LinkedIn Groups When outsiders start in with their bashing and thrashing of social media networks you can bet your last dime they’ll be squawking about the trivial nature of the posts.

You’ve heard it many times before. Social media is a waste of time. That’s their story and they’re sticking to it (as the media world passes them by).

Should we tell them about LinkedIn or should that remain our little secret? Maybe they’ve heard, LinkedIn is the businessperson’s network.

While it may not make the headlines as often as Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn brings career-minded go-getters together to do business. Productive relationships are built there. Leads are generated.

LinkedIn Groups are where the action is.

I hope you’re taking part in LinkedIn Groups that map to your business interests. You’ll want to be selective and avoid the groups where promotions trump discussions. Groups such as these tend to be a waste of time. And, unfortunately, you’ll likely wind up on some scuzz-ball’s hit list and have to tolerate the occasional LinkedIn mail spam. You’ll know ‘em when you ‘em and will simply want to leave the group.

However, the active groups, which often have moderators and guidelines, can deliver some great benefits. So try to get a sense of the group’s agenda and join those that appear to be productive information exchanges. That’s the idea.

Put some time and effort into these LinkedIn Groups and you're bound to get a good many things in return.

Get advice—The LinkedIn Group is essentially a forum. You’ll find it’s the perfect place to ask questions and get differing points of view from your group mates.

Of course, you should play this both ways and look for questions you can answer intelligently. The members will notice and dialog is likely to ensue.

Perhaps you’re looking for a resource. You could hit the group up for feedback on an idea you’re toying with. You might seek insights on a specific company or partner. An engaged LinkedIn Group really can be a useful and educational mastermind environment.

Get status—This may sound a tad self-serving, but your participation in a LinkedIn Group really can elevate your reputation as an expert. Be prepared to be generous with your advice. Recognize the ideas and accomplishments of others. Pass along helpful information. Some online leaders refer to these types of gains as “social currency,” which will inevitably lend itself to positive word-of-mouth, referrals, content sharing, and new connections.

Get content—Now and then, I pose a question to the group with a content generation agenda in mind. I go in search of opinions on a certain trend or look for clarification on a topic relevant to the members. When the question invokes an ample string of interesting answers, I’ll quote some or all of the participants in a blog post with links to those that are cited. Essentially, this is a user-generated content (or crowd sourced) strategy that results in a compelling round-up style article.

Another benefit from a content marketing point of view is your participation in a discussion could simply inspire content ideas. It’s possible you’ll find a highly divisive topic resulting in opposing opinions. Fueling a debate may, in turn, fuel a compelling story.

Get smart—You’re going to make discoveries in your groups. New tools. Information resources. Speakers and authors. Innovations and ideas. Come to learn and you will.

Get traffic—Though it’s bad protocol to come on strong with sales pitches and promotions, it’s fair game and savvy to start in on an update or reply and point readers to your website, blog, videos and the like. Don’t be shy about offering links. You’ll find many participants will touch lightly on their answer to a question then reference an online resource where they’ve published a deeper examination of the issue.

Get clients—Yes indeed. From what I’ve seen LinkedIn Groups take the form of old-fashioned networking more so than any other social media. You’ll have to forgo the cocktails, but you definitely can and should keep your eyes open to potential good fits and gently suggest your services. Consider pursuing the subsequent steps one-to-one so as to not bore and turn off the bystanders who’d rather not see the page’s real estate populated with negotiations.

Get opportunities—Unforeseen opportunities are bound to pop up now and then. Some less surprising examples might be opportunities to get speaking gigs, invitations to guest post, and requests for interviews.

LinkedIn Groups are, in fact, opportunities. There may be similar online arenas created expressly for your industry. Also, a variety of membership-based forums, often free, such as OPENforum by American Express (focused on small businesses), offer similar features and benefits.

However, with its hundreds of millions of active members, LinkedIn’s Groups component is today’s epicenter of the industry specific forum.

Get into ‘em and you’ll get a lot out of ‘em.

Have you participated in LinkedIn Groups? Give us your thoughts. Do you have questions? Bring ‘em on. We’re all here to interact.  

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LinkedIn groups and tips