One of your most valuable assets on LinkedIn will be Groups. This is where you can really grow your influence, connect around a shared passion, build relationships and establish your expert status. This is where you can really make LinkedIn work for you.
This is where you can shine.
Belonging to a dynamic, active Group can help you:
- Connect with niche or industry leaders – and build a relationship
- By giving you added credibility
- Position yourself in your niche or industry
- Boost your reputation
You have two radically different directions to go, when it comes to making use of LinkedIn Groups:
- Join a strong Group that is already in full swing
- Start your own Group, if no one else has and there is a need for your particular slant and topic
And, of course, you can help yourself to both options: Joining Groups and starting one yourself. (Just make sure you can commit time to monitoring it daily, if you choose the latter option.)
Step 1. Finding Valuable, Active LinkedIn Groups to Further Your Goals
But it’s not all roses and sunshine. With well over 1.2 million LinkedIn Groups (and a good proportion inactive), finding the right one is crucial.
LinkedIn will suggest Groups to you – but do realize they are basing what they serve you solely on the keywords you provided when setting up your account and profile. If you didn’t target your keywords with razor-sharp precision, these Group suggestions may not be the best choice you can find.
It’s not just about Profile keywords, however: Says Brad Mauney of the official LinkedIn Blog, it’s all about “how well your search matches the conversations taking place”.
The improved Group Search:
- Shows your connections
- Allows customized filtering
There are two ways to find relevant Groups:
- Look through “Groups You May Like”
- Use Advanced Search
Start with Groups You May Like. Even without any filters, it will take its cue first from the job Title and Description you created for yourself and filter out 90-something-percent of irrelevant groups.
So notice that in our search results for our test Profile (Minnee Mouse, Virtual Project Manager), LinkedIn instantly weeded out the majority of those 1.2 million groups, giving 48 results focusing on groups for Virtual Assistants and Project Managers – with the option to further refine the results by selecting Advanced Search criteria in the left-hand, vertical Group Search sidebar.
Let’s say we refine this same search further by asking for only “Open” Groups (which do not require administrator approval, allowing you to join instantly)…
Immediately we narrow the search down even further to 24 results instead of 48.
Out of those possibilities, there are three conditions to immediately check:
- The Activity level
- The number of discussions under way
- The total number of members
Here, you can see the status is given as “Very Active”, and there have been 80 discussions within the current month. There are 13,097 members.
If you “View” this Group and it doesn’t feel quite right, you can also choose to click on “Similar” to find – you guessed it – similar groups.
How active should a group be?
This varies for every industry, profession, interest, niche or topic. The above example is one of the safest variances in criteria to go with:
- 20-100 discussions per month
- No more than 15,000 members
- Active to Very Active
Notice that the size of the Group will also have impact on the value of the activity. For example, you may find a perfect group that only consists of twenty-nine people. As a result of this comparatively miniscule number, the number of monthly discussions in a “Very Active” Group of this size may be no more than 10-20… but if the group is 100% targeted to your exact preferences and populated with quality members whose input and friendship have priceless assets as far as you are concerned, it is your perfect, valuable Group.
Do take part in much larger Groups and their discussions, however: You may never get acknowledged – but even if nobody else notices you in that Group, LinkedIn will take note of your exact “conversations” (your unanswered comments, as well as answered ones) and serve up even more targeted search results in every area of your LinkedIn Life.
How many Groups should you join?
A safe minimum is three – and if that includes…
- One highly targeted, exclusive, small group
- One medium-level Group (such as the one in our previous screenshot)
- One mega-Group, hugely popular
…so much the better! (Don’t get too hung up on formulae, however: Go with what your gut tells you are perfect Groups for you.)
Most experts recommend belonging to no more than 5-10 Groups.
Your biggest criteria? How many active, regular interactions can you fit into your daily life: And how important is that interaction to furthering your LinkedIn networking goals?
Other ways to search:
Don’t rush to join more than three Groups until you have also searched using the following methods:
- 1. Hover your mouse over the “Interests” tab in the top, horizontal menu on your Home Page and select “Groups”.
- 2. Ask your network. Share a post saying “I am looking to join a Group that…” Then lay out your criteria right in the post.
Finish with a call to action: “Is there a particular Group you would recommend?”
Note that once you have searched for a particular type of Group, LinkedIn will continue to make suggestions based on those searches. So do get into the habit of checking your right-hand, vertical sidebar column on your Home page for Group recommendations.
- 3. Check out your old alumni to see what groups they belong to. If you haven’t added any institution connections, do so now by hovering your mouse over “Interests” in your Home menu bar and selecting “Alumni”.
Step 2. Check Out Each Group
It’s one thing to “View” a Group: It’s another to know what to look for and how what you’re viewing should affect your choice.
Here are questions you should ask yourself, when deciding whether or not a particular Group is for you:
- Is the Group administrator a good leader? Does she take part in or guide discussions – or is she invisible?
- Are many questions asked by members? Answered?
- Are there guidelines and rules for the Group?
- Is it open or closed?
- What’s the overall tone and feel to this Group?
- Do people really listen to each other – and answer or is it all self-promotion?
- How much of a top influencer is the Group administrator (or administrators)
- What is their reputation?
You want to choose a group whose administrators are active, whose rules are clear and whose focus is positive. There should be a culture of listening, respect and participation.
Don’t waste your time on any Group that offers less than the best.
A well-managed Group will always be a useful and valuable Group.
Viewing Group metrics and statistics:
You can also view Group stats. You can do this from within LinkedIn using its native functions, or use external metrics apps such as Oktopost, which boasts that it offers “LinkedIn on steroids”.
Oktopost is expensive (currently $79.00 per month at time of writing) but there is a free trial so you can accurately assess its value to you.
Step 3. Creating a Group from Scratch
Can’t find the right Group or don’t like the slants of current ones?
LinkedIn not only provides a thorough tutorial, but also videos too.
But starting your own group is easy. The real key lies in understanding you have to…
- Be active in your Group daily – without exception
- Create clear rules and guidelines aimed at maintaining top quality
- Steer and direction discussions if they start to veer off topic
- Offer high value to Group members – a reason for (a) joining (b) participating
All this will ultimately be on your shoulders, even though other wonderful members may move in to take the load off you. (And you can even add them as fellow Group managers, if you wish.)
Step 4. Improving the Value of Group Contributions
But it doesn’t matter whether or not you are the Group owner or merely a member of someone else’s Group: One of your main goals should be improving the value of the Group by donating your time and resources to the group.
Remember you can add to Group posts:
- URLs to off-LinkedIn, external website or blog landing pages and sign up pages
- SlideShare presentations or URLs
- Documents (reports, templates, checklists, questionnaires)
- Surveys and polls
And just about any resource you think would help your Group members.
Should your group be open or closed?
It depends on your preferences and whether or not you think either would be of more benefit to the group.
- If you want to closely screen members and ensure they are top-quality contributors, make your Group “closed”.
- If you are more interested in building your own visibility or the visibility of your topic, make it “open” (as easy as possible for anyone to join).
Step 5. Evaluating Your Group Choices
Once you have been a member of a Group for several weeks, do sit back and evaluate:
- What you have been getting out of the Group
- What you have been able to contribute
Don’t be afraid to withdraw from any Group that is draining your energy and time. (You can leave a Group by hovering your mouse over “Interest” in your Home menu bar; then selecting [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Your Group name]>More>Your Settings>Leave Group.
To close a Group completely, follow LinkedIn’s instructions.
Step 6. Enhancing Group Identity
One of the most little-talked-about aspects of Group dynamics is creating a strong Group identity.
Just as you were most likely drawn to those groups with the most cohesive mission and strongest identity, so should you strive to create a strong identity for your Group.
One way to do this is by creating a professional, clear Group Logo that gets your message and purpose across visually. Then upload your Group logo so it appears to the left of your Group description.
Remember – these logos will be tiny (60 X 30 pixels, 100kb maximum file size) – so keep the design as simple, clean and clear as possible.
Decide on your Group identity, purpose, focus and tone before creating it – and keep any changes to a minimum. Note that you can only make a maximum of 5 group identity changes, under LinkedIn’s own rules. (They rightly point out that multiple changes “affect member confidence”.) Note also that Group Badges are temporarily “on hold”.
Take care of your Group members. Nurture them. Help them achieve their goals. Put the Group first. And that holds true whether or not the Group you’re interacting with is your own or managed by someone else.
There is no foolproof, rigid formula for anything in life – but these Group-finding tips should help you make an informed choice right off the starting gate.