The beginning of the year is a great time to revamp your professional LinkedIn profile. Updating your headshot and content to reflect your current position and skills ensures employers and clients are seeing the most recent and best version of you.
It’s also a prime time to fine-tune your strategy for utilizing LinkedIn Groups.
These groups offer users the opportunity to interact with like-minded professionals within their industry. Within a closed-door forum, members can share news and research, ask questions, and more importantly network.
But you can’t just crash a LinkedIn Group. There are rules. You need to work your way in. Like a high school lunchroom hierarchy, you can’t just sit at any table.
Here’s what you need to know about navigating LinkedIn Groups.
1. Identifying the Right Group to Join
LinkedIn has 450 million users and growing. There are a lot of groups to choose from and it can be overwhelming. To streamline your search, start with knowing your brand and your target audience. Then narrow your search to focus on groups and influencers that are relevant to your brand and audience.
For example, let’s say you’re a boutique coffee company who serves speciality coffee. You’re interested in connecting and learning from other entrepreneurs in the specialty coffee business.
On LinkedIn, under groups, you search the keywords specialty coffee.
Up pops several groups for the keywords ‘specialty coffee.’ The first one catches your eye. You click. The group focuses on coffee education and networking. Perfect. You ‘ask to join’ and await their response.
When searching for groups, try to use keywords that make sense for your industry. Niche brands can use long-tail keywords to further refine their search. As you select groups to join, try to have a mix of small and large, which will provide differing perspectives.
2. Going Through the Vetting Process
The appeal of LinkedIn Groups is their exclusivity, which increases the value of conversations in groups. Think about it. Inbound marketing groups don’t need to worry about their conversations being diluted by chats about door-to-door sales. Why? Outbound sales folks aren’t allowed in their groups.
Here being choosy is a good thing.
To ensure exclusivity, many groups vet members. Unlike joining the FBI, the vetting process is cut and dry. No hoops to jump through. In most cases, they’ll simply review your LinkedIn profile, so make sure your experience and education is up-to-date.
Related Post: 7 Things You Need to Do for a Strong LinkedIn Profile
Groups that are particularly tight, may research beyond your LinkedIn profile. So, make sure everything on your profile is true, right down to where you’re from.
Group moderators may also delve into what other LinkedIn Groups you’re in, too. If they recognize you as a spammer from a related group, don’t be surprised if your request to join is denied.
There’s no rule of thumb for how long the vetting process may take. Some professionals groups add you immediately, others may take longer. Keep an eye out for a message welcoming you to the group.
3. Observing Group Dynamics
Great, you’re in. Whew. But unless you’re Regina George, don’t go taking over the group. More likely than not, you will face backlash. Instead play it cool and spend a little time getting a feel for the group’s dynamics and rules.
Lay low and do some observing. What is your group’s main objective? Is it to share knowledge, sell, or network? Can you only post on certain days? See what other members post and how their posts are formatted.
The Associated Press Stylebook's group encourages their members to share style tips, knowledge, and questions. Here, group members follow the same formatting when sharing tips (e.g. headline, brief blurb, and image).
Once you have a grasp on how the group operates, slowly start to interact with members (more on that in a sec).
4. Interacting With Group Members
So, you’re bubbling with knowledge and want to share it with the world. Wonderful. But wait! You can’t just jump into a group’s conversation. You’re new. People don’t know who you are, and they may have no clue what you’re talking about.
Start off by identifying the most popular conversations and “like” them. You’re not a top influencer, so stick to sharing other influencers’ content. For example, you might say “Great insight. Within that same vein, I found this article by XYZ interesting, too.”
By not pushing your personal content or products, you’ll gain your groups’ trust. They’ll recognize you’re adding value and resources the group could use.
5. Using LinkedIn Groups for Lead Generation
Let’s say you’re a marketing manager. You probably are a member of several marketing management groups. But your clients aren’t. Perhaps you provide marketing services for theatres. In that case, you’ll want to go join theatre groups.
Remember, you want to go where your clients are.
Joining any new group can be intimidating. But at least with LinkedIn Groups, you’re behind a computer screen and not face-to-face. It’s an introvert’s dream, right? All kidding aside, they're a valuable resource for knowledge, networking, and lead generation.
Once you get your foot in the door, get a feel for the group dynamics, then slowly start interacting by commenting on others’ posts and sharing others’ thought-leadership and insight.
With time, you’ll gain your members’ trust and hopefully make connections that will grow your business.