Owners of small businesses may resist using LinkedIn, since many associate it primarily with people who are looking for a job. Therefore, they don’t see any point in investing their time there.
The reality is that there are a number of ways that small business owners can benefit from the features LinkedIn provides. One of the best ways to find potential referral sources and even clients is through being active in the groups feature of LinkedIn.
Finding LinkedIn Groups
Groups are where the real action is on LinkedIn.
So often I hear from people that LinkedIn is a “boring” platform and not nearly as much fun as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
These are folks who probably have never taken advantage of the groups feature, which is where the fun (and the benefits) can be found. There are groups for just about every imaginable topic and type of organization, and you can join up to 50 of them.
To find a group, go to the search box at the top of your screen. Before you type in the search words, click on the small arrow next to the set of horizontal lines to the left of the search box. Select the Groups option in the drop-down menu. This will narrow your search results to only Groups. Type in your search words, then click on the magnifying glass icon to start the search.
You will likely find a number of groups that relate to whatever search term you have entered. Some will be open groups that anyone on LinkedIn can join. Others will be private groups, where you need to be approved by the group manager to be able to join.
Joining a LinkedIn Group
Once you decide to join a group, you will have the opportunity adjust your settings. Please follow the prompt to make these adjustments, or you may find yourself getting WAY too many emails from the group.
If you join an open group and want to adjust your settings, go to the group, and click on the italic “i” to the right of the button that says Member. Then click on “Your Settings.”
Review all the settings carefully. This is where you determine whether you want to receive a daily or weekly digest of the discussion posts in this group, receive emails from the group manager, allow members of the group to message you directly, and/or display the group’s logo on your profile page.
Once you make your adjustments, click on the “Save” button.
If at some point you want to exit the group, this is the place where you will find the gray “Leave Group” button on the bottom right.
If the group is a private group, and you click on the “Join” button, then you will get a message that looks like this toward the top of your screen:
Click on the word “here” and you will be directed to establish your settings for that group. This allows you to have your settings adjusted in advance of being accepted to the group.
Interacting in a LinkedIn Group and Connecting With Group Members
Once you are a member of a group, visit that group, even just a couple of times a week, to look for posts you can comment on. Make thoughtful comments on discussion posts that apply to you and your business. Create discussions if you have something to share that will be of value to the other members of the group. This kind of activity will help build your credibility within the group and even within your industry.
Here is an example of a question posted recently in a group I belong to:
Because I was unsure of his meaning, I posted a comment asking Remi for clarification as to whether he was talking about me asking people to do guest blog posts on MY blog or me being the guest post blogger on someone else’s blog. When he comments back, I can share more of my thoughts on guest blogging.
As you spend time in a group, you will begin to recognize those members whose posts deliver solid information. Consider inviting these folks to connect with you on LinkedIn. Depending on their settings, you may be able to invite them without having their email address.
In addition, once you have been recognized by others in the same way, people in the group will start reaching out to you and asking to connect. Take time to assess these invites by reviewing their LinkedIn profiles and then decide whether or not to become connected.
The people you connect with through your groups can become folks who will help you hone your craft, give you ideas for marketing, become a trusted sounding board, and a source of referrals or even direct business – depending on what you do and what they need.
Many people who use LinkedIn regularly, especially those who are active in relevant groups, report receiving a steady stream of business through LinkedIn.
This post only has room to scratch the surface of what being in a group on LinkedIn can do for you. You can get started by joining two or three groups that relate to your industry and/or a personal interest. Jump into the action and see what happens.
One caveat, remember to moderate your time. Like anything else on the Internet, these groups can turn into a time drain if you’re not careful. However, they can also be a great source of information, contacts, connections, and other benefits for your business.
Joyce Feustel helps people, especially those age 50 and up, to become more comfortable using social media, especially Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter.
She works with business owners, nonprofit organizations, retired people, consultants, and many others. Find her at www.boomerssocialmediatutor.com.