It’s been a couple of years since LinkedIn made some major revisions to LinkedIn Groups. In those revisions was what is now called “Group Discussions.”
Group Discussions started out a little rocky but soon became a wonderful place to network and brand yourself (and understand the brands and passions of others in the Groups). This was a powerful environment because Group members had something in common. In other words, a Group for Project Managers would have people who were interested in, passionate about, expert in, etc. Project Management. Contrast that with your own first degree Contacts: most people can’t say that all of their first degree Contacts are all interested in one topic, industry, profession, etc. (especially as your network grows)
Groups has evolved, of course, and the biggest complaint right now is that there is too much spam. This is so off-putting that many people are disillusioned about Groups without even understanding where the value is. In a sense, they kind of “throw the baby out with the bath water.”
Here are my tips to get more value out of LinkedIn Groups:
- Join LOTS of Groups. Some of the value is that it opens communication from you to other Group members, and those Group members to you. I encourage you to find Groups that are relevant to you and join them, even if you plan on doing nothing else as a Group member. (note: the limit has been 50 Groups, but I’ve heard that has changed around December of 2012. I have not verified yet)
- Turn off the digest email for most of the Groups. One of the biggest complaints I hear from people is that they say they get too much spam (loosely translated to they get an email every day for every Group they are in). The digest emails are usually daily and let you know about new Discussions and comments on those Discussions. I’m in over 40 Groups and probably have about 30 of those set to NOT send me any messages (except from the owner, or Group members, but not the digest).
- Start Discussions in the most relevant Groups. This is your opportunity to put your brand, knowledge, passion, expertise in front of other people who are relevant to you. Start Discussions that are giving, helpful, and reinforcing of your own brand. For example, if you are in marketing or branding, share the top 10 ads for 2012 in an advertising Group. I always find those awesome and fun, and you are simply sharing great stuff (instead of asking, begging, whining, or putting something completely irrelevant forward).
- Comment on other Discussions. People put stuff out there to share, and if you comment on their Discussions you never know where that might go. For me it’s led to revenue, speaking engagements, and allowed me to network into people I had been trying to email or call but getting nowhere. Engage in the conversation.
- Reach out to individuals. When you do the “member search” you can mouse over the search results and you’ll see a new link popup: “send message.” This is a powerful tool and allows you to message Group members even if you aren’t connected with them. I invite you to do this! Networking is more than just being there and saying stuff every once in a while to the entire Group. You should make it a priority to communicate one-on-one to people who should be a stronger part of your network.
- Ignore the spam. Yes, it is there. Don’t get upset by it. I simply FLAG Discussions that I think are spammy. But don’t get too upset by the spam. Don’t let it ruin your day. Look past it, get value out of your membership and move on.
- Be very careful you don’t misbrand yourself. I see this all the time. People either talk about stuff that is totally irrelevant to the Group (asking for unrelated advice, like what hotel to stay at in a certain city, or something lame like that), OR they come across as offensive. Many times I’ve seen the very passionate, especially if their passion is on the fringes, they come across as, well, nut-cases. Is that how you want to be branded?
I hope these tips help you. I have lived in LinkedIn for a number of years, and am working on the fourth edition to my book, I’m on LinkedIn – Now What???