5 Ways to Use LinkedIn Groups to Build Influential Connections

social media toolsIf you want to build truly influential relationships online, you have to find places where you can consistently add value, spend quality time and have engaging conversations with members of your target demographic.

LinkedIn Groups offers one of the best ways to make the most of your social media engagement time, but you must adopt the right strategy to be successful. This article will show you how.

LinkedIn allows you to join up to 50 groups, but you can’t possibly be effective and spend enough time to make a difference in 50 groups.

What works best is to focus your time and effort on a deep and narrow approach in order to build influence within LinkedIn Groups, enhance your credibility and generate new connections.

Here’s how:

#1: Identify the Best Group Opportunities

Evaluate the groups you’ve joined or intend to join and focus on the top 3 to 5 groups that most accurately represent your target demographic. Also, you’ll want to choose groups that don’t have a huge membership.

I recommend that you choose groups that have at least a few hundred members, but no more than a few thousand if you really want to maximize your visibility.

Plan to proactively visit each of your top groups 2-3 times a week. Don’t wait for the daily or weekly updates that come to your email inbox. Identify your best opportunities and plan to make frequent and consistent appearances!

Find groups that represent your target demographic.

#2: Target the Most Popular Discussions in Each Group

The most “popular” discussions within a group generally get the most visibility. These are the topics where members are most actively engaged and they feature discussions that you will want to weigh in on. The most popular discussions are at the top of the group discussion page, and typically there will be quite a few comments associated with them for you to review and learn from.

Participate in popular discussions.

As you weigh in on popular discussions, respond to existing comments, provide an insight or opinion or even ask a thought-provoking question to generate additional comments. You can also “Like” and “Share” these discussions with your connections.

If your comments add value to the popular discussions, members will begin to recognize you as a thought leader within the group.

#3: Start Your Own Discussion

Starting your own discussion thread is also a powerful tool within a group, but you must be strategic with this. I recommend that you wait to start your own discussion until after you’ve spent some time participating in the top discussions first (#2).

In addition, observe the contributions of the most active group members in order to understand their concerns, goals and objectives. What seems to be important to them?

Also study prior popular discussions. What topics have resonated with members? In starting your own discussion, pose a question, ask for help or advice or post a relevant and interesting article or resource for the group’s benefit. Your goal with starting your own discussion is to encourage as much engagement as possible!

Start a discussion by asking a compelling question.

Start a discussion by providing a helpful tutorial for the group members.

If you’re truly engaging members of the group with the discussions you initiate, you’ll have the opportunity to be recognized as a “Top Influencer” in the group page sidebar, which can help you build visibility and authority within the group.

Focus on becoming a "top influencer" for greater visibility in LinkedIn Groups.

Note: It’s extremely important to add value when starting discussions and avoid promoting your own products, services or content. After you’ve earned some credibility within your top groups, it’s acceptable to post one of your own articles from time to time. Just make sure that what you post to the group answers a question or solves a problem with members, and don’t ever post sales-related material.

#4: Follow Up and Follow Through

One of the disadvantages of LinkedIn Groups is that it’s difficult to keep up with updates unless you proactively visit your top groups as recommended. Make sure to keep up with the conversations you’re participating in.

Don’t let too much time lapse and don’t leave a conversation open. Keep your comments fresh and interesting to demonstrate your commitment to your groups.

Also consider handing out “Likes” for interesting posts by group members and share valuable posts as LinkedIn status updates. When you share a group discussion post as a status update, you’re exposing it to all of your connections and giving the post greater visibility within LinkedIn. Promoting and connecting others on LinkedIn can build social influence.

#5: Start Your Own Group

If you’re willing to make the commitment, another option is to start your own LinkedIn Group. If you manage your own group, you have control over many aspects of your group. To an extent, you can control which discussions get more visibility through the “Manager’s Choice” feature.

As a group owner, you will have control over the "Manager's Choice" discussions.

As the founder of the group, it’s actually your job to lead discussions with the group! Ultimately it will be the members who push the most interesting discussions to the top. When you start your own group, make sure that you have a well-defined niche or theme. Otherwise you may not get much traction. Focus on bringing people together who can benefit from sharing mutual experiences and insights.

Using this approach for your LinkedIn Group participation strategy can help you maximize your time and energy on the network. Making a commitment to adding value to a small number of targeted groups on a consistent basis will help you build influence and new connections. In addition, you’ll find that there’s little competition in this strategy!

What strategies are you currently using within LinkedIn Groups? Are you finding relevant groups for your industry where you can truly add value? I would love to hear about your experiences. Leave your comments in the box below.

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About the Author, Stephanie Sammons

Stephanie Sammons is the Founder and CEO of Wired Advisor, where she teaches financial advisors and business professionals how to build digital influence to win clients. Other posts by »




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  • http://twitter.com/mailblaze Spiro Malamoglou

    Carefully explained and easy to implement instructions, thanks for the post. Looking forward to reading more of your articles.

  • http://www.colemanmg.com Antonio Coleman

    Stephanie I was told about these type of groups on Linkedin..but just haven’t hap the time to go over there and jumping..but thanks for given us some insight of it..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=13803832 Nick Robinson

    I literally started using Linkedin Groups about 2 months ago, and I have already generated a speaking engagement, created a partnership, and am in talks to start a new series of events. This is from participating in 3 groups! Well worth the investment of time.

  • http://blog.prnewswire.com/author/sarahskerik/ Sarah Skerik

    I actually find more value (in terms of connections) in the Answers section. I’m not saying Groups don’t have value – far from it. But the vibe in Groups that I’ve observed is more self serving. Over in the Answers section, it’s my observation that folks get down to business.

  • http://aremorch.com/ Are Morch

    Great info and reminder here Stephanie.

    LinkedIn goes in sparks for me. This year I been working on some new and constructive ways to focus on more targeted actions. Some good ideas here that I will implement in my strategies.

    Cheers.. Are

  • http://www.stephaniesammons.com/ Stephanie Sammons

    Marketing is a commitment. You have to engage to get value!

  • http://www.stephaniesammons.com/ Stephanie Sammons

    Nick, congrats! I’ve had similar results. Hands down you are going to generate opportunities for yourself if you do this right!

  • http://www.stephaniesammons.com/ Stephanie Sammons

    That’s a great point. There are many groups where all you see are promotions. However, if the group has a good manager who is committed to keeping that sort of thing out, and the Group Rules are reinforced, you’ll see much greater value. Answering questions is also a great strategy. Combining the two in your niche market is quite powerful.

  • http://www.stephaniesammons.com/ Stephanie Sammons

    Thanks Are. Linked in has been growing very rapidly lately, adding a million new members a month. I think it’s going to continue to be a powerful network for professionals!

  • http://simplystatedbusiness.com Cathy Miller

    I have always been a big fan of LinkedIn. Ever since they changed the format of Groups, I find it more difficult to follow. It appears to be more difficult to get a new posted question noticed as well. I’m wondering if anyone else feels the same way.

    Despite the challenges, however, it still remains my favorite social media platform.

  • http://www.stephaniesammons.com/ Stephanie Sammons

    Cathy thanks for sharing. I think it depends on how members are staying updated (via email digest or visiting the group page) and how many members a group has in general. If there are lots of active members it is harder to get a question noticed. A good group manager, however, should be moderating frequently and weighing in on discussions if they are valuable to the group, and that can help with visibility. Also, posting discussions more consistently can help. They haven’t perfected the format, but over time I believe Groups will become easier to navigate. For example, with the new “Open Groups” feature, my hope is that we’ll see RSS feeds for groups.

  • Lamar Morgan

    Stephanie,

    I have been on LinkedIn for some time, but rarely used it until recently. Your article was just what I needed to read. I have been overwhelmed by LinkedIn as too many comments from too many discussions have entered my Gmail inbox. But, that’s not LinkedIn’s fault. It’s mine because I did not understand what I was doing. Thanks so much for the guidance. I really needed it.

    Lamar Morgan

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  • http://www.simplelogicstudio.com Adam Viccaro

    Stephanie, thank you for sharing your insights. I’ve been focusing mainly on Facebook & Twitter lately, and just haven’t had the chance to really dive into Linkedin yet. This will definitely be a good guide and starting point for me.

  • Stacia Rubinovich

    Sarah, it really depends on the group. Some are full of shameless self-promoters, and some are good forums for discussion.

    Someone suggested to me to “repurpose” my responses and questions in both groups and Answers: copy and paste what you submitted in one into the others. It spreads the knowledge/discussion around, and it gets your name out there.

  • Stacia Rubinovich

    Really enjoyed your article, Stephanie, and the discussion it generated.

    I tend to join a lot of groups, because it enables me to send free messages to more people I might be interested in contacting. But I think you are completely correct that one needs to focus one’s attention on just the select few.

    I see what you mean about standing out more in smaller groups, but then again, the audience is much smaller. Given that I live in Canada, I need a fairly wide audience to find at least a few potential business partners.

    BTW, does anyone have any stats on the number of people who read/participate in LI Answers?

  • Sandy Dell

    I started my own group “Selling Wholesale to Gift Shops” nearly a year ago. Membership climbed very slowly. Several months ago, I added my blog posts to the site and have engaged with nearly every conversation that was posted. Now my group is growing in leaps and bounds. Many of my members are posting questions and answers to other member questions! It has been a great resource to all. I would encourage anyone who has a business niche they wish to market to start their own group!

    Sandy
    http://www.SellingtoGiftShops.com

  • Jennifer

    Stephanie,

    I agree that Linkedin groups can be a valuable resource. Not just the groups but Linkedin in general. I a, looking for ways to take full advantage of the opportunities available withing the Linkedin communities and your post gave me a way to get things moving. I joined groups that were large in membership. While I may remain within some of the groups, I am thinking about utilizing some of the subgroups offered more effectively.

    Thanks for the great information,

    Jenn

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  • http://www.stephaniesammons.com/ Stephanie Sammons

    I love it! That’s funny and I echo your sentiments!

  • http://www.stephaniesammons.com/ Stephanie Sammons

    Lamar you have a great point. If you change your email settings to receive “weekly” digests it is much more manageable. But really the key is to just focus on that small number of groups that are most relevant to your business. I belong to lots of groups but only participate in a handful.

  • http://www.stephaniesammons.com/ Stephanie Sammons

    Great! LinkedIn and Twitter are integrating more and more and I think you’ll find that spending time on both of those for business will generate some results.

  • http://www.stephaniesammons.com/ Stephanie Sammons

    Have no idea on those stats but with Answers, the key there is also being consistent. You’d be surprised with the smaller groups at what you might accomplish…just make sure they are active. That’s the important thing.

  • http://www.stephaniesammons.com/ Stephanie Sammons

    Thanks so much for sharing that Sandy! I also own a group and have worked hard to grow the membership but at some point, it does take on a life of it’s own! As the group owner, you know how important it is to be present and I promise you that is why you’ve had success…because you are engaged with your members!

  • http://www.stephaniesammons.com/ Stephanie Sammons

    Thanks for mentioning subgroups. That’s an excellent way to build influence within a larger group.

  • http://eroticfreepress.org Publisher, Erotic Free Press

    I belong to the mas 50 groups of which 12 are ones I started. I keep up with mine and about 6 of the others daily…great article thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/garywschrader Gary Schrader

    Hi Stephanie,

    Great article – it was very informative, and also covered the basic idea that groups are a forum for discussion, not a platform for sales and self-promotion.

    About a month ago, I started to build a pretty niche group called “HR Japan Roundtable” and have been trying to manage the group similarly to the advice that you mentioned above. We have grown to 100 members inside a month, but I would like to create greater momentum since I see a strong need for this type of discussion in Japan.

    I am wondering if you may have some more advice or resources that can help educate me to best grow this group – while keeping uniform with my overall mission for the group?

    Best Regards,
    Gary

  • Joycefeustel

    Excellent ideas – thanks for sharing. I have especially gotten a lot out of the Toastmasters group on LinkedIn, being I am a longtime member of Toastmasters. Also, I like being in groups where I want to learn more, such as various groups on social media.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    John, you crack me up :)

  • http://www.stephaniesammons.com/ Stephanie Sammons

    Wow that’s awesome!

  • Edna S

    Stephanie,

    Thank you for this post. I’ve been wondering where I could find tips on the do’s and don’ts for Linkedin. Your information was exactly what I needed. I’ll be sure to start applying them. Thanks again!

  • http://simplystatedbusiness.com Cathy Miller

    Thanks, Stephanie. I agree the group owner has a lot to do with it. Even the emails (at least the ones I receive) show the discussions with the most activity as opposed to new discussions or other parameters. Different strokes-I just found the old format easier to scan through to see what piqued my interest.

  • Julie M

    Thanks. This helped me to focus and to understand LinkedIn a bit more clearly.

  • http://www.stephaniesammons.com/ Stephanie Sammons

    Hi Gary,

    A few ideas: promote your group around the web…on your website, blog, and through other social media accounts. In addition, promote it in your email signature and through your email marketing campaigns (if it fits). Find those online social circles where prospective members might be and tell them about it. Comment on relevant blogs and link to the group. Finally, you can upgrade your LinkedIn account and do more advanced searches and send invites to prospects for your group. (there are limitations on this)

    Hope these ideas can help!
    Stephanie

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  • http://www.leaderscafe.co.uk Kwai Yu

    As a Linkedin Group owner myself – my experience is that it is still down to quality content. Quality discussions will rise to the top.

    Stephanie’s other observation is also true about group size. In the early days, I belonged to a number of groups that have 10′s of thousands of members. My discussion just got no chance at all – even if it was a quality discussion.

    Great post Stephanie. Thanks.

  • Tom George

    Excellent post Stephanie. I will be sure to use these tips and suggestions on LinkedIn. Thanks.

  • http://www.bluebanana.co.nz Linda Coles @ Blue Banana 20

    A great read with some interesting views to try. Many thanks Stephanie :)

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  • http://twitter.com/Annephilia anne rajkumari

    Great post Stephanie. Quora is a growing new competition for good conversations. I am a big fan of LinkedIn and I used to be very active in LinkedIn Groups, but now I have switched to Quora for asking intriguing questions and answering. I wonder what the scene for Quora and LinkedIn Groups would be in the coming months.

  • http://www.mysocialmania.com Steven Wilson

    This is great information. I am just getting involved with LinkedIn groups and I agree with all the tips in this post.

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  • http://softwarebuzzer.com/ Suresh Kumar

    I never experimented the linked groups. Even am not aware of existance , this time i will tryout , thanks for sharing info mate :)

  • http://lighthouseinsights.in/ Prasant Naidu

    Love your idea of how and what groups one needs to join and yes we cant manage 10 groups. better find 3/4 groups in which we can concentrate.

    cheers,
    Prasant

  • http://lighthouseinsights.in/ Prasant Naidu

    @Stephanie.
    while i was reading the post and the user comments one question bounced in my head. For eg: i create a group and right now it has 100 members within 6 mths say it goes to 10000(imagine :d). now as a group admin i know there are say 100 active members and around 1000 are not responding or not interested etc…various reasons.
    what shall i do as a group admin to control my members of group as you have mentioned a point in the beginning of article-”I recommend that you choose groups that have at least a few hundred members, but no more than a few thousand if you really want to maximize your visibility”.

  • Karen Lancaster

    Great info. Thanks so much. I now realize that I have been using this tool in the completely wrong manner. Will need to go back and start again.

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  • Guest

    Thanks for all the great knowledge you share on this site.
    Just a short testimonial to show that proof is really in the eating!

    I combined your Linkedin tips with some of the other information you shared on Blogging and Twitter and I can testify that your tips work. No surprise to you of course :-)

    Recently I have started to experiment with actively participating in (existing) Linkedin Groups, Blogging on my site, putting it on Linkedin and linking this with Twitter, and I have found that with a minimum of effort I have more than quadrupled the number of unique visitors to my site. Twitter and Linkedin are currently the largest traffic drivers. And yes, it takes time on a daily basis, but is really fun to do and very rewarding.

  • Catarina Alexon

    Good article. Would like to add that people commenting in discussions must not parrot what someone else has already said. It happens frequently in Linkedin groups and are done by people that want to give an impression they are experts on a subject they don’t know much about. Some even copy and paste from, say Wikipedia and pretend it’s their point of view.

    So when you encourage people to make comments you really should add that by parroting they only impress people not worth impressing. The ones they want to make an impression on will realize what they are doing.

    More on this in my article “Be yourself – instead of – parroting!” http://catarinasworld.com/http:/catarinasworld.com/be-yourself-instead-of-parroting

  • skay

    Stephanie

    A lot of the B2B marketeers believe Groups form an excellent platform for ‘generating leads’ in the long run. Do you endorse this too? Is it actually the best place for connections..and possible leads?

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  • http://www.nixonvs.com/ Nixon Virtual Strategies

    Regarding #5, I’ve got a few tips that are gospel.  My group grew so fast, but more notably had dialogue so engaging that more than a few discussions had hundreds of comments (one had 700+).  The group became too large and engaged to manage alone but it does still exist although hidden for now.  The group was also contacted directly by LinkedIn to test the beta version of the new format we see and use today.  We don’t love all of it, but at least we had a say (and I’m still in that group discussion).

    It annoys me to see so many groups boasting large memberships but with thousands of posts and not even one comment.  A lazy manager can ruin what could be a good group but I genuinely believe most don’t realize that it is a serious task to undertake.  Co-managers can be great and I still lend myself to other groups that want my assistance growing and engaging their groups.

    A few more tips are outlined in a blog post of mine (http://bit.ly/gI2JED  LinkedIn Groups 101: Design Your Group *BEFORE* Sending Invitations) but I’ll share a few here.  Feel free to read and share a comment there if you’d like.

    Outline your group rules. While you will want to post them within the group, include them in the automated welcome message template, too.  People who are going to spam your group won’t stop to read rules.  If you’re very explicit in your rules in your welcome message template, they’ll at least review that first as they’ll receive it in email as soon as they’re accepted.

    Once you’ve got your group all set and members are joining, keep your content fresh by culling discussions with minimal comments. For CWC we decided discussions with less than 5 comments after a month would be deleted. This is good for your group. First, when new members join, they aren’t left to dig through old posts that generated no interest. Secondly, all members get to see what subjects work and don’t and can follow suit to keep the conversations going.

    There are other secrets that I didn’t share in the article but groups such as Forbes Woman are using today.  Make your group sticky by engaging members and be sure that YOU, as the owner, comment on just about every post, too.  It lets members know you’re not just promoting what it is you are, but that you’re also listening.  A good debate is healthy for a group.

    One other quick tip.  Group owners often try to be diplomatic and democratic about how they run their groups.  They ask questions in discussions and want opinions about what other members want, would like to see, etc.

    Better to use LinkedIn Polls.  There is no way in the world to easily poll results, especially for larger groups.  Polls give you enough options to slice up your results and see what’s popular with whom.  Age, profession, etc.  Use them to your advantage.  Why do you think magazines often have surveys and polls?  Because people enjoy the voting and seeing the results live.  So entertain your members and get useful information, too!

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  • stevec77

    I am going to introduce a new computer peripheral aimed at professionals. Once it is launched, can I start a user group for it on Linkedin?

  • http://www.nixonvs.com/ Nixon Virtual Strategies

    You most certainly can start a user group on LinkedIn but I wouldn’t wait until after the launch.  Set it beforehand so you can build it and have it ready for your grand opening with content, polls, etc.  

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