LinkedIn is a great tool, but you can’t simply sign-up and expect things to happen. You have to make them happen.
Once you’ve signed on, created an in-depth profile, and added some contacts, it is time to take advantage of the service and join some groups.
Groups are a tremendous resource. Through them you can meet new business contacts and reach out to them in ways you couldn’t do if you found them via search. It is also a place where you can ask and answer questions and gain insight.
To find a group, use the search in the top right. Enter keywords about the type of group you are interested in joining. There are groups for about everything including trade, industry, alumni, company, regional, and combinations thereof.
Once you’ve found a group you are interested in, select join. I always check off the box asking if I’d like an email digest of conversation. These get routed to a folder in my inbox and I try to check them daily.
As a member, you now have full access to the group. On the group page are several navigational tabs including Discussions, News, Jobs, Subgroups and More.
Discussions are the place you can ask or answer questions. This is a great opportunity to learn or share information. If you have something to contribute to the conversation – go right ahead. If not, and the topic is one of interest to you, send a private reply to people in the thread. Let them know you appreciate the insight, and if you think they could be a valuable contact in the future, let them know you’ll be sending an invite to connect. Most people will accept the add when they receive it.
News is a place where you can share articles by pasting a link and then commenting on it. As a manager, news feeds can be added. Recently I co-created a site and one of our first discussion posts was to request feeds from group members. Feeds are a great way to keep current on industry hot topics. Being able to discuss them with other industry members is invaluable.
Jobs is pretty obvious and depending on the group this may or may not be a good source. If the group is regional and industry specific it could be very good, but I’ve found most of the large, nationally based groups have plenty of jobs with little relevance for me.
Subgroups is a good management tool if the group has natural divisions. The subgroups allow for discussion and news based on a more specific demographic.
Under “More” are three choices – Members, Updates, and My Settings.
Members allows you to see profiles and send messages to fellow group members. Updates allows you to see all the recent activity within the group. My Settings allows you to receive updates by email and maybe most important, here you can check allow fellow members to contact you. I say this is most important because your network outreach significantly increases through groups. Without them you couldn’t send a message or request an add.
So that is the 500 word look around a group. To make groups work for you, you must embrace the principles of social media. Be honest, open, transparent, helpful, and engage the people and community you join. By doing that, you will meet new people, gain valuable contacts, learn, and grow.