Creating a LinkedIn LNKD -0.66% profile is just scratching the surface of the B2B social networking platform’s potential; LinkedIn has become an essential networking and marketing tool for business professionals. Whether you’re a marketer or an entrepreneur, it’s important to establish a presence on LinkedIn. But then what?
One extremely beneficial tactic is to participate in LinkedIn groups. This may seem like an extra step to take for a social network, but doing so can fast-track your reputation as an industry expert, and put you on the road to becoming an influencer in your field. Here’s your step-by-step guide to making the most of your presence on LinkedIn by participating in groups.
Step 1. Find Relevant Groups to Join
Begin joining LinkedIn groups by going to the search bar at the top of your LinkedIn page, typing in an industry name or topic, then selecting “Groups” from the dropdown menu on the left side of the search bar. LinkedIn will show you all the relevant groups in a search result page, generally sorted by the ones with the most members to the ones with the least.
Next, sort through groups using the numerous filters on the left side of the screen. For instance, you can see “Open groups” or “Closed groups,” and search according to which groups include some of your connections. Keep in mind that closed groups require administrative approval before you’ll be admitted into the group. You don’t need to wait for approval if you choose to join an open group.
Step 2. Join the Group and Adjust Your Settings
In an open group, you’ll be able to join immediately by clicking the yellow “Join” button in the upper-left corner.
However, if the group is closed (indicated by a lock icon next to the group name), you’ll have to click the yellow “Join” button and wait for your request to be accepted or rejected by the administrator.
Once you’ve been accepted into a group, you’ll have options to change your notification settings. If you don’t want to receive emails about all the updates within each of the groups you’re a member of, turn off email notifications within the settings:
You can either click the quick link or visit your settings at any time by clicking the “i” icon seen in the screenshot above next to the “Pending” button. You can also use this screen to leave the group should you choose to no longer be a part of it.
Once you’re in a group, you can begin posting your own contributions and participating in discussions on topics of interest.
Step 3. Follow, Start, and Engage in Relevant Conversations
Discussions are the lifeblood of LinkedIn Groups, carrying resources and information between users. Taking advantage of discussions is a perfect way to build your authority and expertise within the group; the more discussions you start and participate in, the more likely you’ll be seen as an authority, and the more credibility you’ll have when you reach out for a connection or share an article connected to your site.
However, be careful not to share links to your site or start discussions just for the sake of starting a discussion. Many LinkedIn Groups are tightly moderated, and any discussions or comments deemed to be irrelevant or intended solely to sell something will be removed (and you could lose your membership privileges).
Start by scrolling through the discussion area and see what types of topics generate the most attention. Here, you can “like” a post to show your interest in it, post a comment with your response, or “Follow” the discussion to receive updates when more comments are added (an option that can be adjusted in Settings):
Then, when you’re ready, you can start your own discussion by posing your question or sharing your information to the group:
Step 4. Leverage the Power of Promotions
To limit the amount of article-based and sales posts within the “Discussions” area, LinkedIn created a separate “Promotions” section. Don’t let the name fool you; if you post a coupon or a direct sales message in the Promotions section, you’ll likely be ignored and/or removed. Instead, the Promotions tab is a place to share articles and other pieces of content that link back to your site.
Here, you can learn new information from people in your space or add your own articles as new posts to generate new traffic to your site:
Step 5. Build Connections and Follow Up
The true power of LinkedIn is making valuable connections and building relationships, and that’s what you need to do to maximize the value of LinkedIn Groups. There are several key ways to meet new people in your industry (or in your target market) by engaging in the steps above:
- If someone engages with you in a discussion (either as a participant or as the original poster), feel free to connect with them with your personal profile, and explain you’d like to talk more about the subject.
- If someone responds to or “likes” your Promotion, again feel free to reach out as a connection.
- You can also find members of the group by searching in the “Members” tab of the Group. However, be aware that not all LinkedIn members welcome connection requests from people they haven’t already interacted with. It’s better if you have some tangible interaction first.
The more valuable connections you make, the better chance you’ll have at generating new web traffic and revenue for your business. Follow up with your connections regularly to keep yourself top-of-mind and stay up-to-date with any changes in their employment or business needs.
General Best Practices for LinkedIn Groups
Just as there’s a certain level of social etiquette during in-person business conversations, the same goes for the Internet. Although you may not be experienced in participating in online discussions, there are a few best practices you should maintain for optimal professionalism.
First, make sure you’re always being respectful of the opinions of others, even if you disagree with people in the group. A healthy debate can be insightful, but making a discussion personal and hurtful is unnecessary.
Next, abide by the rules of the group that you’re participating in, and adhere to all regulations set by the administrator. For instance, some groups may prohibit you from sharing blog links, while others might not want you to write anything promotional.
Finally, your goal should be to provide value to the group, rather than promote your company, goods and services. Doing so can help you grow as an influencer on LinkedIn as a whole and make connections with other people in your industry. Those who also happen to be in your line of work may be more inclined to connect and do business with you if they see you contributing genuine value in a group.
Creating Your Own Group
Making your own LinkedIn group can be a strategic move – you’ll be able to set your own rules and manage the tone of discussion. Furthermore, you won’t have to worry about seeking out people who share the same interests as you. Ideally, the individuals who choose to join your group have a specific passion for your industry.
However, maintaining a LinkedIn group can be an ample amount of work. Not only do you need to manage who enters your group, but you have to moderate discussions and make sure that people are playing fairly, being respectful, and not spamming as well.
If you have the time to dedicate to a LinkedIn group, there are a few ways you can position it for success:
- Be mindful of those who join your group, and make sure that the individuals have a dedicated interest in your theme. Be proactive in rejecting individuals who may not have any interest or authority in your industry.
- Spend time monitoring discussions to ensure that they’re valuable to your group members. Start your own discussions, make comments frequently, and try to steer the focus of your group in the right direction.
- Finally, remember that you’re a leader. This means that you’re the one in charge of sending out a Weekly Digest, individually messaging members who have questions and staying connected to everyone who joins your group.
LinkedIn is becoming the go-to place for professionals to exhibit their expert industry knowledge, and it shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. To learn more about using LinkedIn and other social media channels to enhance your professional reputation and benefit your company, grab my eBook, The Definitive Guide to Social Media Marketing.
Photo courtesy of: IPC Marketing
Originally published on: Forbes
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