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Barry MacQuarrie
Build Your Brand for Free

Grow your community of fans and have them spread the word. Here’s how.

May 6, 2010
by Barry MacQuarrie, CPA

In case you were concerned after reading my April article, I’m happy to report that Fenway Park was not empty on opening day when the Red Sox beat the Yankees! There was no way that Red Sox Nation would ever let their team play in an empty ballpark. The Red Sox have built a very strong community that is dedicated to their team.

Does your company have a strong community of dedicated customers, referral sources, vendors, employees and fans? Did you know that your company can use social-networking sites to build this type of community?

Last month I revealed how you can use the Company Profiles feature in LinkedIn to build one type of community for your company. The LinkedIn Companies module allows you to connect with employees and share company information with customers, referral sources and prospective employees.

This month I will discuss how you can use the LinkedIn Groups module to build a community of customers, vendors, referral sources, employees and fans! The results can lead to better brand awareness, increased revenues and more loyal customers!

What Is a LinkedIn Group?

According to LinkedIn’s website, LinkedIn Groups:

  • Are your destination to find and join communities of professionals based on common interest, experience, affiliation and goals.
  • Allows group organizations to extend their brand’s reach and strengthen the brand with existing users by providing additional value through LinkedIn’s features.

I have found that LinkedIn Groups are a great place to connect to other accounting professionals, participate in discussions and follow industry news. I am a member of various CPA associations, alumni and corporate groups. LinkedIn makes it very easy to find and follow any group.

Adding a LinkedIn Group

It is very easy to create a group in LinkedIn. Simply click on the Groups button on the top of your LinkedIn page and select the Create a Group option. The Create a Group page allows you to enter the following information about your group:

  • Group name
  • Logo
  • Group type (alumni, corporate, networking etc.)
  • Summary
  • Description
  • Website
  • Group owner’s e-mail
  • Access options

The challenge begins once you create the group. You need to attract members and develop the useful content for the group. In February, I added a LinkedIn group called SocialCPAs and wondered if anyone would find this group without any publicity. Only two of my connections requested to join. I guess the “If you build it, he will come” idea only works in the movies.

Over the past month, I have started to publicize the SocialCPAs group and the success has been amazing. A significant number of CPAs, industry consultants, accounting and marketing professionals have joined the group. The group members are participating in discussions about social networking and posting relevant news articles. This is a group that is dedicated to helping people in the accounting industry understand how to use social networks to develop business opportunities and attract top talent.

Participating in LinkedIn Groups

You should consider joining LinkedIn Groups to connect to colleagues, classmates and other business professionals. Simply click the Groups button on the top of LinkedIn page and you will see a list of groups that you have joined. From here, click the Groups Directory button to see a list of Featured Groups.

You can also search for groups from this page. Try entering SocialCPAs as a keyword and click the search button. You can search for the AICPA, your state society, your alma mater and other industry associations to find groups in which members of the accounting industry gather. Once you join a group, you can use it to:

  • Start a discussion
  • Submit news
  • Share the group with others
  • Add a comments to discussions and news
  • Follow a discussion
  • Search for a job
  • View group members

Building Your Brand

Your company can use LinkedIn Groups to connect to others and build your brand. The AICPA has a LinkedIn group that has in excess of 10,000 members! The Institute can use this group to send announcements, start discussions and share news. Imagine being able to build a community in which you can reach your most loyal customers and prospects instantly.

If you haven’t already done so, you should consider adding a LinkedIn group for your organization. Ask your employees to join the group and publicize their LinkedIn connections. The group can be used to foster discussions and share news. Your organization can use the group to demonstrate expertise and stay connected with customers, employees, vendors and referral sources.

In short, you can build a community!

Imagine the power of having a group of crazed fans who will promote your brand, support your organization and tell their friends. LinkedIn
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Barry MacQuarrie, CPA, is the director of technology at KAF Financial Group. MacQuarrie has extensive experience working with CPA firm technologies. He also has expertise in workflow, process improvement, disaster recovery planning, security and paperless office technologies.