LinkedIn Groups can be a valuable source of professional information and business development, if used correctly. In the Part 1 of this article, we looked at how to determine the best Groups to join and how to set them up in your LinkedIn account. Now we can continue on the path and look at how to actually engage with the other members in those Groups.
6. Lurk in Your Groups.
One of the biggest mistakes committed by new Group members is blindly posting off-topic or using a tone that doesn’t fit the normal vibe that others use. It’s like barging into a conversation in the offline world and beginning to talk without knowing what the conversation is about! You want to get a sense for how things flow in the group you’ve chosen.
Therefore, the next step is to simply “listen in” on the discussions that are happening in the Groups you have joined. There’s no need to participate yourself yet, you simply want to get a feel for what is already happening. Find out what topics are discussed, what kind of information is shared, and the general tone of the conversation. Are there a few participants that contribute most of the activity, or is it spread around quite a bit? Depending on how active the group is, you can do this once or twice a week by visiting the group and scrolling through the discussions. You can also look through past discussions to see what subjects have already been addressed and what types of discussions elicit the most feedback.
7. Re-evaluate Your Membership.
After lurking for a month, do a quick check to confirm that these are the Groups you want to stay in. There’s a good chance that at least one of them is going to be a bust. You’ll have a good intuitive feel if the Group is valuable after a few weeks of observation, but a few specific things to look for include:
- Number of Posts
- Subject of Posts
- Group Participation
- Your Ability to Participate
If any of them fail these metrics, and the Group isn’t what you expected it to be, pick another to track for a month. You can keep a Group that doesn’t make the cut as a Branding Group, but pick a new one for participation. You only have so much bandwidth and we want to maximize the return you get on your time.
Once you’ve gotten a feel for the group and the flow of conversation, it’s time to dive in. The easiest way to get started is through responding to what other members are posting. Once a week, like or comment on a post that you see in the group. “Liking” a discussion can be a simple point of entry, because all you have to do is click the button! But if there is discussion that you can comment on, if you have an opinion, observation, or answer that’s relevant, take the opportunity to join in. You’re in this group to make connections, and you can’t do that until you start connecting.
The next step is to post your own discussion topics. You can be quite active in a group without creating your topics by liking and commenting, but if you want to get the most reach, you are going to want to put your own posts into the mix. Especially if it’s a larger group, it’s easy to get swallowed up if you don’t put yourself out there.
Every two to three weeks, post a discussion. It could be:
- A question that you have for the group members, either tactical or strategic. This could be as specific as, “What provider do you use for your business healthcare coverage and why?” or as general as, “Which type of metrics do you think it’s important to put in your business plan for the next year?”
- An article that is relevant to the interests of the group. If you find a great article through LinkedIn Pulse or somewhere else on the internet, share it! You can add a short introduction to indicate why you think it’s important information. The goal is to spark a conversation based on the topic.
- An announcement about an event or service that is relevant to the group. Don’t be overly self-promotional! Most group moderators will block content that is too much of a “commercial”, or they’ll put it in the promotions section which gets much less visibility. But, for example, if there is an industry training or other event that you know about, this is a great place to share the news.
9. Engage with Other Members
As you engage in the group, you will find other LinkedIn members that are good connections for you. They might be a peer who has a similar approach to you, or a potential client you can help. Or maybe you find that someone shares interesting information and insights and you’d like to have them in your network. If you see that there is a good reason to connect, there’s nothing wrong with reaching out. When you share group membership with another LinkedIn member, you can send them a message directly through the internal messaging system.
This is where your Groups strategy pays off, so don’t take any shortcuts. If you want to reach out to someone, be sure to customize the invitation and share the reason why they should want to connect with you. That way instead of looking like spam in their inbox, you’ll look like someone that they want to connect and do business with. Once they are in your personal network, you’ll have more opportunities to interact with them over time as you share content and get their updates in your newsfeed.
10. Rinse and Repeat
Now you are participating in LinkedIn Groups! After the work of getting everything set up, a simple system will help you get the most out of your activity with the least amount of time spent. It helps to have a set time to visit your Groups, once a week is usually fine. Put a reminder in your calendar to check in on a weekly basis. Then you can go to all of your Groups at once, read through the discussions, comment and like where appropriate, and post your own content when relevant. For a 10-20 minute investment on a weekly basis, you can leverage your membership to find new information, resources, and opportunities.
By leveraging LinkedIn Groups, you have the opportunity to make stronger relationships with your existing network, and more importantly, it’s a valuable source of new connections. Invest the time and energy up front and you will see the return over and over in the future.