5 ways to use LinkedIn Groups

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Here’s how to distinguish yourself – to meet new referral sources, clients, and friends. The vast majority of LinkedIn users don’t participate in Groups; but this is where the relationships blossom.

I have many complaints about LinkedIn, many of which center around its latest redesign. Nevertheless, one of my favorite aspects of LinkedIn is its Groups. These are the special interest, professional & trade discussion forums where you can network outside of your 1st degree of contacts (those you know). You’re able to meet new people, see how they are connected to you, learn from them, share your expertise, and get into great discussions with peers, adversaries, referral sources, potential clients and even burgeoning friends.

LinkedIn Groups are centered around Discussions, i.e., posts that can contain these 5 elements:

  1. Subject
  2. Detail
  3. Link
  4. Image
  5. Your name & photo (linked to your profile).

The Subject of your LinkedIn Discussion post is much like the subject line of an email (or more precisely an e-newsletter). Keep it punchy, eye-catchy, and intriguing. Its Detail isn’t limited to 140 characters, but that’s a pretty good thumb-rule (and requirement if tweeting it). Adding a Link to another website (an article on your blog, for example) is a great way to elaborate further. LinkedIn will often grab an Image off of that web page; makes a for a more eye-catchy post. And finally, your  name & profile photo comes along for the ride – helping to remind others about how you look like & brand you as an expert and/or resource.

So there are 5 ways to become noticed in LinkedIn Groups:

  1. Post original content
  2. Post media content
  3. Comment, comment, comment
  4. Ask for feedback
  5. Invite others to…

Most people simply use LinkedIn Groups as veiled self-promotion. Your original content, aka blog articles, columns, newsletters, etc., should be educational and resourceful, not an ulterior advertisement. If you’re fresh out of ideas, so my blog article last month that references 25 blog article ideas.

Another way to be remembered in your Groups – without coming off as an annoying salesperson – is to share links to articles in other media. They may be other blogs, major media, or professional insider news. This is often easier to do than coming up with original content! Thus, you can do so in multiple times a week, in multiple (relevant) groups; I often recommend using addthis.com/tools to do so. But don’t over do it; over-exposure backfires.

Why do radio DJ’s have so many call-in contests? Because they want to make sure someone is listening! Likewise, we all love thumbs-up, shares, and comments, comments, comments. As you comment on other people’s discussion posts, you immediately stand out to others, and especially to the person posting. This is a great way to nurture a new relationship. Keep your comment short, pithy, and interesting. Feel free to disagree, or bring up alternate points. (Of course, antagonize at your own risk.)

As you’ve established your personal brand within a Group, you’ll find that asking for feedback and opinion will actually warrant some answers. In the beginning however, this can be seen as a ploy to divert people to your sales offer. You may like to actually discuss something – like someone else’s offer, website, idea, product, service, book, etc.

In similar fashion, invitations to events (or your own Group!) can also be seen as uncouth in the beginning. Establish your presence and your value. Then, even if you are sorta poaching other groups to your own corner of the world, people will gladly join your discussion Group. Of course, same rules (as above) apply for own Group too. Nobody likes a bait & switch sales pitch.

How else do you use LinkedIn Groups? Offer your suggestions for us all to learn. Better still, what have you seen others do in LinkedIn Groups that are absurd, ludicrous, crass, or embarrassing? I’m sure we’d all love to hear the stories; spare the guilty of their names please!

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