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LinkedIn Groups: build professional skills and reach your ideal clients

If you’re a business professional seeking to stay current in your skills and knowledge, as well as reach out to your ideal clients, you may be missing out on one of the best possible ways to do this: through LinkedIn groups.

As the attached video shows http://youtu.be/HsroNLF-D8c, this often-ignored part of LinkedIn can give you a big competitive advantage in building your professional
practice.

Three kinds of groups on LinkedIn, depending on who you are

Key to unlocking the potential of LinkedIn groups is understanding that there are really three kinds of groups -- and which “kind” a group is, for you, depends on who you are.

Consider a business colleague I’ll call “Tamineh”, who’s a professional engineer focused on helping develop more sustainable urban spaces. She needs:

  • To stay current in her engineering profession and also around the field of sustainable cities including green buildings, urban transit, brownfields, intensification versus sprawl, and other such issues.
  • To reach out to potential clients -- municipal elected officials, members of urban planning departments, property developers, architecture firms, potential client companies and the like.
  • To maximize her use of time -- like, not waste time in activity that won’t help her reach her goals.

Here’s how Tamineh can use the thousands of LinkedIn groups to reach those goals.

1. “Professional” groups

For Tamineh, some of the thousands of groups will be “professional” groups -- groups of people she’d consider colleagues. As an engineer, she should join Engineering-related groups. Since she works in sustainability fields, she’d find colleagues in sustainability-focused groups.

Here, she’s able to:

  • Stay current with news about engineering
  • Learn new technologies
  • Connect with other engineers who share her passion for sustainable cities
  • Pose engineering-related questions to the group, and receive answers
  • Contribute to her profession by sharing her ideas

But it’s essential to realize that a group that is a “professional” group for Tamineh, because it’s filled with her colleagues, might be an “industry” or “ignore” group for someone else.

And, as useful, warm and welcoming as they are, reaching fellow business professionals shouldn’t form the bulk of anyone’s time in LinkedIn groups. We all need to reach out to potential clients, and we can do that through “industrial” groups.

2. “Industry” groups

Business professionals can reach out to potential clients through “industrial” LinkedIn groups. Again, what’s an “industry” group depends on the individual, but this kind of group is defined by its ability to help you reach potential clients. And that depends on how you define your target client base.

For example, Tamineh wants to reach elected officials in municipalities, staff such as the Planning department, property developers and the like. So, she needs to find groups to which these people belong. She can:

  • Learn about trends that are creating problems and opportunities for her clients, and this informs how she presents ideas to them.
  • Answer questions posed by people in the group, to show herself as being both informed and helpful.
  • Post useful content to the group -- maybe her own blog posts and articles, but also just sharing third-party information she thinks will be of interest.
  • Learn who are the most influential people within her user community
  • Connect and build relationships successfully -- members of the group see her a “one of us,’ not a vendor trying to sell her services.

If we define “industry” groups as those that contain potential clients, Tamineh would also benefit from joining groups that are operated by companies that are current or potential clients. Many companies have their own LinkedIn groups, in addition to their company pages on LinkedIn, and they can be really good sources of information about the organization.

3. “Ignore” groups

I put this category in here because most groups on LinkedIn will be in this category. That’s no slur on the groups, which may be very useful to many people. But Tamineh doesn’t need to be part of groups that focus on alpaca farming, health & safety professionals, book publishing, interior design or any of a host of fields that aren’t relevant to her.

However, if Tamineh is like most professionals, she probably has some groups on her profile that shouldn’t be there. These are “ignore” groups for her, although they are almost certainly “professional” or “industry” groups for some people. Just not her.

How to set your priorities

  • Think about which groups on your profile you would consider to be “professional” groups for you, and which are “industry.”
  • If you don’t have a strategic plan for your LinkedIn group engagement, build one.
  • Then engage, with that plan in mind.

You’ll grow professionally, and grow your client base at the same time. And you’ll get to know some really great people.

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