[HOW TO] Boost Your Online Business With LinkedIn Groups

With over 100 million users, LinkedIn is the most active social networking site for professionals.  One of its most popular applications is LinkedIn groups, which can be joined for free.

With a free account, LinkedIn places restrictions and allows you to reach out only to colleagues, classmates, clients and friends. However, if you join one or more LinkedIn groups, you can send messages to other members without having to upgrade to a premium account.

How to find and join a LinkedIn group

To find appropriate groups, go to the “Groups” menu at the top of the LinkedIn home page, click the “Groups You May Like” tab and browse through the list of suggested groups. (Alternatively, click the “Groups Directory” tab in the “Groups” menu if you want to check out the entire list of LinkedIn groups.)

The list contains the name and description of each LinkedIn group, the name and website of the group owner and the number of members. You can join any group by clicking on the “Join Group” tab at the right side of each group. The owner of that group will then review your request and accept or reject your request. You can leave the group whenever you choose.

How to create your own LinkedIn group

You can also be the owner of your own group. To create a new group, click on the “Create a Group” option in the “Groups” tab at the top of the LinkedIn home page. Fill in all the fields in the “Create a Group” page. At the bottom of the page, you can choose to create either a members-only group or an open group.

Members-only group discussions can be seen only by other group members and has a padlock icon next to its name. Open group discussions on the other hand can be seen by anyone on the internet and can be shared on other social networking platforms like Twitter and Facebook. With an open group, other LinkedIn members can also  take part in the discussion of your group even without them having joined it.

How to boost your LinkedIn group membership

Once you have created your own LinkedIn group, you can increase the number of members in your group by following these simple steps:

  • Invite your LinkedIn connections, email contacts, colleagues and classmates. Those who accept your invitations will automatically become members of your group.
  • Display your group in the “LinkedIn Groups Directory” so that it is visible to other LinkedIn users.
  • Allow your group members to invite others to join the group to help it grow faster.

How to gain maximum benefit from LinkedIn groups

1. Post comments and take active part in the group discussion:
Whenever you post a comment, it shows up on the home profile of everyone in that group and you are potentially getting the attention of all the other members in the group. However, be careful to avoid self-promotion.

2. Answer questions and help other members solve their problems:
This will help you to gain their appreciation and trust in your expertise and may lead to them to seek further information about you.

3. Share your LinkedIn status updates:
You can automatically send your status updates to any or all of your groups with a single click.

4. Add the RSS feed of your blog to your groups:
Every time you post a new article on your blog, it will automatically show up on the home profile of every group member and gives you them an incentive to visit your blog.

5. Post free job openings:
Though, LinkedIn charges a fee to display job listings on the site, you can post job openings in your LinkedIn groups for free.

6. Create your own group:
If you’re willing to invest the time and effort in creating and developing your own LinkedIn group, you’ll reap the benefits. Owning a group can attract loads of additional targeted traffic to your website. Every new person who joins your group sees your name as the owner of the group and a link to your website or blog.  Another huge benefit is the free email broadcast tool. LinkedIn allows you to send bulk email messages to your group members every week for free.  Although its highly advisable not to unintentionally abuse  this feature.

In a Nutshell…

LinkedIn groups offer you a private space to connect with your niche audience and build individual relationships. They’re also a great place to promote your blog posts, products or services to thousands of active group members. If you want to take full advantage of LinkedIn Groups, join all groups related to your niche. Even better, create your own LinkedIn group(s) around your niche and own that space before your competitors do.

Have you used LinkedIn Groups?  Have they been an effective tool in your online marketing efforts?  Share our experiences below.

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Omar Kattan is Chief Strategy Officer at Sandstorm Digital, the MENA region's first specialist content marketing agency headquartered in Dubai. His experience includes 10 years in traditional marketing and advertising in the Middle East and a further 10 years at two of the largest media agencies in the UK. Follow Omar on Twitter for updates on the latest in digital, branding, advertising and marketing.

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