We have never met or even spoken on the phone but I know you, and I also know that you’re a smart person who knows what they’re talking about….I might even go so far as to say I trust you or at least I feel that I could trust you.

How can this be?

I know you through LinkedIn, and more specifically I know you through our joint membership of a LinkedIn group. It was in this group that I first came across you when you commented on a discussion I had posted.

Since that time we have interacted on many occasions and I have read your profile which further reinforced my view that you know what you are talking about.

From those interaction I may know that you’re the perfect hire, consultant or solution provider for my business.

Such is the power of LinkedIn groups!

Many of you will not be able to relate to this story, if your experience of groups on LinedIn has been anything but positive!

There are millions of groups and the vast majority are poorly run and populated by spammers and well meaning but flawed members who treat them like a notice board rather than the interactive forums they are supposed to be.

That said, groups can be a great place to meet with like-minded professionals and prospects, the key is a) finding the right group and b) behaving in the correct manner within the group.

Finding the right group

There are now two types of groups. Listed and Unlisted.

Listed groups can be found in one of three ways.

  1. You can search for groups, just select groups from the menu and type relevant keywords in the search fielda Guide to LinkedIn Groups
  2. There is a ‘Discover’ page in your groups section where LinkedIn will suggest groups you may be interested in.
  3. You will find groups in the profiles of their members, just scroll down to near the bottom of someone’s profile and you will see the logos of those groups they are in.

This third method is by far the most productive because the main reason you wish to join a group is because of who is already in it (so that you can interact with them).

Unlisted groups are private and cannot be found, the only way you can join is to be invited. This is a recent change and group managers/owners are still deciding whether to make their group listed or unlisted.

I suspect that in time, the best conversations will happen in unlisted groups and listed groups will be full of spam but it’s still too early to say.

My advice is to ask your connections if they can recommend any groups, word of mouth (or mouse!) is undoubtedly your best option, failing that it can be a bit trial and error. I tend to find the best conversations often happen in smaller, niche groups (500-5000 members in a tight, focussed niche).

How to behave in groups

The best way to think about a group is to imagine that you are meeting the other members face to face. Behave in a respectful and cooperative manner in the same way as you would if you were with them in person.

Once you have observed the activity in a group (assuming it’s productive activity) then start by contributing to other member’s discussions (now called ‘conversations’ in the new group format).

Aim to add value, answer questions (without selling), offer valuable resources (again no selling) and work hard to be seen to be putting effort into the community.

Your aim is to gain visibility and credibility. You are not there to sell or promote, let your profile do that.

Focus on helping others and asking for help (humility will help you build trust).

Avoid the following activities and you won’t go far wrong;

  • Posting links. Links are OK in support of a discussion but not in isolation as they discourage engagement.
  • Selling or promotion of any sort, even subtle. Just don’t do it!
  • Too much ‘liking’ – liking is fine when you are pushed for time but if the majority of your contribution involves liking then you will be seen as disinterested. It’s equivalent to that person in a meeting who keeps nodding their head but never has anything to say!

Once you feel that you are part of the community you can start connecting with other members and potentially consider developing the relationship offline.

If you share a group with someone you can contact them directly from within the group, free of charge, irrespective of where they are in your network.

This has always been a big advantage to groups but in the recent changes LinkedIn unbelievably forgot to put the member search box back into the new design! This makes group messaging almost impossible but they will be fixing this soon.

Groups for event professionals

As well as joining the groups that your prospects belong to, there are several groups where you can interact with other event professionals such as;

Why not try starting your own group?

Running a group can be a very time consuming exercise and I’m not sure there is a lot of value in your starting a typical group that will be around for years to come but if you run conferences or exhibitions you could consider starting a group for each event.

This would probably be an unlisted group where you invite delegates, speakers and exhibitors to join and interact before, during and after the event.

This could be a great way to create a buzz before your event and encourage delegates to start networking online before they meet in person at the event, therefore maximising the benefit of the conference/exhibition.

Summary

Groups have had a bit of a bad press in recent years but LinkedIn have now re-designed them with the intention of improving the experience for members so if you have written them off in the past, perhaps you should try again and maybe you might find more people think that you are alright!

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