6 ways to get the most out of LinkedIn Groups

The party's in full swing, and you're invited. Just make sure you're a welcome guest with something significant to contribute. Here's what you should know.

By Matt Haskell | Posted: March 8, 2013

If you are on LinkedIn to connect with businesspeople, LinkedIn Groups is where the party is happening. Sometimes you get invited, sometimes everyone is welcome, and sometimes the party gets a little wild. You can even get turned away at the door.

To get the most out of LinkedIn Groups, you need to learn how to be the life of the party—not a wallflower or a party crasher. Here's how:

1. Don't be a party crasher

Few things are worse in a group than a member who continually "spams" discussions with his direct advertisements for products or services, or starts discussions with direct-sales tactics, pitching what he's selling. Linking to a blog and asking a question regarding your own content are both fine, but the quickest way to get kicked out of groups is to constantly pitch your stuff.

Don't focus solely on sharing your own content. This is a community, after all, so comment on and share other people's articles in your status updates; it's a great way to build your network and start conversations.

2. Don't join too many groups

Join a variety of groups, keying on those with high numbers of members and very active discussions, but be careful not to join too many (the maximum is 50), because keeping up just becomes too hard.

A handy way to keep up with discussions you started is to hover over the "notifications" flag on your LinkedIn home page and see who's commented on or "liked" your discussions. (It's also a great way to make connections.)

3. Use the "Share" feature to post to multiple groups

Do you have a company update, a blog post, or an article that you'd like to share with several groups at once? Either post it as your status and click "Share" or do the same from your company page. When sharing to multiple groups, make sure you change the title to fit the group and rephrase your introductions to make them discussion starters.

Some blog posts or articles might be appropriate across various groups, but be sure not to share an article or start a discussion in multiple groups that have very different interests. Chances are, your retail banking network group doesn't really care to hear about marketing strategies for higher education.

You can share your discussions and articles to batches of separate groups with targeted titles and details to fit the mission of several groups at once. For example, if you are a member of numerous social media groups, make sure the title of the discussion fits those groups and you aren't also pushing that discussion to unrelated groups.

4. Join groups for your target market

If you use LinkedIn for prospecting or business development, you likely aren't going to find much use in joining only groups of other marketers. So join groups in your target markets, too. Doing so will help identify conversations going on among your customers, and you can respond to inquiries and discussion to spawn new business.

A great function of LinkedIn Groups is that they allow you to listen. When you are a member of groups pertaining to your target audience, you have the opportunity to eavesdrop and find out what is truly important to your audience. It's a great way to do market research.

5. Ask questions systematically: polls

Polls are a great way to help you make smarter business decisions. They also make your discussions the most popular on the board, boost your influence, and make connections.

Ask your group members a question that you face in your business. Especially if you are in groups with your target audience, asking a polling question can help you solve client problems and make smarter decisions. Polls also open further discussions when group members comment on the results of the poll.

In addition to providing valuable market research, polls add great visual appeal to the look of a page and so boost your clout in the group.

6. Sometimes it's OK to "take it outside"

LinkedIn Groups aren't necessarily meant for prospecting and lead generation, but sometimes discussions can lead to real opportunities. Occasionally, a participant in a discussion or a poll will want to know more about how to start working with your company or might like to take advantage of your product or service offerings.

Rather than continuing that discussion in the public arena, "take it outside" by requesting to connect with the group member and sending a direct message that offers more information about your product. Doing so in a group would come off as solicitation, but it can be mutually beneficial if your new connection wants to learn more in a private setting.

LinkedIn facilitates such interactions by letting you request connections with group members, even if they are not second- or third-degree connections.