LinkedIn is world’s most popular social networking tool for professionals. It recently passed 100 million users and it has close to 1 million users in Australia. More and more people are trying to find the formula for success in LinkedIn. Roland Hanekroot has been a success story in using LinkedIn. In our interview, he shares with us his LinkedIn experience.
Can you share with us your LinkedIn history?
I’ve been in LinkedIn for a few years now. Initially it was mainly used by recruiters and I wasn’t getting anywhere. 2 years ago I realised its potential as an important business tool. It was around the same time LinkedIn became more user friendly and opened its Australia office. Inspired by Seth Godin and the emphasis on the community, I decided to create a LinkedIn group around small business.
Tell us a bit about your group and why it exists?
It is called Small Business Masterminds. The purpose of the group is to create a community of people in small business who brainstorm and support each other around the issues of business management.
The group members are in LinkedIn yet I also run regular meetings in person with the LinkedIn group members and my past and current clients. I was inspired by my meditation teacher who organised meetings after a meditation retreat. I liked the idea and I thought it would be a great way to stay in touch with my clients or other small businesses.
How much time do you spend on LinkedIn?
I spend around 3-4 hours a week. The time is usually spent on starting a discussion in the group and contributing to the discussion afterwards. I introduce a new topic every month. The topics are the same as my book ‘The Ten Truths for Raising a Healthy Bouncy Business’ so it’s easy to find the topics. Managing the discussions is easy, too as the topics are my area of expertise.
Moderation in online groups and forums can be challenging. How do you handle it?
I set up some guidelines. Nobody reads it of course! Only on couple of occasions there was a need for moderation. LinkedIn makes it really easy to manage discussions. If I find people promoting their services, I move the comment from discussion to promotions. I can delete offensive material easily but most of the time it is just separating the promotions from discussions.
I prefer a more flexible approach to moderation. If someone is a regular contributor and adds value in discussions, then it’s OK to mention a promotion every now and then.
What are the positives of the LinkedIn group for you?
It gives me a lot of visibility. Especially as the discussions are now open and in public domain, they are indexed by Google, this is great for SEO results.
I haven’t had many direct enquiries from LinkedIn groups yet I get many enquiries due to my search results in Google. LinkedIn Group does help with getting better search results leading to more enquiries.
It is great to be a part of community, it feels good. I made great connections with people around the country who do similar work.
It gives me more authority and credibility. People see that I have many connections, a long history in LinkedIn and lots of people say nice things about me. If you are looking for a business coach, you would like to see they have experience, they know what they’re talking about, and they have history, they didn’t just start yesterday.
What don’t you like about your group?
It may take too much time. It is not just starting a topic but keeping it going and interacting with the members take time.
It is an open group and so people around the world can join and take part in discussions. Yet sometimes I wish it could attract more Sydney businesses. As my business in Sydney, I would like to meet more local business who may use my services in the future.
What’s the difference in group dynamics in online vs. offline?
It is very different online. In face to face group, I am the authority and I facilitate the workshop as the workshop leader. Online there are many other discussions that start without my initiations. I am not involved in some of them. In face to face meetings, there is only one discussion and it is facilitated by me.
What have you learnt in managing your group?
How important it is to have a focus, a purpose. This is a community of people who are interested in small businesses and I happen to run it. They may at some stage be interested to use my services as I am one of the experts in the field. Yet the purpose of the group is not me. It is much bigger than that and so it works.
I learnt that spreading yourself too thin is not effective. I have more than 50 group memberships but I am only active in 3 of them.
A great insight by Roland and a good summary of 2 years of LinkedIn groups experience. When he’s not in LinkedIn, he writes. His first book “The Ten Truths for Raising a Healthy Bouncy Business” is published by Amazon. Visit his website for details. After reading his story, have you got a clearer picture for reaching your goals in LinkedIn?