LinkedIn groups are one of the killer features among all social media, but they go grossly under-utilized.
While there are more than 2 million groups currently listed on LinkedIn, with more than half of all LinkedIn users belonging to at least one group, most people fail to grasp what these groups really are: Markets. These are real people rallied around a specific industry, interest or idea.
Some LinkedIn heavy users understand this, and more than a few of them have leveraged LinkedIn groups to grow their businesses, find leads or network super-efficiently.
It’s these people from whom you can learn the most, and with their expertise we have put together this step-by-step guide to harnessing the power of LinkedIn groups. Here are 31 LinkedIn experts offering advice on everything from how to find a group to how to build and export a list of prospects sourced entirely from LinkedIn groups.
Finding the Right Groups
1. Start With Search
Hannah Clark at HootSuite recommends using a variety of keywords to narrow down your search. Include the name of your industry and related search terms, but also be sure to search for groups by other parameters such as location.
2. Look at Recommended Groups
Or, as Dave Chaffey suggests at SmartInsights, simply select “Groups” in the search and leave the search field itself blank, then hit the magnifying glass search button. This will give you a list of all 2 million-plus groups already sorted by what LinkedIn’s algorithm considers relevant for you.
3. Look at More Recommended Groups
Likewise, LinkedIn’s recommendations engine will try to connect you with relevant groups anyway. The folks at EHL Marketing in Leicester, England, point out that the page that shows who has visited your profile includes groups the algorithm concludes will boost your profile’s visibility.
4. Scrutinize How Well-Managed the Group Is
Wired Advisor CEO Stephanie Sammons writes in Social Media Examiner that a good group will likely have a visible manager who leads discussions when necessary and moderates posts to keep the discussions on-point and free of spam. Also, a good group should have a clearly defined set of rules regarding participation.
5. Check the Group’s Stats
“LinkedIn Group Statistics doesn’t only tell you how many members are in a group or how active those members are; it also gives you other key insights about the group’s members such as locations, seniority, function, and industry,” veteran social media consultant Maurice Rahmey writes at HubSpot.
To get a group’s stats, simply go to the group’s main page and click the “i” icon beside the big, gold “Join” button at the top right of the page.
6. Scan For an Abundance of Fake Profiles
LinkedIn is better than some other social media platforms in keeping out fake profiles, but they sprout like weeds regardless. Give a group’s members list a cursory look to make sure it isn’t bloated with fake profiles.
Dutch recruiter Jacco Valkenburg offers a few fake profile red flags at GlobalRecruitingRoundTable.com. These include all lowercase names, a thin resume with no start/end dates, few connections, a generic professional title (e.g. “international sales professional”) and a portrait image that looks like a stock photo (hint: it probably is).
7. Go For at Least a Few Big Groups
LinkedIn specialist Wayne Breitbarth shares in his Top 5 LinkedIn Secrets whitepaper [PDF] one very practical insight: LinkedIn users who are members of your groups but who are not 1st, 2nd or 3rd connections will still appear in your search results. That means more connections via groups open up the entire LinkedIn network more widely to you.
“Make a conscious effort to join the larger groups in your geographic region and your industry as well as groups related to your other interests,” he writes.
8. Max Out Your Group Membership Quota
This is an amendment to Breitbarth’s advice above: You have a limit of 50 groups you can join, and you should join all 50 groups you’re allowed to. Talent acquisition professional (read: heavy LinkedIn user) Katharine Robinson tells the Undercover Recruiter that the more groups you join, the larger your network as well as the number of people who can find you in their own LinkedIn searches.
LinkedIn Groups Etiquette and Best Practices (i.e. How Not To Annoy Everyone With Your Self-Promotion)
9. Start by Simply Listening
LinkedIn Influencer Jeff Haden recommends in Inc. Magazine that you should never barge into a group and start trying to drive conversations. “No one likes the guy who walks up and takes over a conversation at a party,” he writes. “Watch, listen, and get a feel for how the group operates. Then gradually start to participate.”
10. Then, Introduce Yourself
Once you have let enough “don’t be that guy” time pass, do as you would do at any social gathering: Say “Hello” and introduce yourself. This is both basic politeness and strategic, social media trainer Maria Peagler writes in SocialMediaOnlineClasses.com.
“Once you join a group, do an introductory discussion introducing yourself, what you do, and what you hope to provide and get from the group,” she says. “You’ll immediately be welcomed by the group’s most active members.”
11. Don’t Join With the Intention of Self-Promoting Exclusively
12. Actually, Consider an Even Lower Ratio of Self-Promotion Than That
LinkedIn marketer Josh Turner writes on his blog, LinkedSelling, that a 10:1 ratio of other people’s content to your own makes you a much better group member. “Set up your RSS reader with a ton of blogs and sites that you follow and rely on for great content,” he writes. “This will really cut down on the time needed to constantly be looking for content.”
Bonus tip from Josh: “And DEFINITELY don’t post your own content every single day in the same groups. Pick your battles.”
13. Share Generously
Content marketer and creative director at My Media Labs Mike Mintz writes at Business2Community.com that this spirit of generosity is important in building a better group. “The main point of group membership is GIVE,” Mintz writes. “It’s that simple. Membership in any group, whether online, in the real world, or otherwise is the pay it forward principle.”
14. This Principle, Too, Has a Strategic Element
15. Don’t Try to Spread Your Activity Across 50 Groups
“I reduced my groups to one or two in each key category and then focused on being an active, contributing member to those groups.”
16. Then, Connect Directly With Someone, Especially if You Are Building a List
“Once you’ve been interacting with someone in your group, and you’ve built up some familiarity, send them an invitation to connect on LinkedIn,” she writes. “Make sure to let them know why you want to connect, and remind them of your interaction in the Group.”
Creating Your Own LinkedIn Group
Eventually, you might need to call together a market with your own LinkedIn Group. Here are all the macro-level concerns you need to think about when creating your own LinkedIn group.
17. Set Clear Goals for What You Hope to Achieve
“The goals of your group will dictate many things — for example. whether your group will be a closed or open community. Goals can change over time, but you should have some — and they shouldn’t be about self-promotion.”
18. Optimize Your Group’s Name with Keywords
SEO on LinkedIn is a bit more rudimentary than when trying to rank your website on Google’s first page. As Michael Alexis writes in KISSmetrics, make sure the appropriate keywords are in your group’s title. No need to get fancy.
“Give your group a generic name with recognizable keywords (people are searching for these keywords, not your company). If you provide a local service, add the city/state name, as well.”
19. Lay Down Some House Rules
Marketing consultant Janet Aronica writes on the HubSpot inbound marketing blog that you as a group founder need to be clear and upfront about what is and what is not permissible in discussions and posts.
“Under the ‘manage’ tab, you will find the section where you can set some Group Rules to set clear expectations for what you hope members get out of participating with your LinkedIn group. … Give some tips on what members can do to make the most of the group, and in a direct but friendly way, make note of what won’t be tolerated.”
20. Reward Frequent Posters
Social business strategist Janet Fouts writes on her own blog that prominent users who contribute genuinely useful thoughts to the discussion need to be supported and encouraged. This is a key job for you as the group’s moderator. Fouts describes those users as “the catalyst to a thriving group.”
21. Be Fair But Firm in Your Moderation
Market researcher Dr. Brian Monger points out on Business2Community.com that “moderation” literally means to eliminate or cull extremes. This includes:
• not allowing aggressive or insulting commentary,
• calling out ambiguous posts for clarity,
• calling out posts that seek to filibuster or hinder a discussion, and
• letting posts slide when they are not necessarily on topic but are important or have a feel-good quality nonetheless.
22. You Might Have to Delete Someone’s Post or Ban Someone
Aggressive posters and spammers come with the territory, New Business Strategies President Christine Crandell notes in an interview with Inc. Magazine. “I learned the hard way that one overzealous member can cause the rest to disengage,” she says.
23. Still, Most Users Will Behave, and You Should Empower Them to Invite Others
Social media consultant Rich Brooks, in a Q&A post on his company’s blog, suggests that you should allow members to invite others to the group so it can grow quickly and organically. This option can be turned on in the Send Invitations panel on the Manage Group page.
As an added benefit, invited members are accepted without you having to manually approve each one, effectively automating part of the group vetting process..
24. Take Advantage of the Welcome Message Feature
“This means that you can create a decent sales funnel by first welcoming people to the group, telling them a little about how the group can benefit them and where they can go to get more information,” Howes writes. “Hopefully, you have them sign up for your newsletter, or connect with you on other social networking sites.”
25. You Can Also Segment
Olivier Taupin, who actually grew a business around his Linked:HR group because it got so big, doesn’t explicitly call it “segmenting” when Forbes’ Dan Schwabel spoke to him, but that’s essentially what subgroups are. Taupin gave one example of how a local segmentation strategy allowed a university professor to grow a Linked:HR subgroup of Argentine users to 4,000-plus members.
26. Create a Newsletter For Group Members to Move Some of Them Into Your Sales Funnel
PR strategist Gail Kent writes in Business2Community.com notes that group owners are allowed to send messages to all group members, no matter how big the group. She says her group’s weekly newsletter gives her a platform where she can invite members to connect on other social media or sign up for her mailing list.
“Obviously, you need to tread lightly on being too self-promotional or you will lose group members, but done with discretion, you have the ability to grow your list significantly using groups,” Kent writes.
Next-Level Tips and Tricks
27. Tap a Group For Market Research
This one can be easily abused, but with a little discretion, you can pull together some useful market data simply by reaching out to the members of a group you’re in. This tip comes from Sales Foundry founder Kurt Shaver in an interview with CIO.com:
“Join a LinkedIn Group whose members represent your market and simply pose your question. [Just] don’t be overly sales-y. For example, as a LinkedIn sales trainer, I asked a group of VPs of Sales what training methodologies they prefer (classroom, webinars, online self-study…).”
28. Scrape Group Lists for Both Influencers and Prospects
“See that list of group members? You can run a filtered search and instantly create a list of ready-made prospects based on specific job titles, company names, physical locations or any other criteria you want to sort by.”
29. Got a Good List of Contacts? You Can Export to a .CSV File
This trick, courtesy of HubSpot growth and optimization manager Pamela Vaughan, is so good it almost feels unfair. She writes on the HubSpot inbound marketing blog how to do this, and there are only a few steps:
1) Go to your Connections Page.
2) Click that gear in the top right of the page.
3) This will take you to the Manage Connections page, which has a link on the right that reads “Export LinkedIn Connections.” Click that.
4) Select the file type you would like to export your list as (.CSV or .VCF), and click the “Export” button.
30. Prioritize Your Best Groups
LinkedIn lets you organize the display order of your groups so that you can easily access the ones you most frequent. LinkedIn trainer Mark Stonham offers up this trick on Wurlwind.co.uk: Just go to your Privacy & Settings page; go the section labeled Groups, Companies & Applications; and click the link that reads “Select your group display order.”
Voilà, you can create a hierarchy of groups in which you’re active and the ones that simply boost your LinkedIn search optimization.
31. If You Post the Same Content to Multiple Groups, the Posts Won’t Likely Show Up at the Same Time
If you have spent enough time on LinkedIn at this point, you would be right to worry that submitting a post to, say, 5 groups will reveal you as a spammer in your activity feed.
Convert With Content’s VP of social media, Stephanie Frasco, says not to worry. The bottleneck created by group moderation will naturally space out those posts.
“That gives you the upper hand, because sometimes it takes a day or two before the post you shared even makes it to the leaderboard,” Frasco writes on Convert With Content’s blog. “So, while you might have shared something two days ago, it doesn’t show up on the newsfeed until it goes live in that group.”