Making the Most of LinkedIn Groups: Part 2 : Beyond the Basics

by Paula Brand

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Are you making the most of LinkedIn Groups? If not, why not? LinkedIn Groups can be a powerful way to expand your network, display expertise and research industry topics. In the last issue, I explained some basics about LinkedIn groups such as: how to navigate your LinkedIn Groups home page, ways to find appropriate groups within LinkedIn, what to consider before joining and how to join. In this issue, I will delve deeper into this topic to explain group features, useful tips and general etiquette for LinkedIn Groups.

I joined a group, now what? Proceed with caution. Hopefully you implemented some tips from the last issue to make sure you are joining appropriate groups. Now, you want to confirm you made the right choice by merely witnessing actual group interactions. It's wise to get a feel for the group dynamics and style before jumping right into spouting strong opinions or posting anything that you might regret.

Some groups are formal and members might frown upon using emoticons, while others are more laid back and have a lighter feel. Take your time to get acclimated to the group by seeing what type of content people are posting and how others are reacting to it. You can learn a lot by just observing. Don't forget, if you don't like what you see after joining, you can always leave the group.

Tip: The group manager might showcase (meaning it always stays at the top of the discussion page) a discussion designed to welcome new members and to give instructions (for example, some encourage new members to introduce themselves to the entire group when you first join).

Read the rules. To avoid making a bad first impression, it's wise to review any group rules before executing your first post. Some groups specifically state that you should not post jobs in their group forum. Other groups welcome and encourage this behavior.

For the most part, groups will welcome job posting information and this can be a fertile ground for the Hidden Job Market. However, sometimes a group rule states that it is designed only for technical industry questions and to not post jobs. While job information is usually a positive, some groups are afraid of being overwhelmed by aggressive recruiters or inappropriate postings. Many groups prohibit any self-promotion type posts (which could include blog posts, solicitations, promotions, etc.). Even if there is no rule against, you do not want to be known for only posting this type of information.

Tip: If there are any group rules (not all groups have rules) you can find them directly under the About This Group section on the upper right side of the home page for each group. Discussions: Starting a Discussion within a LinkedIn Group can serve so many purposes. Use this forum to help you network, display your expertise and gather useful information.

notice others who are very engaged in the group. This can be a great way to find LinkedIn members who share your passion. Don't be afraid to reach out to them. When you personalize your invitation to the person, don't forget to mention that you found them because you are both members of that group.

Sharing - If you come across an article, post or any other free resource that could be useful to others, why not share it in a LinkedIn Group? This act of generosity will be appreciated by your group members and others might like it, share it or comment on it. If you do this on a regular basis, it might be noticed by recruiters, the media or other people seeking your area of expertise. It's best to post on topics related to the group and associated with your brand. Sharing posts of others is a great way to show support to a colleague/organization/movement and it might help you get on someone's radar.

Research and gather information - LinkedIn Groups can be a fast and simple starting point for gathering industry information, testing out an idea or product and learning about best practices. You could pose questions to a career related group such as "Based on your experience, what is the best interest inventory to use with teenagers and why?" or "What are the best practices you employ in helping people find jobs?" These questions could generate a multitude of answers that would be a great starting point for further research.

If you are trying to get feedback on a new product and are willing to have people test it out for free, you could post a request for volunteers. Asking group members for their opinion on a topic can often generate some lively discussions, especially if it's a debatable topic. In the past, I have seen a lot of activity around questions like these: "Do you think the resume will become obsolete?" or "Do you think it's unprofessional to use emoticons in group discussions?"

Jobs: There is a tab for jobs within LinkedIn Groups. This is not the same as the Jobs tab on the main menu bar (where companies have paid money to post a job). The jobs tab in the group area is a place for individual group members to post jobs informally without paying to post. This can benefit job seekers and organizations alike. A job seeker could find a lead for an opportunity that is not widely posted elsewhere and a company could save money by having a staff member post it for free. Also, a group designed for industry talent in a certain geographic area can provide a well targeted audience for recruitment efforts.

Group settings: In the settings area, you can control a variety of group features. LinkedIn lets you decide how often you want e-mails from the group (which can range from being notified every time a discussion is started to only receiving a weekly digest of discussions). You can allow other group members to send you messages and you can opt in or out of letting the group manger send you group updates. This is also one place where you can select whether or not the group logo will be visible on your profile.

When you are in the settings section for each group, you will see an expanded menu that includes tabs for Search and Members. Using the Members tab allows you to search for a specific person to see if they are a member of this group. Using the Search tab provides a way to sift through all discussions with a keyword or a name (to see if they have been mentioned in a discussion or have started a discussion). Searching through past discussions for "hiring accountants" might uncover some job opportunities that were only mentioned casually in a discussion.

A few notes about group etiquette: If you start a discussion, keep an eye on the subsequent comments. Chime in to the conversation to thank people who have contributed and to keep the conversation going. Don't post the same question in too many similar groups within an industry because there may be a large overlap of membership which might give an impression of oversaturation. Remember this is a semi-public setting and it's not easy to take things back.

Think before you share. Don't be rude. Refrain from using inappropriate language or putting down others and think about the impression you are making when you post. Tip: Remember that your behavior is going to build your brand one way or another. Keep all of your actions within the group positive.

I hope my articles on LinkedIn Groups inspire you to log in, play around, join some groups and make LinkedIn Groups a regular part of your strategy to increase your online visibility. If there is anything else you would like to know about LinkedIn, please contact me to suggest a topic for a future article.