How to Gain LinkedIn Followers By Starting Your Own Trend

An individual who frequently posts comments to a LinkedIn group I am a member of has recently announced that he has turned over a new leaf. No longer will he be negative. He'll be kinder, gentler, and positive.

He recently sent a private message to me in which he observed that my recent post of a discussion topic filled with about 70 ideas for professional topics hadn't really gotten many comments. He also related that his own recent positive discussion topics haven't had much participation, either, and then he suggested that the negativity works better than positivity.

This Slashdot article scientifically confirms his hypothesis that negative discussion topics are more popular.

So if more people respond to negative topics, shouldn't we all stir up as much drama as possible in order to successfully utilize social media to our advantage?

Well, first of all, I think there are a lot of positive techniques yet to be utilized. It's a little too early to give up on positivity. I also believe that this gentleman's sample size is too small to draw any real conclusions.

There are more than 12,000 members of the LinkedIn group. What percentage do you think actually post topics? I think I've counted about 20 or fewer active discussion creators. That's only about 0.17%. Probably 10 times that number post comments on discussions they didn't start. That's only about 1.7%. The Pareto principle states that about 80 percent of the effects are due to only 20 percent of the causes. If that's the case, why is the level of participation in most online forums so low?

I'd say that one to two percent participation is just about all that can be expected of most LinkedIn groups. Many people are probably so busy that they already can't keep up with the flow of topics. If once in awhile they read the summary emails from LinkedIn and see a topic that moves them, they'll join in. If there were more than about 5-10 new discussions started daily, most would have little or no discussion at this point.

Me just listing a bunch of topics that may or may not apply to group members' daily agendas and interests is surely not going to instantly change the momentum of the status quo. A few nice comments are not going to win the war and change everyone overnight. I think we can agree that that's unrealistic.

To truly change the momentum of a group it takes hard effort and time. It takes a serious needs analysis. It takes learning what the barriers are for the individuals. It takes understanding--at the individual level--what people need and want. It also takes creating a message (or product) that addresses those needs and delivers it in a way that is easy to consume.

Even with all that, though, you don't establish a trend with one or two posts on an online group.

Instead, here's what you do: You find a few people who think like you do. There will only be a handful to begin with. You just have to open up and depend on each other and form a micro-community of like-minded individuals.

Next, you and those people start creating stuff and making some noise for a while. Then people already searching for the stuff you make will randomly find you and think you are awesome. They will tell their friends. Your niche then widens and people see you as a valid solution to their problems.

But the sleeping masses will still be too afraid of wasting their time with something that may not help them, so they will mostly ignore you. One day, though, a high-profile person will become a fan and mention you to their fans, instantly transforming the perception of your idea from risky to popular. You then have your trend.

Before more people see your LinkedIn group (or blog or Web site) as a platform that they should invest their time in, a lot of really good content will need to be posted. It's up to those few people who already know how to create great tools, tutorials, and discussions to start the trend. The rest will follow.

How about you? Do you have any ideas for how to create a more useful LinkedIn group? What tips can you share about the start-up phase of building highly cooperative online communities? What draws you to join in professional topics? Feel free to comment below.