Monday, July 22, 2013

LinkedIn Groups Isn't Just for Breakfast Anymore

Cue the iconic Beatles’ birthday song, “Duh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh, they say it’s your birthday!” because LinkedIn just rounded its 10th birthday. Lest you think no 10-year-old should get this much attention, here is a fun fact sanctioning the celebration.

This form of social media boasts a membership of 225 million worldwide users with an additional two members adding in per second, per day.

There is a perception that LinkedIn is just for job seekers. That’s not the case, however. The reality is that you are being vetted by a potential client through LinkedIn right now.

While there is scads to know about LinkedIn, I’d like to focus on the often missed opportunity that lies under the “groups” tab of your LinkedIn profile. (This is located somewhat in the upper left-hand quadrant of the page, the fourth tab over.)

Think of LinkedIn groups as a constitutional first amendment right to assemble, albeit virtually. That way you will feel as though it’s really your duty as an American to take the time to use the groups function.

The value in using LinkedIn groups lies in the fact that you can generate leads, engage with people you wouldn’t normally have access to, develop quality contacts, establish yourself as an expert, keep current in your field of expertise, let interested parties know about your company’s offerings, post notifications of company seminars and events, and publish snippets of your writings with links to the full meal deal.

It’s best to begin by choosing groups pertaining directly to what you do for a living. If you’re not sure where to start or what names to tap to get results, have no fear; LinkedIn automatically suggests groups for you as you go along. A word of caution here. Sometimes these suggestions are rather like your grandmother’s attempts to fix you up with “that nice boy down at the supermarket.” Not exactly what you’re looking for.

As director of client services and marketing for a law firm, one of my goals in 2013 is to optimize my LinkedIn usage by becoming more active in groups, specifically groups pertaining to labor and employment law. I set out to do this by focusing on a specific event we were planning. In this way I could target my posts and track activity easily while assessing results in a short period of time. Translation: I was going to try something new for a while and see if it worked.

In a three-week period, I noted — via Google Analytics — a substantial uptick in LinkedIn referrals to our website, I interacted with several new contacts who expressed an interest in both our event and our practice, I registered new contacts for our seminar, and one of our attorneys met with a potential new client. I assessed this as a successful “do this more than once” endeavor.

Why not take a second to explore the possibilities in the groups section? Scroll over to the “groups” drop-down menu where you will see these four options:

• Your groups — This will show you a list of the groups in which you are a member.
• Groups you may like — These are suggestions for you based upon your connections, the type of industry you are in, and/or your interests.
• Groups directory — This reflects all group choices available to you.
• Create a group — You can create your own group, which can be extremely beneficial. However, if you’ve got enough to do already, just add it to your bucket list.

There are about a million groups to choose from and that’s not just hyperbole. You can amass up to 50 and, believe me, that’s plenty. In fact, don’t join that many because you need to visit these groups more frequently than you do your taxes.

You are not looking to garner a master’s degree in LinkedIn, so a targeted approach is desirable. Know that you are free to leave a LinkedIn group at will and, no, LinkedIn will not trumpet that fact to the world at large or to your connections.

In a nutshell: LinkedIn Groups are useful. Try a few and view them with what I call the “cornflakes for breakfast approach.” You like cornflakes for breakfast, and hey, that’s great, but would you like to eat cornflakes for breakfast every day? Try something new with LinkedIn and see if you can get some traction. If not: Buy a box of cornflakes and call it a day.