A friend of mine landed his last six clients as a direct result of his participation inLinkedIn Groups. Another sees his groups as a natural extension of his social-media marketing efforts.
And believe it or not (I still find it hard to believe), a third somehow managed to meet her fiancé in an HR-focused group.
LinkedIn groups are informal communities formed around industries, professions, themes, niche topics, etc. Because any LinkedIn member can create one, there are now well over a million groups.
Find and join the right groups, and it's easy to keep up with news and trends, make connections, ask and answer questions, land new clients--even start a romance. (Well, maybe that last one isn't so easy.)
Here's how to find the right groups for you:
Set your goals.
Because groups are relatively focused, one group probably can't meet all your needs. Decide whether you're looking to connect with potential clients, establish your credentials and authority, learn more about your field--determine what you hope to achieve.
If you're new to groups, start with one primary goal. You can always branch out later.
Go to the Groups Directory page and enter search terms related to your goal.
Just keep in mind that searching broad terms will generate broad results; searchmarketing, and you get more than 41,000 results; social-media marketing yields more than 4,000 results. Think about what you're looking for and use search terms that are as specific as possible.
You can refine your search by using the check boxes on the left-hand side of the page. One handy move is to sift search results by your current connections. For example, you can choose to see only groups that your first and/or second connections have joined.
In some ways, that's handy, but given that most people hope to make new connections by joining groups, don't limit yourself to groups where you already "know someone."
And borrow ideas.
Searching is useful, but so is following the lead of people you respect. Go to any profile page and check out the groups that person belongs to; chances are one or two match your goals.
Plus, joining the same groups increases your chances of connecting with the people you hope to connect with. Chances are, influential people in your industry are members of useful groups, so why not hang out where they hang out?
Then sift through the results.
A search result lists groups in descending order according to the number of members. Under each group is a brief description.
Sometimes the description is helpful. Sometimes, though, the group has veered away from its description and original purpose. The only way to know is to...
Join a few groups.
Pick a few groups that appear to meet your goals--and seem interesting--and join. You can be a member of up to 50 groups, and you can leave a group at any time, so there's no harm in experimenting.
Read recent discussions and click the Members link to find out who else is in the group. If you find heavy hitters or people you respect, that's a good sign.
Keep in mind, some groups are members only; the manager of the group must accept you before you can participate or view discussions. Members-only groups tend to be more focused, but there are plenty of open groups that stay just as on topic and spam free.