Of all the social networks that have edged to the forefront of the Web, LinkedIn has proven to be of immense value to folks in the business world.
Besides offering professionals a personal profile, options to showcase one’s portfolio or the prospect of drumming up new business, the social network provides a myriad of tools to connect with peers.
One of the most popular ways to do so includes the relationship-building opportunities formed through LinkedIn Groups, the name given to the user-generated forums within the site. Currently, there are more than 2 million groups currently with more than 8,000 being added every day, according to LinkedIn.
And with an average of 200 conversations taking place every minute, that’s a lot of dialogue and insight an active CEO could be missing out on.
Though these groups span the gamut — ranging anywhere from peer-to-peer forums, to regional business groups and industry-specific boards — they provide a great way to take a pulse on your business community.
The best part of LinkedIn Groups is that you get to be a part of the conversation. As a CEO, it’s a superb opportunity to show off your subject matter expertise and keep your company fresh, relevant and conscientious of the rhythm of the marketplace.
I like to think of LinkedIn Groups as an extension of our marketing strategy, so we always make sure to craft a great impression. While it’s easy to join groups to look like you’re an active participant, it’s a waste of time not to take advantage of the groups’ many benefits. LinkedIn Groups can provide a boon to your business if you can simply make use of their tools.
Here are a few tips to help CEOs get the most value out of LinkedIn Groups:
1. Select the right group for you. Do you want to leverage your business? Build your brand? Network with like-minded professionals? Or provide solutions to your peers? The first step to joining LinkedIn Groups is knowing what you want to use them for. There is no limit to how many groups you can join, but there is a limit to how much time you can actually dedicate to each group. Find out which one brings the most value to the table for you. Look for groups that attract companies or customers that spark your interest, or broaden your reach by connecting to people outside of your circle.
2. Be a resource. Recently, LinkedIn expanded publishing authority across the network. That means CEOs like you can create and publish informational blogs and articles directly to the site. You can also post status updates within a group, or comment on those of your peers. The more you participate in the discussions taking place within a group, the higher your “influence” becomes. You can also extend your influence by sharing your posts through other social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter.
3. Discover new connections. It’s also important to take note of other influencers within the group; they might be a good person to connect with, either on the network or, if possible, vis-à-vis. And they might reach out to you to do the same. Connecting with these individuals not only broadens your influence but also opens your network to other thought leaders, which may lead to new ideas or ways of improving your business.
4. Measure participation. Besides tools like bitly, that allow users to see how many people click on or engage with their links, LinkedIn specifically offers its members Group Statistics. This dashboard, which is accessible on the right-hand side of every Groups page, highlights demographics, growth and activity.
As a CEO, this tool is especially helpful when deciding
what group to spend the most time participating in.
For example, click here to check out the statistics for the FUEL Milwaukee Group.
5. Generate leads. LinkedIn Groups offers a tricky, yet plausible purpose, which includes generating leads. However, it is important not to appear “spammy,” or overly promotional. Instead, use LinkedIn Groups to build relationships, and then leverage these relationships into new business. You can also use Groups to recruit new talent. After all, an individual who participates on these boards is likely to be passionate about their career, industry or business community, which is what most CEOs are after in a new hire.
If there is one thing CEOs can agree on, it’s that we’re a busy, busy bunch. So it makes good business sense to focus on the social network that brings us the most value for our time.
P.S. To help you get started, here are a few of my favorite LinkedIn groups.