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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur Contributors are their own.
The following excerpt is from Ted Prodromoubook Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn for Business. Buy it now at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple books | IndieBound
LinkedIn groups are forums or discussion forums where LinkedIn members can talk to each other to find solutions to their problems or to share relevant information about a product, service, or topic related to their industry or niche.
Groups can be open so that anyone can join (what is now called the default), or they can not be listed. This means that you must be approved by the group manager before you can participate. Not listing a group can help focus discussions and reduce unwanted comments that affect many open social networking sites. This means that your group discussions will generally be of higher quality and more relevant to the members since a group manager needs to approve all members.
When used properly, LinkedIn Groups can be a powerful tool to help you grow your business or professional network. Groups can give you the connections you need to reach new industries or markets.
There are currently roughly 2 million groups on LinkedIn that you can join up to 100 at a time. The problem with joining many groups is that you don't have the time to join all of the groups and you may get daily or weekly email updates from each group. You can turn off email notifications at any time, but you will have to manually visit each group to view new discussions.
It depends on quantity and quality. You can expand your network reach by joining many relevant groups and participating in those with active conversations. People can see if you are actively participating in a group, which will help improve your reputation and searchability on LinkedIn.
Find, rate and join groups
You can search for groups using the search box on the top toolbar for groups under the More filter. You can also search for groups under Advanced Search to find groups related to your niche.
To find groups, you can "come in through the back door," as I call it. From the LinkedIn main menu, select Work, then click the Groups icon. If you don't belong to any group, LinkedIn will ask you to identify some groups. If you already belong to a few, your most active groups will be shown.
To use groups effectively, don't just join the first one who looks interesting. When it comes to professional groups on LinkedIn, there are usually several options to choose from, and you'll have to search through the available groups to find the top three to five in a given area. To see a directory of each group on LinkedIn, visit https://www.linkedin.com/groups/. Remember, there are roughly 2 million groups on LinkedIn. So this directory may seem overwhelming, but it's an easy way to get started.
First, make sure the group is active. See how many members it has and check out some of their profiles to see if you know any of them or want to add them to your network. I think it's better to join a small group with the right members than a very large group with people you don't want to connect with.
LinkedIn allowed you to preview a group's discussions before they were asked to participate. This was very useful. Today you can just see the number of members, a brief description and an explanation of the purpose, the administrators and all of your connections in the group. You'll need to join the group to rate the content and level of interaction, and then leave the group if that's not what you're looking for.
Join a group
When you find a group you want to join, just click the Ask to Join button on the list. A message will appear confirming your request. In some cases, if you do not meet its membership criteria, you may not be accepted into the group. Say you're a marketer and request access to a group of chiropractors. Your goal as a marketer is to meet chiropractors to assist them in marketing their business. However, the purpose of the group is for chiropractors to network with one another. Your application to join the group is likely to be denied.
The best way to use groups
Visiting and following up on your groups regularly is the only way you can effectively use LinkedIn to build your professional network. You need to appear in your group frequently and regularly to maximize your presence. One of the best ways to ensure that you are seen is to target the most popular discussions and then contribute to those discussions on a regular and beneficial basis.
Once you understand how a group works, the next step is to start your own discussion. Pick a topic that you are comfortable with so that you can continue the conversation. When starting a new discussion, be as engaged as possible. You can check out some of the advanced conversations in your group and see how they started. You can seek advice on a specific scenario or post information useful to the target market you are trying to attract. As soon as you start the conversation and others join in, you should respond in a timely manner. In this case, you can change your settings to the daily overview so that you know when the conversations are active. Also, check back into your discussion several times a day so you can join the conversation when someone makes comments.
Visit your groups regularly and participate whenever you can add value to a discussion and keep the conversation going. You can follow people in your group if you find them interesting. After a while, you can invite them to join your network if you think they are a good fit for you. If you are interested in a particular discussion, you may like it. Your profile picture and a link to your profile will appear under the discussion and will show people interested in the topic.