LinkedIn is all about expanding your network of business connections.
Unlike Facebook or Twitter, the people you encounter on LinkedIn won't overwhelm you with updates about their personal musings or pictures of their pets. LinkedIn users are (for the most part) hardcore business professionals with a strong desire to connect with other businesspeople.
The trick to using LinkedIn effectively is to identify users who share your business interests and field of specialization. LinkedIn groups are designed to accommodate that process. They operate kind of like Facebook pages or groups. Users simply search for groups that appeal to them, join them, and then participate in discussions or networking within the LinkedIn universe.
The process becomes a little more complicated if you can't find any groups that appeal to you. When that happens, you'll need to launch your own group and begin to recruit other LinkedIn users to join. If the whole idea of finding, joining and creating groups sounds complicated, don't worry – it's actually easier than it seems.
Joining LinkedIn Groups
Joining LinkedIn groups is simple and straightforward. Set the tab in the search box to "Groups" and enter keywords for the kind of groups you're interested in joining. A list of search results should appear, as well as a side panel with options for narrowing your search by industry or language. Evaluate each group according to its following and focus. A large group membership is often an indication of a vibrant LinkedIn community.
Starting LinkedIn Groups
Before you launch a group, make sure there are no active groups on the same topic. Starting a group requires time and effort – unless you're obsessed with being in control of the group, it's easier to join a group than it is to start one. Next, you'll need to decide on a name, description, and a focus that is broad enough to attract a large number of followers. Create the group and list it in the LinkedIn directory.
There is still one more step that needs to be done before you can start recruiting members: Content. You need to populate your group page with informative links and posts that are helpful to new members. If you recruit before you populate the page, prospective members will simply be staring at a blank page.
Finally, it's time to promote your group. LinkedIn group promotion is a never-ending process. You'll need to pull out all the stops and promote it through every online and offline means at your disposal. Add a link in your email tagline, mention it on other social media sites, invite connections to participate – whatever it takes to reach critical mass as quickly as possible.