People use LinkedIn for some of the same reasons they join associations — for professional development and to connect with colleagues. This makes LinkedIn a great tool for associations! It provides an opportunity to both expand and add value to membership through increased brand awareness, engaging with members and reaching potential new members.
LinkedIn users can learn more about your association by viewing your business profile. They can choose to follow you, so that they receive email notices when you post updates to your profile. I did some research on this, and came up with this list of suggestions to really showcase your association through your business profile:
- Make a strong first impression by making sure your business profile information is complete and includes your web address. Include your logo and an enticing background photo.
- Provide more in-depth information for those interested in learning more. One way to do this is to create a separate page on your profile for each member benefit you offer. Include member testimonials on these pages for each service.
- Upload your member contact emails into LinkedIn, and then use LinkedIn to send out emails inviting them to connect with and follow your business profile, and to join your discussion group (more info on discussion groups is provided below).
- Use LinkedIn’s advanced search function to identify potential new members, and invite them to connect, follow and join.
Keep all your followers interested and engaged by posting frequent updates about your association and your industry. Include both your own content — such as blog posts — and curated content.
Cultivate a sense of community among your target members, by starting a discussion group around your industry or specific topic of interest. It's generally recommended that you keep topics here general in nature, rather than centering the group around your association exclusively. When setting up your group, use industry key words in your group name and description, and consider making your group open (not by invitation only), but subject to group manager approval. Here are some additional suggestions for maximizing engagement within your discussion group:
- Invite all staff, members and industry leaders to join, and engage with, your discussion group community. All group members will then have your group logo and a link to your group on their LinkedIn profile.
- Consider setting up a separate page on your website for the discussion group, to give the group additional visibility. Similarly, consider setting up a Facebook page or group and invite members of each network to join the other.
- Add discussion starters regularly, trying to focus on group members’ needs and concerns. You can mark a particularly strong or relevant discussion as featured, to pin it to the top of the group feed for a period of time.
- Join other related and relevant discussion groups to connect with potential new members. Interact with contributors in those groups, and start posting valuable thoughts or shared articles. Once you establish yourself, begin sharing announcements from your association, too, such as for upcoming events. This encourages members of those groups to become involved with yours, as well.
- Auto-send an email to new group members. Welcome new members and encourage them to begin participating by selecting your Manage button, then Templates on the left.
- You can, and should, email your discussion group members regularly using the Send Announcement option. Consider offering free content from your association, cultivating potential new members. Announcements will also get added as a discussion thread for your group.
- Over time, you will be able to identify strong contributors within your discussion group. Perhaps your next search for an extraordinary board member or keynote speaker might begin and end in your LinkedIn discussion group!
As you continue to build and leverage your presence on LinkedIn, cross promote both your profile and discussion group wherever possible, including on your website, in your newsletter and on your staff business cards. Likewise, every time you host a webinar or attend a conference, be sure to put out notice, both on your profile and in your group, that you will be in attendance, as well as invite everyone you meet to join you on LinkedIn.
Building a valuable LinkedIn presence may take some time, but in the end you will reap a more robust association through increased membership growth and higher member engagement.