In my opinion, the groups feature is the best part of LinkedIn. While having a strong profile and connecting with past colleagues and classmates is important, interacting in groups is where you’ll really take targeted networking to the next level.
Notice I said “interacting.” Groups are there for much more than just a logo on your profile! Many people (myself included when I was first on LinkedIn), join groups and then don’t do anything with them. Think of any in-person organization you’ve been involved with. If you join the American Society of Association Executives but don’t meet anyone new, attend any seminars, or participate in any other way, you probably didn’t get very much out of your membership. However, if you make a point of attending one event per month and reaching out to people listed in the member directory, you likely made back your membership dues and then some!
The same concept applies to LinkedIn groups, but with two additional bonuses – not only are they free, but you don’t even have to leave your house! Below are some tips to help you get started:
1) Join groups that are relevant to you and your career: This can include industry associations or informal groups. Chances are there are multiple options regardless of your function or industry. Note that some groups require you to be registered as a paying member of their main association or organization.
2) Ask and answer questions: Get involved in group discussions by responding to inquiries or asking questions of your own. You’ll gain name recognition, and possibly even start to get recognized as a subject-matter expert. One thing to keep in mind: don’t just post to post. Make sure you have something of value to add.
3) Further relationships with invites, messages, or even telephone calls: If you’re interested in getting to know someone in a group better (especially if you’ve been involved in the same Q&A in a discussion), try and personally connect.
Take advantage of these groups – especially for someone with limited time, it’s the most efficient way to network!