You can join up to 50 groups. Your strategic use of groups might as well begin with the way you choose them. Think about that: 50 groups, that is a lot to keep track of, and to be somewhat consistent in the way you contribute. I suggest you choose your groups according to the following five categories so as to help you gain in two main areas of networking: visibility and approachability.
1. Line of Work
People who are between jobs are oftentimes especially concerned about staying in the loop, about keeping abreast of the latest fads, trends, best practices, and gizmos that are making the rounds. Profession-specific groups are likely forums for discussions on these topics.
And there will also be discussions that are right up your alley, giving you a chance to post good comments and be perceived as a type of networker who has something to offer, and who shares gladly and liberally.
Just about all professions are present on LinkedIn by now. Whether you are a K–12 education administrator, a nutritionist, a mortgage-loan originator, a dental hygienist, or an administrative assistant, chances are there is a suitable group out there for you. And if there isn’t, why, start one!
Speaking of administrative assistants: that line of work exists across a diverse spectrum of organizations, from defense contractors to insurance companies to faith-based nonprofits and to public schools.
When you consider the “field” you are in, you think about the work you perform as well as the sector of products and services your work contributes to. Of course you want to network with people across capacities who work in your industry as well as with people across industries who work in similar capacities.
If there is a specific company you have on your radar, and you try to obtain insight into the company culture, insights coming from various angles can be very useful in identifying sketches of “common denominators.”
3. School-Alumni Network
Sharing the same alma mater has been known to help get people placed in jobs. Suppose, for instance, you see that people who went to your school seem to gravitate toward certain companies. What chance might there be one of them is a hiring-decision influencer at a company you are interested in?
What might also happen is that a hiring manager looks at a job seeker’s profile and discovers they were both involved in the International Drama Group, or they are both members of the Tau Kappa Zeta Sigma honor society. Having something distinctive in common can be a great angle for rapport building in a LinkedIn group.
Well, this one should be kind of obvious. Suppose you just saw your dream job posted in your IT group. Will that work, though, if you are in Bangor, Maine, but the job is in Bangalore, India, and relocation is not an option for you?
In the brick-and-mortar world, people have networked locally all along. A diverse pool of group members creates a marketplace of diverse, fresh ideas. Okay, so maybe that potential strategic-partnership opportunity involves a hike to the other side of town, but at least it presents an opportunity for an informational interview.
Moreover, when job leads do emerge, it is less likely that everybody and their mother will jump on the same ones—the project manager won’t have a problem sharing a lead for a staff-accountant position, and the executive assistant will gladly share a lead for a position in medical billing and coding.
Furthermore, local LinkedIn groups sometimes go brick-and-mortar—“Let’s meet in the real world.” Conversely, local groups that start as brick-and-mortar groups often go LinkedIn as well, thereby offering a forum that is open 24/7.
5. Group Size
There is a certain LinkedIn group that must be very attractive to job seekers: it currently has 1.8 million members. Join a group like that, and—boom!—the size of your network gets an instant big boost. (You know, of course, the size of your network is one of many factors that can affect how you rank among search results.)
The larger the group, the more varied potential there is for activity. A larger pool of members means a potentially richer cornucopia of ideas.
I don’t mean to discount smaller groups, though. Maybe a smaller group is to be expected for your location or your line of work. A smaller group may also be a good place to “test drive” a new discussion.
Also look at the activity data when you look at groups to join. When you search groups, LinkedIn includes the number of discussions and the number of members for each group in the search results, adding the qualifier “Very Active” to some groups.
A high activity indicates you may get a broad variety of ideas out of that group. On the other hand, contributions of individual members may not stand out as much as in a group with fewer discussions. If it is important to you to get the best of both worlds in that regards, use your best judgment in variety of groups you choose to join.