September 06, 2016 by Ronn
This past weekend, I was looking over a Meetup.com webpage for a group going to a new musical called Come From Away this Sunday night—the 15th anniversary of 9/11. The show focuses on the trans-Atlantic flights on that fateful day that had to be grounded in Gander, Newfoundland, and how the people of the town welcomed the passengers.
The show has not been reviewed here in Washington yet—it's at the historic Ford's Theatre—but one woman wrote this: "I saw the show last night and if you decide to go it will be one of the best $28 you will spend on theater. This play is so good the audience was on their feet for a full 10 minutes at the end, and strangers were talking to each other in the lobby about how good it is. It leaves you feeling good, very good."
Ten more people quickly signed up. I thought of this today while reading an article in Associations Now about a for-profit group that the founder has built up mostly through LinkedIn. His name is Terrance Barkan, and the group is The Graphene Council.
"Armed with a LinkedIn Premium account and some know-how, he built a LinkedIn group of more than 6,000 members in less than three years, and now he's in the early stages of converting community members to paid association members," wrote Joe Rominiecki.
"One of the first ways that critical mass began to pay off was through LinkedIn's automated recommendation engine. If you build a large but well-focused group, Barkan said, LinkedIn begins to identify users with matching interests and recommending the group to them. 'All of the continued growth is self-perpetuating now.'"
"Very few people actually know how to use this tool to its full potential," Barkan said of LinkedIn. "To me it's one of the most incredibly powerful tools... and it's just grossly underutilized."
In February, SIPA hosted a webinar titled, LinkedIn Marketing: Grow Your Email Lists, Maximize SEO, and Position Yourself as an Expert with Jaclyn Baldovin, online content manager for Business Management Daily, and Bob Coleman, founder, Coleman Publishing. The webinar is archived like all SIPA webinars for members on our site.
"Barkan used LinkedIn Premium's advanced search capabilities and InMail messaging tool to identify and reach out to researchers, students, and professionals interested in graphene, inviting them to both join the group and connect with him individually."
The value of third-party recommendations or testimonials cannot be understated. The Graphene Council has some similarities to the successful Compliance Professionals Forum, a group that Stephanie Eidelman started within her SIPA member company, insideARM. Interestingly, Liz Slovenkay, membership director for insideARM, spoke last year about getting testimonials for Compliance Professionals Forum.
"You're building a relationship; it's okay to ask for testimonials," she said. "On our surveys we ask for testimonials, and people give them willingly."
If you feel like you need a little more incentivizing, I come back to Jessica Mah, co-founder and chief executive of InDinero. "For every referral a customer gives us, we give them a free [membership] month," she said. "We've found that, out of five customers, four won't send any referrals, but one will send 50."
Testmonials should be easier to get than referrals, but it does take asking. Barkan said that the LinkedIn route has been especially valuable in reaching out abroad. "Specifically for international [groups], it's a very powerful tool because it's so much harder to find potential members outside the U.S. as compared to inside the U.S.," he says.
Are you offering enough opportunities for customers to give testimonials and recommendations? Have you looked at Meetup.com to use for specific events? (After an event, it automatically sends out an invite for attendees to offer comments.) Whatever you plan, it's always good for customer feedback to be a part of it.
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…