If you are on Facebook and/or LinkedIn and have a pulse you have probably noticed activity in various groups. Whether on Facebook or LinkedIn, people have the desire and need to join like-minded communities. As a business owner you can take advantage of this human behavior to encourage discussion, engagement and more business from your target customers.

There are two main social networks that have the ability to create, organize and facilitate groups – Facebook and LinkedIn. Both have purpose for different reasons, so as you try and decide what your main goals are for creating a group, you can determine where to start and where to devote your time.

Determine Your Goals for Your Group

To Make Money

If your overall goal is to make money through your group then Facebook is a better option than LinkedIn. Although groups themselves don’t have a storefront or marketplace, Facebook pages do have that option now, and within the same social network it’s an easier transition to get people to buy. Keep in mind that your goal will best be served on Facebook if you have a product to sell, but that’s not to say you can’t get the job done if you have a service business.

Facebook now allows a great feature for customers to leave reviews on your Facebook page. If you decide to start a group and you establish yourself as the leader of that group make sure you focus on discussions that affect your topic. That will lead to further discussion and you can insert posts sporadically to direct followers to your business page where they can lead reviews, call to book business, and engage with you in more meaningful ways to grow revenue. Just make sure that isn’t your focus with your group page – it should be a bridge to your Facebook page to worry about transactions and appointments booked.

To be a Thought-Leader in Your Industry

There is an argument for both Facebook and LinkedIn here, and some of it depends on your industry, but overall the win goes to LinkedIn. Void of a marketplace for buying or selling or even booking service appointments, LinkedIn is the best place for work-discussions and larger topics. A good place to start is to join relevant groups and comment on discussion threads. If you put thought into your comments and reference articles, policy, or other examples, you will start making a name for yourself. Make sure you connect with those in your group so you can build your network, and own your craft as well as you can.

If you own an HVAC company, for example, you can start a group to establish your expertise in running a small business, or the fact that you know your craft like a professional. Start a group for professionals in your industry and start discussions that will lead to comments and opinions on various topics that affect your profession.

Start a Customer Community

Many large enterprise companies have forums where customers can connect, collaborate and discuss issues they are having or ideas on how to capitalize on whatever service they are receiving in common. It’s expensive to set up and maintain those type of forums, but its free and easier to start a group on either Facebook or LinkedIn.

There are a lot of benefits to starting a customer community on Facebook and/or LinkedIn. You can encourage discussion, respond quickly to questions, concerns, and build stronger relationships with your customers. You can follow up with customers after a service or after buying your product by inviting them and engaging with them outside of a setting where you are expecting them to buy something, yet that is exactly the outcome you can expect because you will be front of mind more than competitors trying to come in and take your business from you. You can also keep a group private if you want to make it feel more “VIP” and prohibit those same competitors from targeting your exact customer base.

In summary, joining and engaging in groups on both LinkedIn is a great way to grow your business, establish yourself as a thought leader, and bring your customers together in a meaningful way to create loyal relationships and trust.

For more small business marketing tips follow the FreshLime blog. You can also connect with Erin Schurtz on LinkedIn and Twitter.