Linkedin groups are a way of organizing members, content, and interactions around a common theme or topic. They have some basic features that make using Linkedin groups an attractive destination for anyone on the site. Knowing what groups to join, how you want to use a group, and what you’d like your role to be in it will make your Linkedin groups experience more meaningful and valuable to you.

What Linkedin Groups Should You Join?

which linkedin groups should you join?There are literally thousands of groups you can choose from. Depending on your goals in doing so, you can be very strategic and selective (only joining groups you will actually do stuff in) or all inclusive (joining every group that is remotely related to your work or interests).

As with most things, a middle ground approach is likely best, because it will be easier to keep track of what is going on in the group, help you to make more meaningful interactions with other members, and keep your email inbox from getting too cluttered with group notifications.

Managing Emails from Linkedin: Keeping the Inbox Clean

Linkedin has a very good notification system to let you know what is happening in the groups you join. The default options, however, are set to send you the maximum amount of notifications, which can result in an email pile up from the site.

Here is a simple way to change the notifications you receive from Linkedin groups:

  1. Go to the group that is sending you a ton of notifications
  2. On the group’s main page, just under the logo, click the tab “More” and on the pull down menu that appears, click “My Settings”
  3. You will see four notification categories that you can check or uncheck:
    1. Activity – this will send you a new message for each new discussion in the group; deal if you are managing the group, annoying you are in a group with any kind of regular activity
    2. Digest Email – this sends you a digest of all activities in the group. You can adjust your frequency (recommended) to be daily or weekly.
    3. Announcements – this allows the group manager to send you email directly, but only once a week. I find that managers are usually good with this function, and do not abuse it. Check it if your group manager is sending you useful exclusives like free ebooks, invites to webinars, or other goodies.
    4. Member Messages – this allows group members to send you messages directly to your email box. If you are an influencer or in a group with like minded professionals that you would like to deepen your online relationships with then check this box. Uncheck it if you find that your group is full of trolls, spammers, or self interested consultants from foreign countries who just want to sell you something.
  4. Note: there is a box underneath your email preference in the group that says, “Updates” and allows you to change your settings for group Network Updates. This will change what you see on your profile news feed, and when you click Account Settings, you will have a menu of many options to choose from of which network activity you want to see on your feed.

Take some time to play around with notification settings and be selective about what you choose to receive. Nothing contributes faster to Linkedin burnout than getting a deluge of emails from the system.

Finding the Perfect Linkedin Groups Using Skills

Another section of this series will talk about Linkedin Skills in depth, but for this section we will briefly touch upon Skills as a means to finding relevant groups to join.

Very briefly, Linkedin Skills is a feature on the site that lets you search relevant industries and positions and then displays various pieces of Linkedin content related to that search.

You can reach the Skills main page by going to the Linkedin toolbar (shows on every page at the top, just under the Linkedin log), clicking on “More” and then “Skills” on the drop down menu.

On the Skills main page, you want to enter an industry, position, or term. The resulting Skills page will then display a bunch of great information, but for your purposes, scroll down to the results for Groups. Right from this page you can view a description of the group and join it if you want.

The results are almost identical to what you would find if you used the search window and choose “groups” as your search parameter, but it is so much cooler to get these results with all the others Skills content, such as industry overview, growth chart, other professionals in this area, and more.

How to Use Linkedin Groups (Best Practices)

Once you’ve picked the perfect groups the next step is using them. Of course you can choose to be a lurker (this is even a preferred strategy at first, see below), but you will eventually want to get into the group and make some stuff happen. Before doing so, you should be very clear about what you want from the group.

The Linkedin Learning Center provides some points on the benefits to group membership, all of which point to suggested best practices:

  • Quickly discover the most popular discussions in your professional groups.
  • Have an active part in determining the top discussions by liking and commenting.
  • Follow the most influential people in your groups by checking the Top Influencers board or clicking their profile image to see all their group activity.
  • See both member-generated discussions and news in one setting.
  • Easily browse previews of the last three comments in a discussion.
  • Find interesting discussions by seeing who liked a discussion and how many people commented.

A lot of the above points are passive ways to start using your group and getting a feel for it.

Before discussing the best practices related to these points, you will want to be aware of your group’s visibility and what that means, because the visibility of the group will likely impact what information you share, how you say it, and who you connect to from the group.

Linkedin Group Visibility: Public v. Private. Depending on the groups’ subject matter and a membership, a group manager can choose to make a group public or private. Public groups you can join right away. Just click “Join” and the content is open to you. Private groups you need to request membership and a group owner then needs to approve you. Don’t be upset if you are rejected from the group. Sometimes you will request membership to groups that you are not really suited for. Other times, the group owners are just di*ks. Either way, chances are that if you are going to become a valuable member of a group, you will be let in.

Note: there are also “Secret” groups, which you can set up for collaboration or other purposes that you want kept super private. These groups are invisible to other Linkedin members and do not show up in search results. The only way to bring in new members is by invitation. You can imagine the uses of such a group such as delivering premium content, collaborating on a business project, or providing a networking forum for high-level people who don’t want to be bothered by solicitations or unqualified inquiries.

What should you do when you get in the group? Listen. It’s tempting to jump right into the conversation and start showing everyone how wonderful you are with links to your blog, insights on discussions, and comments on shared links.

For the first day or two, just get a flavor for the group. See who the influencers are. Take note of what kinds of things resonate with group members and the tone of the group.

Once you’ve given yourself 48-hours of quiet observation, plug away!

Start sharing things that will be valuable TO THE GROUP. I can’t over emphasize this. Our first instinct is to use the group as our own personal sounding board or PR platform. This is self serving and rarely has the intended effect in the group. I’m not saying don’t share your stuff, just take some time to share the stuff that is really going to be of use to others in the group, and put it out there in a way that is inviting people to solve their problem rather than blatantly plug yourself (highlight the benefits to them).

Becoming an influencer. You will note in the bottom right hand corner, a box that shows the week’s top influencers. The way this is calculated is based on posts, responses, and thumbs ups. The top 5-contributors are highlighted in that little box, with a bar showing their influence. The difficulty of getting on this leader board depends on how active your group is. In a relatively quiet group you can easily ascend the ranks (part of your strategy may be getting into such a group and quickly becoming an influencer), in larger more active groups you’ll really have your work cut out for you.

Quick Tip: Even posting simple questions like “Coffee in the moring: must have or skip it?” can contribute to your influence, especially if people comment on it. Try to find opportunities where posting quick items make sense in the group; links to great content are especially helpful here.

Connect to People in the Group. The section on hoarding connections detailed connections in depth. For Linkedin group best practices, you just need to know that one of the “in’s” you have for connecting with people on Linkedin who you might not have otherwise had an inroad to is common group membership. Here is the place to put that to work. Go through the member list of the group, and start connecting with people on it that would further your goals in the group.

The main point of group membership is GIVE. It’s that simple. Membership in any group, whether online, in the real world, or otherwise is the pay it forward principle. The more you contribute the higher your status in that group. Find opportunities to comment on and promote content of others in the group, share content that will benefit the group members, and make friends. The more generous you are to your fellow group members the better the experience will be for all.

That’s it for group membership; the next installment will focus on starting your own group.