CME Group builds impact on LinkedIn using exclusive groups

Futures exchange group focuses on quality rather than quantity on LinkedIn, Digg, Stumbleupon.

If you’re having trouble spurring interest in your LinkedIn group, you might want to try what futures and options trading company CME Group did: Lock it down.

“This wouldn’t have been successful unless it was private,” says Associate Director of Corporate Communications Michael Shore.

If the group had been open, Shore says, it may have had more members, but nobody but marketers and consultants would be talking.

And CME Group didn’t want that.

Instead, Chicago-based CME Group now operates six private LinkedIn groups, the largest of which is the interest-rate group, at about 270 members.

Taking the counterintuitive step of closing off the groups—along with focused submissions to social bookmarking sites—has led the right sets of eyes to CME Group’s website and encouraged discussion among traditionally tight-lipped traders.

Closing the gates

In June 2009, CME Group began looking toward LinkedIn as a way to communicate in a different way from what they were doing on Facebook and Twitter, where it’s hard to know exactly who it is you’re talking to.

“One of the things we thought was, LinkedIn really provides you with a different avenue of communicating with people more specifically,” Shore says. “We know that our customers are there.”

So they launched the interest-rate group as a “test case,” Shore says. Membership grew quickly, but discussion was somewhat slow to start.

“These traders, they really don’t want to talk too much about what they’re doing, what they’re trading and their strategies,” Shore said. “But we’ve helped coax them out of their shells and found a few dozen people who are contributing to the discussion topics.”

Part of the coaxing process was letting users know that reporters, marketers and consultants aren’t listening in. It had to be “traders talking to traders,” Shore says.

That’s why the company’s groups—which also focus on Forex products, agricultural commodities, careers in the futures industry, equity index products and options—are open only to its customers or potential customers.

Shore says he looks closely at the LinkedIn profile of anyone asking to be a member of a group.

“I’ll certainly e-mail people and, if their profile isn’t completely filled out, I’ll e-mail them back and say, ‘Look, this is a closed group. I can’t tell from your profile if you’d be a good fit or if you’re trading or thinking about trading our products,’ ” he says. “The people that really are interested will respond. The people that are just kind of fishing around to add groups to their profile or solicit business will just kind of go away on their own.”

CME Group can’t guarantee that everything in the groups can stay private. It’s a matter of trust, Shore says.

“If there’s a member who wants to print it out and take it with them, and they leave it somewhere or they hand it to somebody, that’s something we can’t really control,” he says. “We try to encourage people to use this as a closed forum and not do something like that.”

Gauging the value

Shore says he’s a member of some LinkedIn groups with tens of thousands of members, and he often just deletes the weekly e-mails he gets from those. With the company’s groups, the smaller size ensures members get information they want, he says.

“For the traders, the value is they get information directly from the exchange, but they also get to engage with their colleagues or competitors,” Shore says. “There’s a split in what people would find in terms of the value here.”

Discussion topics include new CME Group products, financial news, market analysis and predictions about Federal Open Market Committee meetings, he says.

What if the groups get too big? Shore says he has yet to answer that question.

“For some reason … 500 is a nice round number that’s stuck in my head,” Shore says.

Once a group reaches that point, he says, he’ll close it to new members or break it up into subgroups.

Social bookmarking

CME Group is also reaching out to the business-savvy through social bookmarking sites such as Digg, Stumbleupon, Delicious and Technorati, says Allan Schoenberg, CME Group’s director of corporate communications.

Part of the goal is building site traffic and raising awareness of company news; getting links on social bookmarking sites is also a way to associate CME Group with key words such as “risk management,” Schoenberg says.

He knows CME Group news is going to be of interest only to a certain niche, not those site’s mainstream readers looking for consumer-focused articles.

“The audience we’re going after is a serious audience. Are we going to get 1,000 clicks on stuff? Probably not. Are we going to get 20 to 25? That’s likely,” Schoenberg says. “It can make us relevant to the right people.”

5 tips to getting management on board

CME Group’s Allan Schoenberg offers tips for persuading management to green-light social media efforts in highly regulated industry:

1. Stay out of gray areas. If you don’t know whether something is black-and-white right-or-wrong, avoid it.

2. Don’t make recommendations about trading strategies. “We get requests like that, and we simply deny them,” Schoenberg says.

3. Verify and edit everything. “Somebody’s reading everything that gets posted,” he says.

4. Use information from credible sources. It’s even better if you get to know them.

5. Understand the risks. And make sure management knows you’re aware of them.

6. Take feedback, but be careful. Let users and commenters ask questions or make complaints, but constantly monitor for anything inflammatory.

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