I heart LinkedIn. Why? Because it’s free and passively attracts about half my clients. Over the years, I’ve created a system that should take me five to ten minutes a week – but in reality I put in that much time monthly – that gets me multiple inbound client offers weekly, with most of them so appealing that I’ve had to raise my rates because of the demand.
I’m amazed in LinkedIn’s ability to get me so many clients, simply on the Freemium plan. A lot of that passive power comes from LinkedIn Groups. This post looks to explain why simply being a member of the right LinkedIn Groups dramatically affects your business prospects, how to join the right Groups, and, if you have time, how to tactfully participate and stand out in these Groups.
LinkedIn's Transparent Search Results
Remember six degrees to Kevin Bacon? Well, it’s now two degrees to your next client. Before we get into finding the right LinkedIn Groups to join, let’s review the organization of the LinkedIn search and why the Groups you join affect how you show up. Go on, try to search for anything in the LinkedIn search bar. Search for a certain zip code or for a certain industry, anything really. (I’ve even found some intriguing results searching for my favorite topic: Cheese.)
Immediately you will notice that the LinkedIn search results follow a much more transparent algorithm than Google, which means that, unlike Google, there’s no guessing or estimating. LinkedIn is a system you can and should take advantage of.
How LinkedIn Populates Its Search Results
No matter what you search for, this is the order the results show in. For me searching for Cheese, stupidly I have no friends in the stinky industry, so my results followed the same pattern, except that, since I have no Connections in the Industry, the results start with cheesy secondary ones.
1. First to show up are your LinkedIn Connections.
2. Next results are anybody you’re in a LinkedIn Group with or any Secondary Connections, a.k.a. the connections that are connected to your connections – your so-called friends of friends (even though it’s highly unlikely you know them).
3. Then, you have the third-level connections, a.k.a. the connections that are connected to your secondary connections.
4. After that, it follows a typical search logic based on the parameters you typed, as well as some unknown factors like potentially whether or not those members are Premium or Freemium and if they have bought any sort of ad to show up there.
5. Add to these first four levels of search results that those who rank higher with the keyword you’re searching for or are closer geographically to your search location will then show up higher in each chunking, like my friends of friends with a lot of Cheese experience will show up first among my surprisingly many Secondary Cheese Connections.
Really, unless the business topic you’re searching for is something obscure or überniche – like Cheese – you won’t even notice those that show up in search level four or even probably three. Think about it, when’s the last time you scrolled past page one or maybe two of your Google search results? Whether it’s a hiring manager, recruiter or HR person looking for her next colleague or someone looking for her next service provider, the people searching on LinkedIn know what they want and will probably find it in the first ten search results.
And as you can probably guess, if you are in the same Groups as your desired client or your desired boss, you show up very favorably in his search results. Also, you’ll constantly pop up in front of their little eyes as a recommended connection until they just go ahead and click Connect. Then, of course, you show up even higher in their results...forever.
But Which Groups Should I Join on LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is all about how to get the right connections – and once you hit the Golden LinkedIn 500 Connections, this is done very passively. And you want the right connections in order to show up in the right search results. (Note that I did not say more search results, but the right ones. Otherwise you get spammed by uninteresting offers.) And as you continue to gain more of those right connections and show up in more right search results, it all sorts of snowballs into awesome clients coming your way.
This is where the power of LinkedIn Groups come in.
Join 50 LinkedIn Groups
If there were one reason to get me to pay for LinkedIn Premium, it’d be the ability to join more than 50 LinkedIn Groups, but, no matter what plan you’re on, you simply can’t join more than 50 (except for those that you manage yourself). Groups matter. Seriously. If you do nothing else on LinkedIn, you need to have a fantastic, engaging and keyword-loaded profile and to join 50 Groups. And be careful: any groups you are pending to join count in that total number. If your membership is pending for more than a week, drop it and join another because those groups will be inactive and a waste of your big 50.
But Which 50 Do I Join?
When deciding whether or not to make a LinkedIn Group one of your coveted 50 spots, there’s one question to ask yourself: Are people you want to meet members? Below we clarify how to dig deeper into that question, but it all comes down to who you want to meet.
● Stalk your dream clients! Really, with the “Who’s Looked at Your Profile” functionality, LinkedIn is a platform that encourages playfully transparent stalking. First, if you look at their profiles, there’s a good chance they’ll know and check out yours. But in the case of Groups, you want to be in at least one Group that also your dream prospect is.
● Don’t go where your competition is! One of the most popular Groups here in Spain is, sadly, something like “Looking for a job in Spain.” What a complete waste of one or more of your groups! Maybe recruiters will be in there but certainly your next hiring manager and potential colleagues won’t be. If you are looking for a job, what benefit do you get from joining a group of 150,000 job seekers in your region. Instead, you’d be better served networking with your desired co-workers in a smaller, industry-specific group.
● Go where your customers are! Okay, for me, my customers could be anywhere in the world. While I speak Spanish, I don’t want to write or do marketing or SEO in any language but English, so English-speaking countries is my only geographical restriction. But if you run a local business, until you’re ready for a targeted expansion, you only want to join LinkedIn Groups in your targeted geographic region.
● Are there people connected to people you want to meet? Sometimes, without the Premium, you just can’t contact certain people because they aren’t connected to your connections or your connections’ connections. But you can join the Group of one of their connections and then you can directly contact them.
● It's okay to learn. Okay, I’ll admit it. This post doesn’t really get the “essence” of how LinkedIn can benefit your career but rather gives you one lazy gal’s cheats to work the system. If you are trying to learn about or become an expert in a certain topic, joining relevant and active LinkedIn Groups for that topic cannot only link you to the right people but you could actually benefit from reading and participating in what those Groups have to say.
● Focus on big or super niche. You may be a part of a new niche or have a really localized business and then niche is fine. Otherwise, go for groups of 100,000 or more members if you can. Or, if you want to be active in a couple, try to keep those couple groups to around 10,000, lest you get lost in the cacophony.
How to Network Socially in LinkedIn Groups
Of course, it’d be impossible for you to be active in 50 groups unless you are full-time unemployed (and that’s exactly what you should be doing). Try to create a balance of groups that you want to be active in and bigger groups that can get you closer to more of the right connections. Being active in a couple LinkedIn Groups is a way for you to really stand out and maybe even learn something.
Here are some tips to make the most of being actively involved in a few LinkedIn Groups:
● Is the Group Active? You can take ten seconds to scan a group to measure this. Yes, every group has social media vomiters who just autoshare their articles. I mean, are there conversations going on? Debate? Is this a conversation that’d benefit me?
● Are there people you want to meet active on there? This goes back to don’t follow the competition. If you have a dream client and they are active, do not pass Go, do not collect $200, jump right in there and join the conversation! This does not mean becoming a social media vomiter, it means asking insightful questions and replying particularly to your targets’ posts.
● Don’t act selfish and get banned. LinkedIn is not a great way to share your content. Why? It’s like going to a Networking Night and just blabbering about yourself. If you share too much of your stuff but aren’t involved in the discussion, you’ll not only get the boot out out of one Group, you’ll get flagged by LinkedIn and get restricted from posting in your other 49 Groups. And trust me, this is a real pain to get undone.
● Do share other thought leadership in your industry. And ask questions and for advice. Be interesting and position yourself as a thought leader yourself.
● Don’t say you’re looking for a job or clients. You’ll seem desperate and kind of sad. The whole theme with LinkedIn is that if you are impressive, they will come to you. Participating in LinkedIn Groups is business networking, not just social networking. That means you get out of it what you put in. But, before you go putting an effort in, you need to make sure that Group and its members are worth your precious time
How have you leveraged LinkedIn Groups? Share your story below of how a connection or relationship made via a Group has led to a prospect, client or job. Any tips to add?
Jennifer Riggins is an eBranding ninja, a stealth marketing and SEO expert and a writer who is passionate about selling the benefits of what the latest tech startups, Internet of Things, and APIs have to offer Find her on Twitter or G+.