In my pursuit of knowledge to help me master the art of LinkedIn Groups, I’ve managed to engage with some really high profile authorities on the subject. For this particular interview, I set my sights real high and contacted the founder of the largest and most active group on LinkedIn, Michael Crosson.
FULL PODCAST INTERVIEW:
Every marketer will drool at the thought of matching his social dominance with over 330,000 members in their social media marketing group while it continues to grow by thousands each day. There was clearly thousands of questions I wanted to ask but I needed to first ground myself and figure out if he had some sort of mystical edge or secret fame (how’s that for an oxymoron) that helped propel his member-base at such an incredible pace.
It’s far too daunting for any person to think about getting 300,000 members to their group before they’ve gotten 10 so I wanted to know something a bit more simple.
How do you master getting 1000 members to your LinkedIn groups and how quickly can that happen?
The Key Is In The Keywords
“I started the group four years ago and I was one of the very early members on LinkedIn. In fact, I was member number 1039 and I believe that they started their counting at number 700. So I was literally there in the first few days. Four years ago social media was just becoming a topic of conversation and it’s something that I’ve always had an interest in. I’ve actually been on the Internet, believe it or not, since 1978, even before it was even called the Internet.”
Crosson has wisdom that spans decades of evolution in the tech world. I have to admit, I was discouraged when I first heard him say this, foolishly believing that this was his “edge” that he had over the competition to give him such a lead. I was wrong…
“When I started the group I was just lucky enough to name it Social Media Marketing and that became the word of the day,” says Crosson calmly over our fuzzy conference line.
This was not luck. Any SEO expert would likely agree that Michael Crosson combined two important strategies that mirror successful SEO campaigns: timing and keyword optimization.
Related: LinkedIn webinar to teach you exactly how to optimize your profile and attract your ideal clients! Click here to register now.
If he titled his group something that didn’t explicitly contain the words “social media marketing” then there’s a good chance so many people wouldn’t have joined because that’s the term people most commonly search with for that topic. Of course the element of timing was paramount since it was far less common at the time, leaving ground for Crosson’s group to become a pioneer on LinkedIn. This effect is similar to bloggers who capitalize on breaking news by quickly releasing fresh content before anyone else so that Google indexes their blogs as the sudden demand of searches briefly outweighs the available content relating to that term.
After two months, Crosson was able to bring the Social Media Marketing group on LinkedIn to 1,000 members and kept relentlessly promoting it for two full years before it hit the 100,000 mark and started to skyrocket with mostly word-of-mouth and referrals from members of the group.
When asked which milestone was the hardest to hit, 10,000 or 100,000, Crosson didn’t skip a beat.
“Definitely getting to the first 100,000 was the most difficult. At that time, I had to do a lot of outreach to my rather extensive contact list and continually ask members to refer other members. Once it reached a certain mass, which was the 100,000 mark, then it started to accelerate quite nicely.”
Open Groups Allow For Search Engine Indexing
When Michael Crosson set his LinkedIn Group to be “open”, he knew what he was doing. By doing this, you allow the group to be indexed by the search engines. When you have such a large volume of discussions and comments everyday (over 700 a day), there becomes a large archive of content that brings the group up higher in the search results. People start to find the group easier and engage in active discussions relevant to their interests with a few simple clicks.
So is it a good idea for everyone to open up their groups?
“It very much depends on what the particular person’s goals are. I think many groups are better off being closed and very tightly moderated, especially groups where people might be exchanging proprietary information (such as technology groups). I think it’s very incumbent upon the moderators of those groups to very tightly control things so that they don’t get into legal issues and proprietary IP-type issues. If it’s just a general discussion group or an alumni group or something like that, then I do think there’s a lot of advantages in keeping it open.”
Great advice but the impatient side of me still itched to find out if there is a magic number to success with LinkedIn groups. A milestone great enough that once hit, the momentum begins to sustain itself. I asked Michael if he believes this is true…
“It’s absolutely true but it also depends again on your very specific industry or niche because let’s say you’re talking to solar scientists. That’s a whole lot smaller group than say people in advertising or marketing and so your “magic number” to make that group really take off and be functional for the members will change. In the example of solar scientists, it might be just 10,000. In marketing and advertising, you know you’re probably looking at more like 150,000 or 200,000 in order for it to be considered a very active group.”
A Word On SPAM
The biggest issue on LinkedIn is definitely spam. It’s not nearly as bad as some other social networks but there are tons of people regularly abusing LinkedIn and go into groups to start promoting their goods and services. Moderating groups is a full-time job for Crosson but it’s incredibly important because if you don’t, people start leaving the group when it becomes difficult to pull value from a sea of spam.
The Importance of Subgroups
Michael’s information on subgroups was perhaps the most important golden nuggets he shared during our interview. Most people on LinkedIn have yet to fully realize the potential of this overlooked tool for driving huge growth in your group’s member base. Crosson elaborates,
“Each of these subgroups sort of feed off each other so when you have a main group and you got a discussion going on no matter what it is, you can take that discussion and port it over to the subgroups and engage the people in the subgroups. Those people will in turn share that with their friends and those subgroups will start to grow as well. For example, with the Social Media Marketing group, the nonprofits or the nonprofit subgroup and the political subgroup have grown quite nicely and contribute to the overall growth of the main group.”
The Secret To Successful Discussions
The nature of discussion and topics will obviously have significant variation dependent on subject matter but there are reliable types of “breaking news” that will consistently generate active conversation, such as Facebook Timeline. Crosson admits that although these topics bring in a lot of active discussion, they often die out within a week or so after it’s posted due to irrelevance.
“The other thing that people love in my group is when someone asks for help. There’s one discussion, someone posted ‘Would you help me find a good and inexpensive resource to build a Facebook page’ and I think there’s over 5,000 responses to that. It just keeps going and going. Now a fair amount of those replies are people who are promoting their own Facebook development services, which is difficult because he asked for that help so I can’t delete those conversations as spam. They legitimately are responding. And on the other hand, there are 5,000 or so comments on that subject, all of which are indexed by the search engine so that’s not a bad thing either.”
5 Tips From Michael Crosson To Get Your First 1,000 Group Members Fast!
- Make sure the name of your group is the best possible configuration for a search and is a very broad name for the topic.
- Setup subgroups to address specific niches within your group’s topic.
- Make sure your profile is completely and accurately filled out and that you have all of the keywords you want to be found for optimized to bring you to the top of LinkedIn’s search.
- Keep spammers out, keep the conversation providing value and engage people that are members.
- Actively recruit the highest quality, most active experts in other groups. These people often bring their own followers along with them!