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LinkedIn-GroupsAlthough LinkedIn is the largest social media platform for professional networking, it can be daunting to initially reach out and communicate with strangers. But have no fear because that’s exactly what LinkedIn Groups are for! LinkedIn Groups, in my opinion (and many others’) are the most valuable tools the social media platform offers.

Once you’ve created a top-notch profile and you’ve connected with your colleagues, the next step is for you to join some groups and get networking. Check out these tips for finding the right groups and the best ways to engage with other members.  

Find groups to join

Searching: The first thing you’ll want to do is utilize the search bar, located at the top, middle part of your screen. With this search box you can find people, companies, jobs, groups, etc. To improve your results, you’ll want to utilize the drop down menu located to the left of the white search box. Click on the drop down menu and select “Groups.” After selecting “Groups,” begin searching for key words that pertain to your industry. I suggest starting with “insurance” or “finance.”

Narrowing your results: Searching for “insurance” should provide you with more than 21,000 results, so you have plenty to choose from; however, LinkedIn limits you to joining 50 groups. I recommend joining as many as you can, but choose 3-6 that you’ll monitor and pay closer attention to. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin, so staying focused on a few specific groups will allow you to be more engaged.

You’ll see on the left hand side of the page are specifications that can help you narrow your search. You can locate groups that contain some of your connections, connections of your connections (2nd connections), or people you don’t know at all. To begin with, I recommend finding groups that contain 1st or 2nd connections or you might find yourself speaking with people who are so far out of your network that it’s unlikely you’d ever work with them.

You also have the option of searching “Closed” or “Open” groups. “Closed” groups, which are represented by a padlock under the group name, require the group administrator’s approval, so you won’t have immediate access. In these groups, discussions are only visible to group members, so they won’t show up in search engine results and they can’t be shared to non-group members. “Open” groups allow you to join and contribute immediately.  The discussions in these groups can be shared on other social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Feel free to join either type of group as they both have their advantages.

When searching for groups, you’ll also see whether or not a group is “Very Active” or not.  Under the group description, it will say how many discussions have taken place that month, and how many members are in the group. Pick groups where members are consistently engaging and “Very Active” or “Active.” That way, if you post a question, comment or article, you’ll have immediate feedback and people to network with. You don’t want to sit in a group all alone, networking with yourself.

Engaging with the group

Listen: Once you’ve joined a group, you’ll be anxious to contribute and have your voice heard, but I encourage you to stay silent. Get a feel for the group by seeing how members interact. Do members post daily, once a week or hardly at all? Do members post articles, comments, questions or a mixture of all three? You want to make sure you have a grasp on how the group operates so you don’t overwhelm or annoy other group members. Once you have an understanding of the group dynamics, then you can introduce yourself and start contributing.

Don’t be overly promotional: Remember, LinkedIn groups are for sharing information, ideas, tools, etc. You don’t want to bombard the discussion board with posts about your company and how you can help other members do this and that.  It’s okay to share your personal or company blog (assuming they’re relevant to the discussion board), but make sure you throw in some outside, useful content, too.

Ask questions: One of the best ways to get personal responses is to ask genuine questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice or questions about products or sales tips. Ask your peers if they’ve struggled with XYZ or if they’re finding success in XYZ markets. Opening the gates to dialogue will allow other active members to speak with you directly, which can open the door to new connections and an influx of information.

Comment: Just as you want members to answer your questions or comment on your blogs and articles, other members want the same from you. If you read a question or a blog, give a quick response. Active members will see your contributions and will be more inclined to read your content and respond to your posts. If you’re actively engaging with other members, you’ll find that your connection invitations will increase, and more in-depth networking can take place.

When group engagement becomes too much.

When you join a group, you might begin to receive LOTS of emails when other members or the group administrator post content. Don’t panic! If you’re feeling overwhelmed by emails, do the following:

Click on Interests, located on the top menu of your homepage newsfeed.

Click on “Groups.”

Click on the group that is sending you too many emails.

On the right corner of the screen, next to the “Member” button, click on the lowercase “i.”

Click on “Your Settings.”

Here you can determine whether or not you want to receive updates. If you do not, and you’d rather check the discussion board on your own time, simply uncheck the boxes next to “Activity” and “Digest Email.”  Leave the box next to “Member Messages” checked so members that you are not connected with can still private message you.

If you have any questions regarding LinkedIn groups, please let me know in the comments.