How (Not) to Kill a Mockingbird: 7 Rules to Make LinkedIn Group Discussions Work

13/05/2015
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Recently we’ve been doing a lot of talk at AmCham about the role of our LinkedIn discussion group in our community. Let’s put it this way: our group is not just a nice-to-have virtual gathering of familiar contacts. Its potential is far more reaching: when we take care of our group we can turn it into an open platform and meeting point with business people who are interested in our activities, but for various reasons cannot be in contact with us on a regular, face-to-face basis. So, what do we need to make it work?

One of the most powerful tools we have to energize our LinkedIn group is discussions. Yet we’ve seen it in the past: one step aside and what was meant to be a vivid conversation turned into a dry, still-born individual announcement.

Posting discussions on LinkedIn groups may seem the easiest thing to do. However, to make to work you need to sail often between Scylla (your immediate interest) and Charybdis (community engagement, speech attractiveness, controversy) and turn the outcome of the group conversation into a booster for your reputation.

Here are a few things you might want to bear in mind when you decide to post a discussion on a LinkedIn discussion group:

1. Discussions are not hidden ads

We have a tendency to join groups in order to be able to post various service offerings, event invitations or job postings under the form of discussions. By doing so we not only miss the purpose of the discussion, we also run the risk of having our post removed by the LinkedIn algorithm – or by the group moderator, for the matter. To make sure you contribute to a group’s added-value, make sure you only post genuine conversation topics in a Discussion.

2. Take time to phrase your invitation to discuss

By posting a discussion you are asking people to take precious time of their lives to talk to you online and share their thoughts and feelings visibly for everyone. Before posting the discussion give yourself a few moments to ask yourself: How would I feel if I were my audience / people in the group? What would interest me? What would make me want to react to this topic? Then phrase your discussion post accordingly.

3. Address the brain – and the heart

That’s the way we, humans, are wired: we only grasp facts with a limited sequence of our brain. In order to process and remember information, it needs to be served to us in a form that is engaging both our mind AND hearts – that is, the information triggers some emotion that we can perceive with our whole body, not just a part of our brain. That’s the bottom line of storytelling: if we want people to listen to our story and take certain action – like join us in the conversation, for example - we need to be able to trigger emotions in our readers.

4. Don’t avoid controversy

Why controversy works? Exactly because it triggers emotions: irritation, frustration, anger but also joy, relief, happiness etc. While we are aware that we need to take controversial topics with a pinch of salt – the AmCham group has rules that are meant to protect the community members and limit unethical behavior – we also know that, if we want to spark a conversation we need to be able to talk about the things that matter.

5. Post active links

Usually when we want to trigger debate around a topic, we also post a link leading to our blog, website or other digital tool meant to fuel that discussion. In fact, this is the main reputation-creator: we generate a discussion around a topic we care about AND in the process we drive visibility towards our websites. That’s why it’s important to make sure all the links you post are active – there is nothing more frustrating than clicking on a link that goes to a non-functioning page.

6. Stay active

LinkedIn has a weird algorithm informing group members on posted discussions even days after the discussion was actually posted. If you belong to the people who visit their LinkedIn profile once a week, make sure that you check your profile more often after posting a discussion: people might start reacting to your discussion and a conversation can emerge only when people actually synchronize their comment postings.

7. Treat each comment respectfully

The rule is simple: react to people as you would in real life. It is possible people will not always agree with you, mainly when your topic is controversial. Fortunately LinkedIn doesn’t allow anonymous comments and thus reduces the impact of potentially negative communication. Even so, you need to remember: Internet is forever and everything that you post out there speaks in your name long after the discussion is over.

If your discussion is time-sensitive, you might want to close it once its focus is over. If not, leaving discussions open may help new group members go through the previous activity of the group and become familiar with other members’ ideas and thoughts.

A word on language accuracy. Numerous people are concerned if their English – or Czech – are good enough in written in order to post comments and don’t embarrass themselves. Trust me, I have my hefty share of both in my current life 🙂 That’s why we at AmCham decided to encourage members to post discussions in both English and Czech, with people joining the conversation in the language in which the initial discussion was written.

Language is only a tool to bring us closer together and help us understand each other; it shouldn’t become by any means a tool to suppress or separate. Enjoy the future conversations and see you virtually on LinkedIn. 

I focus on strategic communications, emotional and systemic intelligence and personal and organization leadership. I help leaders and future leaders to develop their strategic communication skills, to build reputable personal brands and to boost their team and organizational leadership. I support individuals, teams and organizations through advisory, training, coaching and mentoring services.

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