkedIn features. My career closely aligns with my LinkedIn groups, so there is significant overlap with my personal network, and all are highly relevant and curated over 10 years. Grow your network, and invite your group members to connect with you. Be careful to not invite too many people in one day, as you may be tagged as a spammer. Utilize LinkedIn hashtags, a relatively new feature, to get more visibility for your personal posts. I’ve tested the same content on my groups and personal feed, and my highly unscientific (but reproducible!) estimation is that group posts are 5% as effective, as judged by the number of likes and the potential audience the update can reach. In my experience, the only people who see your LinkedIn group updates, now, are your primary connections who are in the group (a subset of your primary connections), and people who visit the group’s page (also a small number). I used to email my LinkedIn group and get 50-100 clicks in the first hour, and now I have to resort to the methods outlined in this post, and/or hope that my content goes viral.
- Leverage other social media. As with the above items, we had this going already for the SDBN, but we took a fresh look at it. For example, we started publishing our content to the SDBN company pages, rather than focusing on the group, and the company page is growing followers. We’ve stepped up our presence on social media and even opened some new accounts. Again, any of these social media platforms may fold tomorrow, but utilizing them now and creating more links to your website, and by following the suggestions in this post, you’ll eventually get more subscribers. I like to say that Twitter may not be here forever, but you’ll probably find out first about the next big platform or app, on Twitter.
- Advertise. I realize that some life science LinkedIn groups are on the order of 100,000 members, and the changes must be devastating to the owners. They went from being able to email everyone in their groups one day, to losing this ability, and to their group notifications being barely visible to their massive membership. You can use LinkedIn in a few ways to target your members with advertising, you can pay for an ad targeting the group (and so can everyone else, by the way). The goal in advertising to them would be for them to sign up for your newsletter, etc., so make sure you have this in place beforehand. I don’t know what the costs would be for large groups, but if the LinkedIn group was considered an asset for your company, it may be worth it.
I should mention a partial caveat (?) to this post. LinkedIn says that they are restoring much of their groups’ functionality, but I belong to 2 LinkedIn moderator groups, and unfortunately we can’t get a timeline for the updates, or any response to our request for updates or features.
The moral of the story is Don’t Put All of Your Social Media Eggs in One Platform™. Of course, this pithy tagline didn’t occur to me until the end of this post (after the graphic was made), so I can’t use it as the title. It’s pending a trademark now, so don’t even think about stealing it!