Linking Up in Real Life

Citi's branded hub on LinkedIn has fostered multiple offline communities

Citi piloted LinkedIn’s first branded community in April, erecting Connect: Professional Women’s Network as a sponsored group for members to discuss topics online, such as women-on-women bullying in the workplace. Then in late summer something unexpected happened: Members began taking things offline.

One New York-based member posted a question, asking if others would like to meet in person. That has spawned nine different meet-ups in not just New York but Seattle and Miami. “That’s not necessarily behavior we could have predicted from an online social network,” said Citi’s managing director and head of North American marketing Vanessa Colella.

Citi also didn’t predict the level of engagement within Connect: Professional Women’s Network. The group’s more than 71,000 members are nearly three times more engaged than the average LinkedIn group member, according to Colella, and a majority actively share, like or comment on group discussions, such as how to find mentors at work.

And as indicated by the offline meet-ups and online postings, these women—36 percent of whom hold senior-, vp- or owner-level positions—have become something of mentors to one another.

Going forward, Citi and Linkedin are looking into ways to support such offline meet-ups. And Linkedin may look to do the same sort of nurturing for other brands. “We’re constantly looking across the LinkedIn ecosystem for passion points,” said LinkedIn’s vp of global marketing solutions Jonathan Lister.

As for whether future branded groups arise from one of the platform existing million-plus groups or one compiled around a topic of interest such as small business, “I do not believe [the performance of Citi’s group] is lightning in a bottle,” Lister said.