After a few too many online searches, you may have accidentally signed up for a handful of email lists and commented aimlessly on a few media posts, only to find yourself looking at pictures of cats.
You are lost in the online networking abyss. I get it. I’ve been there. It can be crazy-making.
Here’s the thing... Social media platforms can be either the biggest waste of your time, or the largest opportunity for your growth.It is all about being intentional with your engagement and strategic with your connections, especially when it comes to the professional networking platform, LinkedIn, and the communities it’s hosting.
Members who are engaged in discussions via LinkedIn groups get four times more profile views than other members. So, if you are serious about using LinkedIn to your advantage, you need to be joining the right groups.
The vast majority of LinkedIn users are part of at least one group, with 16% being members of 50 or more. But, please note that there is a difference between simply joining a group and being efficiently engaged. Use these five hacks to get the most out of your time with LinkedIn groups.
1. Be an investigator.
Life online isn’t all that different than it is offline. You wouldn’t open the door to a networking event and walk straight on stage to boldly state your opinions and advice. Well, the same goes with entering a LinkedIn group. In essence, you want to feel out the room before walking into the center of it.
Browse through the group’s posts to get a feel for the vibe and content that gets the most engagement. Track the article topics and trends that are driving traffic, and begin to take note of people who you would connect best with based on their responses. Don’t do this in your head, write it down as you scroll through, or create an excel document on your laptop. Being data focused and observant with a strategic mindset is everything in these groups—if you want to be effective.
Notice the tone of the group, as it may be a casual vibe versus strictly professional. If the group’s culture doesn’t fit you, perhaps this isn’t the best place to spend your time. The good news about that is there are many other options...
Finding a great group that’ll impact your career is like finding a diamond in the rough. Needless to say, there are plenty of LinkedIn groups full of spammers and inactive users. Steer clear of those by putting in 3-5 minutes of investigation when you join. With more than 2 million groups on LinkedIn, there is a place for everyone.
Your groups show up on your profile, which means they are an extension of you and your personal brand. Choose groups that represent what you stand for.
2. Participation first, content later.
Once you have a feel for the group’s vibe, begin to participate, and then post later. Trust takes time to build and must be gained. In order to do this in a LinkedIn group, begin by liking and leaving comments or feedback on others' posts. Begin to provide value to others before you post on your own content.
Establish yourself by initially sharing credible content from the industry. If you have found a blog article, YouTube video or industry publications that sparks your passion, share this first. The value in starting with this is, you won’t come across as being self-promotional right out of the gate.
When you post an article, add a short description of how this helped you, what additional thoughts it left you with or any questions it made you consider that the group could weigh in on.
When it comes to asking questions, stay away from yes or no answers. For instance, instead of asking “Was this article helpful to you?” pose the question: “What tip did you find most helpful and where can you implemented it in your business?” This gets the members thinking and will generate a conversation that is more valuable than a list of yes’s on the feed.
Use this content as a means to generate conversation and pivot you from the observer to the authority.
3. Post strategically.
Don’t post something just for the sake of it. Make sure what you share is credible, valuable and relevant to the group. Since you have spent the time upfront observing and gaining an understanding of the vibe this shouldn’t be a problem, right?
Be very careful not to over post. The “spray and pray” method isn’t the strategy you want in LinkedIn groups. Your valuable content will get lost in the sea of, well, your own content. Not to mention, members will become annoyed by your spam. Don’t be the person flooding your groups with links every day. Just don’t do it.
Here is the trick, not everyone scrolls through the group feeds but, most people do receive email digests from their LinkedIn groups. The owner or manager of the group can share selected content with its members using recommended group posts. But, they can only send one recommendation every seven days. You want to make sure your content is valuable enough to be recommended. This is a great way for the majority of the group members to see your name and content.
3. Use groups to offset your membership.
LinkedIn has tiers of memberships. If you currently have the free versions, there are limitations applied to your access. For example, the free membership limits you to 100 search results each month and only sending a small handful of direct messages or introduction requests. If you have ever gone on a job hunt search or a push to meet new industry leaders, you likely hit this block.
The paid options will grant you a higher number of introduction requests and added perks such as seeing who has viewed your profile and how they found it. With premium accounts when an employer posts a job and collects applications through LinkedIn, your account will show up at the top of the applicant list. If you are in the midst of a major job hunt it may be worth the membership for a few months.
If you can’t swing the investment for a paid membership, you can still gain access to communicating with thousands of people via the groups that you join. No, you won’t be personally messaging their inboxes, but you will be spreading your name and building a reputation as an industry contributor. A direct message into their inbox through InMail opens a personalized conversation and is highly undersaturated method of communication.
If there is someone you really want to connect with or lead to target, opt to send a “sponsored” InMail. Each account can only receive one sponsored message every 45 days, so your message will be very likely to get noticed and read.
At the start of each month, use your 100 searches wisely and connect with the contacts you communicate most with in the groups.
5. Use your manners with authenticity.
Cyberbullying has often been thought of as something that happens with children, but 40% of adults now admit to experiencing cyberbullying and 75% say they have observed online harassment. In fact, I just gave a TEDx talk at Leiden University called “how to figure out what you really want,” and after it went viral just weeks ago, the trolls came rolling into my comments area. It’s painful, and we have to be mindful of our well-being when we come across that sort of behavior.
With 38% of trolling and bullying occurring on media platforms, LinkedIn is a plausible host to unkind comments and conversations.
Don’t fall into this trap, and instead use LinkedIn as a platform to spread motivation and positivity. Thank members who provide feedback and comments on your posts. Take the time to respond and grow the conversation.
Also take note that once you’ve spent time being an observer and posting content, magic goes down in the comments chains. Being a valuable source of content in the comment area translates often into sales, productive business conversations and eventual relationships offline and on the phone (or over coffee). This is the gold of LinkedIn groups.
Who you are online doesn’t have to be anyone different than who you are in real life, so, remain authentic. Authenticity is all about representing your true beliefs and embodying your natural self. We have all witnessed people completely transform online into a different persona, and to be honest, it’s painful to watch. There is only one you, so don’t be someone else just because there is a screen in front of you.
Most of all, avoid leaving generic replies like “great article.” That is going to get you forgotten, or remembered, for a bad reason, very quickly.
Stop wasting your time, and start using LinkedIn to truly build your credibility and your career.
You never know who you are going to connect with in a group, and what value its members will bring into your life.
As Melinda Gates says, “Deep human connection is the purpose, and the result of a meaningful life.”
So take note friends.
I'm a career coach, keynote speaker, podcast host (You Turn Podcast) and author, here to help you step into a career you're excited about and aligned with.