Although many view the social networking site LinkedIn as just an online Rolodex or a business version of Facebook, it is actually much more than that. The Groups section of LinkedIn is a powerful online forum in which you can market yourself to new customers or clients, or even engage with your professional peers on neutral territory.
A LinkedIn Group is an online forum set up by an existing LinkedIn user which others can also join to partake in discussion or make new connections. LinkedIn Groups are set up to reflect a variety of interests or subjects, whether it be a group for a company’s customer base, a group for an industry’s practitioners to debate emerging trends, a group to reflect a geographical area, or a group to host online discussions in regards to a particular conference or event.
Different LinkedIn Groups have different settings and permissions depending on the preferences of the Group Manager. Some Groups are ‘open’ groups, which means that LinkedIn users can join the forum without being vetted, whereas membership of others are dependent on being approved by that Group Manager.
Your ability to post or comment in a LinkedIn Group again depends on the settings of the Group in question. Each member of a LinkedIn Group can start a discussion within that group, but occasionally that new discussion has to be approved by the Group Manager of that group before it is make public (it is classified as ‘pending’ when this happens). All members of a LinkedIn Group should be able to comment freely on all posts within a LinkedIn Group, although there are occasions when this is not possible.
To find a Groups on LinkedIn that you want to join, click on the “Groups” tab followed by the “Groups You May Like”. You will then be presented with a list of groups based on your LinkedIn activity (such as your LinkedIn Profile or membership of other LinkedIn Groups). You will also find subgroups in this list, which are specific subsets of larger Groups for particular subjects or interests.
Another method of finding groups is to use the Search options on LinkedIn in the top right hand corner using appropriate keywords, or you can look at which Groups your key LinkedIn Connections belong to. You can also see a list of all available LinkedIn Groups by clicking on the “Group Directories” option under the “Groups” tab.
Please note that there is an upper limit of 50 Groups that any one LinkedIn user can belong to, although some Groups have Sub Groups that you can also join and which are not counted as part of the allocation of 50.
Once you’ve been accepted into a LinkedIn Group you can start reviewing discussions started by other members or even post your own discussion. Most groups are moderated, so ensure that you are only posting discussions that are relevant to the group or otherwise your comments may be flagged up by other users as ‘spam’, which will limit your permissions on LinkedIn while the issue is being disputed.
LinkedIn is increasingly taking a strong line on perceived self-promotion (at the expense of the quality of debate within individual Groups), and users should be mindful that even sharing content from your own company’s website could automatically be flagged as spam by the LinkedIn system (based on the URL of the page that you are sharing) so only post sparingly and in a targeted fashion. Most issues that may arise with posting content to a Group can be resolved however by discussing the matter with the relevant Group Manager.
Aside from hosting discussions which LinkedIn users can start or comment on, Groups serve a couple of other functions. Many Groups have a “Jobs” tab, under which Group Members can post or review vacancies, which is a great way of finding employment or sourcing staff. Some groups also have a “Promotions” tab, which you can post under to highlight overt commercial, self-serving messages (sales/ offers, services or events) that would not be suitable for the discussions forum.
To change your personal settings within each LinkedIn Group, select the “More” tab in that Group’s page. Under the “More” tab you will also find information about the Group Manager, in case you ever need to contact them.
Linkedin Users can, of course, create their own LinkedIn Group rather than join an existing one, but the merits of this (and instructions on how to do this) will be discussed in another, forthcoming Nick Lewis Communications blog entry.
Nick Lewis Communications can provide training in LinkedIn as well as offer professional management of LinkedIn Company Pages. To find out, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07970 839137.