As a small business owner, you might think you've mastered LinkedIn with a complete profile and a blooming list of connections. But, are you taking advantage of LinkedIn groups?
Rather than scrolling through the Craigslist job board in your city, search and browse LinkedIn's groups. There are groups for different industries, professional associations, alma matters and more. And if there isn't a group for what you're looking for, you can always create one.
To help you get started with this feature, Business News Daily talked to two professionals about how their experience with LinkedIn groups.
Just like Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups are communities, some of which are tightly-knit and lead to real-life relationships. It can sometimes take time to become a part of them. If you jump in too quickly, your connection could feel artificial, discouraging others from working with or referring you in the future.
"The most successful approach is to treat it like any other community where you wouldn't barge in and start making entitled demands, but instead cultivate connections over time by contributing and interacting," said career coach Janet Scarborough Civitelli, who has several clients who landed jobs or other business opportunities from these groups.
That's why it's important to stick around and wait it out. Browsing previous discussions and threads will also give you an idea of which questions have been already asked and answered and which questions that haven't been brought up yet.
"The biggest mistake people make is to think that you can rush results with LinkedIn," Civitelli added. "People try it for a week and then declare it useless. LinkedIn can be incredibly useful for your career or business but it takes time to build something meaningful."
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Don't be afraid to introduce yourself
When freelance writer and editor Erica Jackson Curran transitioned to full-time freelancing, she joined numerous groups and noticed new members posted short introductions about their work and niches. She took a risk and posted a brief introduction in one of LinkedIn's biggest groups for content marketing groups, asking if group members typically work with in-house staff or freelancers. She was pleasantly surprised to have received dozens of responses, including those reaching out to her for work opportunities.
Your initial introduction doesn't have to be long, since your profile should speak for itself, but ideally, you should include a welcome greeting ("hello, I'm happy to be here"), an explanation of your trade ("freelance graphic design in the fashion industry"), and a call-to-action ("feel free to connect if you work in the fashion industry").
Additionally, before you introduce yourself, Curran reminds readers to have a polished profile with recent samples or examples of work, the "open for work" option checked, and relevant keywords.
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Get a grasp of the group climate before making a post and especially before asking for help. Otherwise, you might burn some bridges before you even get to cross them. [Read related article: LinkedIn Marketing Hacks to Grow Your Business]
"When you first join, lurk quietly until you learn the cultural norms of a particular group, Civitelli advised. "It can be overwhelming to try to form connections with everyone at once when there are hundreds or thousands of group members, so instead choose a handful of people with whom you seem to have some things in common and focus on building professional relationships with just those group members."
Plus, getting a feel for the group climate can determine how much time you're going to dedicate towards churning connections. For instance, it's easy to see if a group is full of spammers or inactive from clicking through different posts, which only takes a few minutes.
"I'd recommend watching the group closely before posting and making sure that your own posts align with the vibe of the group," Curran told Business News Daily. "I also tried to also offer some value by starting a conversation that I hoped would be interesting to other group members. It actually ended up being a really interesting exchange, as commenters debated the merits of platforms like Upwork and the etiquette of cold-calling agencies."
Take advantage of everything LinkedIn has to offer, including its groups. You might be surprised to tap into yet another digital community and meet new people you could end up working with in the near future.