Forbes magazine recently ran an article that stated 60 percent of LinkedIn users list “groups” as one of their favorite features of the social media professional networking site.
And it’s little wonder. The benefits to anyone in business or the organizational world joining in on these free groups can be tremendous.
And yes, I know, following the major restructuring of groups late last year some of the benefits have disappeared (more about that later in the article), but there are still some great reasons that you should be joining groups in LinkedIn.
Here are five key reasons I believe you should consider joining a LinkedIn group today:
- Be in the know – LinkedIn groups serve as public forums to discuss relevant topics and trends in your business sector with innovators, experts and thought leaders. No matter how big your business is, you can all too often end up working in an island, or it can certainly seem that way. You need to reach out and be aware of what others are doing and saying to better gauge and validate the strength of your own initiatives. In the process, you gain new ideas and ignite your own innovation.
- Build valuable relationships – You need to participate as well as listen to build valuable relationships on LinkedIn groups. If you personally add your own insights and links to information you think will take discussions to new levels, you soon build a rapport with others. These relationships can be nurtured and grown and be a source of great feedback and ideas throughout your business career. They may even lead to new opportunities and business.
- Establish yourself as a credible authority in your field – Over time, when you continue to add valuable insight and information to discussions, more and more group members consider you a credible voice and an authority in your business. A good reputation always was and still is worth its weight in gold.
- Heighten your brand awareness – Use groups to build awareness of your brand and promote your own company page. When you comment on issues it keeps your name and picture front and centre with other group members, and there’s nothing wrong with linking back to content on your company page, thus helping to drive attention and traffic back to your business.
- Gather unique intelligence – Refrain from limiting your group membership merely to groups focused on your own industry. Reach out to other groups that represent your potential customers and join those as well. This helps you to find out the concerns and insights of people you hope will buy your goods and services. A good rule of thumb that works for me is the Pareto principle, more commonly known as the 80/20 rule. 80% of the groups I join are for marketing and finding new leads and opportunities and 20% are industry and interest related groups.
How do you find a group that interests you?
The easiest way is to click on the arrow just to the left of the search box at the top of any LinkedIn page and select “groups” from the dropdown list. Then in the search box type in a keyword relevant to your topic of interest or an actual group name if you know it already exists.
In the initial search results you can also view how many members are in each group and also how many discussions have taken place within that group – this is a good indicator of the level of group activity. If you want to narrow the results further you can also make use of the “Advanced” search feature that we wrote about in more detail in this article.
As I mentioned earlier in this post LinkedIn made some very significant changes to how groups function including a complete revamp of the group interface late in 2015.
One of the most noticeable changes is that there are no longer any open groups. The two new group choices are standard and unlisted. Standard groupsare “request to join” or a member or admin can invite you to join, and are findable by group search. Unlisted groups are “invite to join” by the group admin only, and are not findable in search.
There has also been a significant change in how the group search function works. You used to have the ability to search group memberships by using keywords, locations and even job titles. Now, you can only search by name.
LinkedIn has also removed the Promotions tab, which probably means any promotional messages will likely just go into spam. The upside is that groups should become a lot less “sales-pitchy”, but the downside is it also could mean a lot more work for group moderators.
Standard LinkedIn Groups
Standard groups have similar functionality and purpose to the previous version of groups, in terms of posting and sharing information with fellow members. Group content is hidden, however, unless you’re a member of the group.
One change that I personally like is the new groups home page, called “Today’s Highlights”, which lists the most engaging posts in your groups. Go to Interests and Groups to get to your group homepage.
Any member of a standard group (not just an admin) can invite people to join, and any user can request to become a member of the group. To save time, ask a friend who is already a member to add you. Anyone can add members to a standard LinkedIn group.
You are still able to use standard groups for marketing, but you need to be smarter about it. Engage more and share better content to meet fellow group members. Is this not what we were supposed to be doing all along?
Unlisted LinkedIn Groups
At the other end of the spectrum are the unlisted groups that are certainly not for marketing. You can’t find them through a LinkedIn search, and only a group administrator can invite new members. The good news is that unnecessary groups that limit access will no longer bog down search results.
However, the unlisted category is ideal for internal groups within your own company. Your content will be completely private, since there’s no chance for outsiders to gain access.
Unlisted groups are great for communicating with a designated audience so there are plenty of reasons to start one. For example, you can create user groups to beta test new products and concepts, use groups as customer service support or start internal groups just for employees or special interests.
Mobile App For LinkedIn Groups
The LinkedIn Groups app makes it easy to engage with group members on the go. Like on the desktop version, your group homepage has a personalized selection of conversations that tell you what’s popular in your groups.
Click on any one of your groups to access the content. Then engage with others by posting, responding and liking content. You can now also mention people in updates and comments with @mentions as you can in the desktop version.
And finally, you can use the Notifications tab to see who is commenting on your content, so it’s easy to respond.
Benefits of Creating Your Own Group
Even with all of these changes you may still want to create a standard group in your niche to position yourself as a thought leader. As a group owner, you can send out private announcements once a week, save templates and keep an eye on group moderation. However, you have to determine if the benefits are worth the time you will probably have to invest to manage it.
Types of Groups
There are seven kinds of groups you can join on LinkedIn:
- Alumni – These groups represent the people who graduated from the same schools, universities, fraternities or sororities as you did. If you had great connections with certain people back on campus but have drifted apart, this is a great way to reconnect. Find out what happened to them and how many went into fields of work similar to yours.
- Corporate – Membership in corporate groups is usually composed of current or past employees from the same company. Within your own company, there are always people whose talent and insight is welcomed. If one of you moved on, you may still chatting with your former colleagues and keeping up on what is going on.
- Conference – The conference group membership is built around people who attended or regularly attend the same conferences and trade shows. This can be a great group to stay part of since much valuable information can be shared, including copies of key presentations and industry intelligence. This also allows you to build better relationships with people you would normally only meet once or twice a year.
- Networking – Who doesn’t need to network, and that’s what these groups are, no more and no less. They are simply the online version of the events you used to attend in person. You exchange professional contact information and build a basic relationship so that more people know you exist and what you do.
- Non-profit group – While LinkedIn has a reputation, as being a business and professional networking site, there are many groups created to serve the non-profit sector workers. Building a circle of like-minded people who support similar values and causes is a powerful way to keep things moving along in the right direction.
- Professional group – Almost every profession has an association that you join, so why not join their group. This is just another great way to establish your presence and credibility in your field.
- Others – There are other miscellaneous groups that fall outside of these primary categories. As a rule, if they interest you and you have the time to participate, go for it.
On LinkedIn, each member is allowed to join up to 50 groups, but most people could not do justice to such a time commitment. Typically, the average person joins about nine groups. The numbers are based on your time and energy commitments so don’t limit yourself. Just be strategic in your choices.
With the huge variety of groups to choose from I am sure you can find some that are suitable to help you achieve your goals.
However, in the very unlikely event that you cannot, keep in mind that you can always start your own group.
I wish you all continued success. Until next time.
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