When groups were introduced on LinkedIn, it really revolutionized the way a lot of us used the site.  LinkedIn went from being a very one-dimensional platform to being a place where you could regularly engage with people who were interested in the same things that you are.

The first group I joined was one of the first groups created – my alumni group, Hamilton College.  Dan Nye, the former CEO of LinkedIn was a Hamilton grad, so he created this group and invited all of the alums to join.  They really took off from there.  The latest number I found is that there are over 871,000 groups on LinkedIn, which is just incredible.

But don’t worry, you don’t have to browse through all of them.

There are two categories of groups on LinkedIn – closed groups and open groups.  Closed groups require you to have the permission of the administrator in order to join.  You can request to join the group, and the administrator will either approve or decline you.

For example, the ILN’s group is limited to current member firm attorneys, so when we get other requests, I’ll attach a note with this information and then decline that person.  If they’re an attorney at one of our firms, I’ll approve them – they’re notified either way. 

Open groups allow you in no matter what, so you can just click "Join" and start participating.  

Let’s take a look at the groups feature.  From the home page, you’re going to click on "Groups" in the menu: 

As you can see, when you mouseover the word "Groups," there is also a dropdown menu. We’re just going to click on it now, but these options will become more useful to you as you become more familiar with groups. Clicking on groups will take you to this page: 

When you’re first getting started, they’ll tell you that you’re not a member of any groups.  So let’s talk about a few ways we can join a group. We’ll start with "Groups You May Like."  LinkedIn is so excited about suggesting them for you that they’ve done so in two places here: 

Right on this page are three groups that LinkedIn is suggesting for you. If you’d like to see the full list of suggestions, you can click on "More>>" in that box, or you can click on "Groups You May Like" in the menu.

Before we do that though, you’ll see that the three groups that are suggested for me in the righthand side box all have a little lock next to their name – that means the group is closed.  If there is no lock, you can simply join the group without having to wait for administrator approval.

Let’s say that one of those three groups looked interesting to me. First, I’d want to find out more information about it – to do that, I click on the name of the group to go to their page: 

 

Here, I can see a short description of the group.  If I think it would be a good fit for me, I can click "Join Group," which will put a request in to the Administrator.  As of yet, LinkedIn doesn’t email you when there’s a request, so it’s up to the Administrator to check their management settings.  As a result, sometimes there’s a time lag between your request and approval – don’t take this to necessarily mean that you won’t be approved.

On the right hand side, there’s additional information – we can see that the group was created in December of 2009, that it’s a networking group, and that it has almost 1,400 members.  We can also see who the administrator/owner is, and the website for the company behind it. 

If you’re not sure that this is the right fit, or you like the group so much that you’d like to join others, you can see a list of similar groups on the right hand side as well – these tell you how many members, how many active discussions there are, and enable you to join directly or click to learn more. 

Let’s go back to the previous page and click on "Groups You May Like" to see what other suggestions LinkedIn has for me. 

I have to admit that I’m a bit surprised the ILN group doesn’t come up in the first page of results, since that’s the company I’m listed as working for.  But you can see that LinkedIn uses the information that you’ve given them about your position, your company, your industry and your skills to create this list of suggestions for you.

It’s a good idea to browse the list of groups to see if there are any that you think would be a good fit.  For attorneys, while it’s nice to network with other attorneys (and I encourage it among our members since it is a business development tool), I highly recommend joining industry-specific groups – this way, you’re networking and interacting with potential clients.  Remember that anything you post should be about them and their needs, and not about what you can offer (that can come later, if and when they ask you).

You’ll note on the above image that one of the groups has the notation "Subgroup" next to it – LinkedIn allows for group administrators to create groups within groups, or subgroups.  These come up as separate groups if the administrators permit them in search results and you can join these too.

Again, each of the suggestions above also has a link to look at groups that are similar, so if one’s of interest, you can check out others and see which might have the most interactivity and group members, and you can join them directly here (again, pending approval for closed groups). 

 We’ll go back again to the main Groups page, and this time, click on "Following:"

That brings us to this page: 

As you can see, it tells us that we’re not following any discussions – we’ll talk about this more once we’ve joined a group, but for now, I just want to explain what it means.  When you raise a discussion or comment on it within a group, it will give you the option to "follow" it – that means that you’ll be notified of any comments that come after yours (so you can continue to participate in the discussion without having to remember to check back).  Similarly, you can follow people and companies – we won’t get into that right now, but we’ll talk about it in another post. 

Now, let’s go to the Groups Directory: 

That brings us to this page: 

 

Here, you have a couple of options. You can browse through the featured groups that are suggested – again, here you can join these, click the names to learn more, or see similar groups. These also give you the snapshot of how many members are in each and who runs the group.  You’ll notice that there is a "share" link under each group description (this is true on other pages as well).  This allows you to send a message within LinkedIn to someone that you think might find the group interesting (that’s a good opportunity to engage, hint, hint!).

You can see from this list that there are all KINDS of groups on LinkedIn – professional networking groups, think tanks, sales, even animal lovers! So join anything that you think will be of interest to you – as I’ve heard time and time again, you can get business from the strangest of places, so you never know who shares an interest with you! That doesn’t mean you jump into these groups and start posting legal content you’ve authored, but join them, get to know the other people in them, and perhaps when they find out you’re a lawyer, there may come a time when you can help them in a professional capacity (and they’ll already know, like and trust you). 

Before you think about joining as many groups as you can, I should mention that there is a limit – you can only be a member of 50 groups at a time.  And you can only "own" and manage 10 parent groups at any one time, and 20 subgroups. We’ll talk about starting your own group in tomorrow’s post. 

50 may seem like a small limit, but it’s a lot of groups – and as busy attorneys, think carefully about the best use of your time.  We’ll discuss some of the settings you can arrange in groups to make things a bit easier, but the idea is to meaningfully engage within the groups and potentially form relationships with other members who you may not have met otherwise.  So this will depend on you – perhaps only three groups is manageable for you, or one, or 10.  Give a few a try, and you can always leave a group if you find that it’s not useful for you, or you’re just part of too many.

Okay, so let’s say you want to join a group!  We’ll do a search for one to kill two birds with one stone.  There is a search box on the "Groups You May Like" and "Groups Directory" pages, in the upper left corner. To search the groups you can input a name – if you know it – or search using keywords, categories, and/or languages.

I know that I want to join the ILN group (for our member firm attorneys, you should be doing this if you haven’t already!) because this is my test account, so I don’t want to join a group that’s not owned by me.

So I’ll search International Lawyers Network and click "Search" to get the results. You’ll note that search results are organized by the number of members in the group, so if you want to be sure to get the name of the group that you want – and this is true of general searches, even in Google – put quotation marks around the name or phrase.  That will search for that exact phrase, rather than each individual word.  

As an aside on this: when I was a computer science major, they reminded us regularly to think like computers – computer think in 1’s and 0’s. They’re very basic and black or white. So it’s logical to think that when you ask a computer to search for International Lawyers Network, it’s going to search for "international" "lawyers" "network" – it will return the results with the best matches, but not necessarily with the words in that order.  Sometimes it’s a good idea to keep that in mind when you’re doing a search and get frustrated that the results aren’t what you expect.

Back to groups! So I search for the ILN group (in quotations) and we get: 

I recognize our lovely logo and name, as well as the description, so I click on the name of the group.  As I’ve mentioned before, if you know you want to join a group, you don’t have to click the name for further description. You can just click the "Join Group" button to the right. 

The group description page isn’t going to give me a lot more information because it’s a closed group.  But it lets me know who the group members are that I share connections with, if any, how many groups and subgroups it has, groups that are similar, and the total members. 

You’ll note also that the website for the ILN is included there, so if someone unfamiliar with us wanted to know more, they could also click that link to be taken to our site.

Since I want to join this group, I’ll click "Join Group." There is also the option to share the group – as we talked about earlier – or report it.  From the groups we’ve seen so far, you might be wondering why someone would want to report  them.  In my social media travels, I’ve seen many mentions of offensive and hateful, often against a particular group of people, groups that people have formed.  Unfortunately, that’s a reality as social media gives EVERYONE a platform – even the people that shouldn’t have one.  So if you see a group that is offensive to you, LinkedIn does give you the ability to report it.

When I click "Join Group," I get this message: 

It tells me my membership is pending approval.  Underneath that, there are two options – I can "send message," which sends a message to the owner of the group telling them I would like to join. This is a good idea if you think the administrator has forgotten to check the pending requests and you’re chomping at the bit to engage.  However, from an administration standpoint, it can also be a bit offputting – it can appear that if you’re so excited to join the group (if you’re sending the email and joining on the same day), that you’ll just be posting a lot of self-promotional content. So use the email as a last resort if you think you’re request has been overlooked. 

You can also withdraw your request, if you’ve changed your mind about joining the group. 

On this page, which is your "Groups You’ve Joined" page again, this time populated with your first group, you can also "reorder" the groups list if you have more than one.  This is helpful if there’s a group you always want to make sure to check when you look at this page, and it also impacts the order that the groups appear on your home page and profile page. 

I’m going to go ahead and approve myself….

Once you’re approved, you’ll get an email like this: 

It lets you know that you’ve been approved, and what the benefits of a group membership are, which include daily or weekly email digests, updates about the latest group activity, and joining like-minded professionals.

It will show you today’s most popular discussion and what your fellow group members are up to.  

You can also do a few things right from this email.  At the top, there are three buttons – you can "visit this group," "change your settings" or "learn more."  In the most popular discussion section, you can click on the title of the discussion to view it in your browser, or you can click "Like" to like the discussion.  You can see what your fellow group members are up to by clicking the link under their information that says "See XYZ’s activity."

Or you can send the group to one of your LinkedIn contacts if you think they’d be interested – ILN members, you should all be forwarding this to your colleagues, hint, hint! 

There are two important actions you should take as a new group member – the first of these is "Change your settings."  Let’s click that button. 

 

There are three types of settings here – visibility, contact, and updates.  

The first one, visibility, allows you to decide whether to display the group’s logo on your profile.  This is great if you’re a member of an alumni group, or a networking association, as it lends additional gravitas to your profile.  However, this is up to you – note that it defaults to being checked.

The second one, contact settings, is the most important in my book.  The first part shows you what email address is going to be used to contact you when you receive communications from the group – this defaults to the email address that your account is set up under, but you can add a new email address if you’d prefer to get group communications there. Note that this does not change the email address that is connected to your LinkedIn account.

Next, there is an option to "Send me an email for each new discussion." This means that every time someone adds a discussion (I’ll show you what those look like in a moment), you’re going to get an email.  LinkedIn defaults to not having this box checked, and that’s a good idea.  As busy attorneys, if you start getting an email every time someone posts something to a group you’re a member of, you’ll get fed up and just start automatically deleting those emails and you might miss something you really want to participate in.  

That’s why the next part is MUCH more palatable – you can get a digest of all the activity in the group.  There’s a note here that your email address remains hidden from members of the group, and the default on LinkedIn is to have this box checked, and to have delivery of the digest be a daily one. 

From my participation in groups, I’ve found that even a daily email can be too much.  It’s been much better for me to switch it to a weekly digest (the two options are daily or weekly).  That way, you’ll get a weekly notification of the latest discussions in the group and you can decide at that time if any are of enough interest to you to log in and comment (or start your own!).

The nice thing about this is that you don’t have to remember to log into LinkedIn and check – that’s why I do recommend having the weekly digest email.  Even if you only glance at it, it reminds you that you’re a LinkedIn member and you should be engaging – and hey, here are some opportunities to do that. 

The next two options are about more personal communication – allowing the group manager to send you an email (but not more than once a week) and allowing members of the group to send you messages.  Your email address remains hidden (unless you allow it in a return message), but again, this is a personal preference if you want to be able to be reachable by the admins of the group and the other members.  This defaults to being checked for both. 

The final option is updates settings, and to change these, we’ll have to go to our account settings – this is one that we skipped over the other day, so we’ll talk about it now.  Click the link here for "Account settings" and we’ll head on over there (quick note – before you do this, if you’ve made any changes to your settings on this page, be sure to click "Save Changes" before navigating away from this page). 

When you do click "Save Changes," it will take you to your group home page – to get back to the settings page, click "More" in the menu (the groups menu, not the upper menu), and choose "My Settings."  You can use this any time you want to update or change your settings. 

From here, we’ll click "Account Settings." At this point, you’re usually prompted to log in again, just so LinkedIn can assure that you are who you say you are. 

The nice thing is, once you get to the account settings page, your group settings will automatically pop up, so you don’t have to go looking for them. For future reference though, you can always click on the tab that says "Groups, Companies & Applications." 

This may look familiar to you because these are the settings we worked on last week. To get to the groups settings part of this, you’ll need to scroll down to where it says "Groups."  Here, you can control whether you see in your news feed (on your home page) the groups that your connections have joined or created and discussions from your groups. 

This defaults to both being checked, and I’ll tell you why I think this is a good idea – as we talked about in the engagement post, the people that you are connected to are in your network for a reason.  You may share interests or companies with them, so when they join a group, there is a strong likelihood that it will be of interest to you.  That’s a great way to leverage your network and let them do the work of finding useful groups for you.  When one pops up in your news feed that looks of interest, you can click on it and join – and you already know someone in the group to engage with! 

The second option, seeing discussions, is also valuable. Even though you’re getting your weekly digest, if you’ve set your browser to open LinkedIn when you start it up in the morning, and you scan your news feed for interesting things, there may be discussions there that you want to comment on right away.  It keeps groups as part of your news feed, rather than requiring you to seek out the individual group pages to participate – I’m all about cutting down on the workload! 

You may be afraid that since these posts are so long and comprehensive, it will take you forever to participate in and engage in LinkedIn. But once you’ve got your initial time investment of putting together your profile and joining some groups, it honestly takes less than five minutes a day.  I look at LinkedIn right after going through my email in the morning, and I check the news feed, see if there’s anyone I want to connect with or an update I want to comment on, and then I check the ILN page to see if there are any requests to join. Two minutes, max. 

During the day, I’ll get an email if someone in my group posts something (because I’m the moderator) and I can respond to it, even just by liking it, in seconds.  And weekly, I get digests from my other groups, which I can quickly scan for items of interest and log on to comment where I feel necessary – and I don’t comment that much.  We’ve all got five minutes a day to spare, so why not spend it on LinkedIn building your relationships? 

All righty, off my soap box!  I think you get the idea – ENGAGE!

If you’ve made any changes to your settings here, click "Save changes" and return to your groups page by mousing over "Groups" and selecting the group that you want to view. 

This will take you to that group’s home page: 

 

There are a lot of things to look at here! The most important one though is the one that you’re taken to by default – and that’s the discussions page. This is where anyone in the group can post questions, comments, and even articles of interest.  For the ILN group, I post links to all of my blog posts here – and I include a graphic from the post so that the viewer’s eyes are drawn to it. 

There are a couple of things you can do here.  As a new member, it’s a great idea to reach out to the rest of the group.  Some people are "lurkers" – I’m guilty of that, not that there’s anything wrong with it – and they’ll sit back and read the discussions to get a sense of the group before jumping in.  That’s also a good idea.  But another option is to post something like "Hi, I’m Lindsay and I’m responsible for relationship management at the ILN.  I’m new to the group, and I look forward to sharing with all of you!"  That lets people know that you’re new, and invites them to comment on your post to welcome you to the group.  You might get some new connections this way.

Plus, the group members will then be familiar with who you are when you start posting interesting articles and questions or comments.  It pre-disposes them to pay more attention to what you’re saying. 

When you’re a bit more comfortable, you may want to start sharing content that you think is relevant – make sure it’s content that the group would find relevant, and it doesn’t have to be authored by you.  There are two ways to include a link, and one is certainly preferable (I recently learned this myself).  You can either include it in the box with your comments (you’re limited to 200 characters here, so that can also take up a lot of room), or you can click the paperclip link that says "Attach a link" – that’s the preferred way.  A new box will pop up where you can paste the link of the article that you’re sharing, and then you’ll click "Attach" to include the link.

Note that clicking "Attach" doesn’t post your comment and the link, it just attaches it.  To post it to the group, you’ll have to click the "Share" button.  Also note that as the link is attaching, if there are images in the article or post, they will pop up on the left hand side of the link.  If there’s more than one, you can click the forward and backward arrows to choose the one to be associated with the post. You’ll note that for my LinkedIn tutorials, I include the image that starts off the posts, and not the screen captures. 

And although I feel like an infomercial saying this – "But wait, there’s more!"

Just below the box where you can share with the group, there is a scrolling feed of the latest news and discussions within the group (I think that "discussions" is a bit of a misleading title – they mean anything posted by members).  As part of this scrolling ticker of information, you can click the backward or forward arrows below to manually go through the headlines – for example, if one flies by too quickly, hit the back button so you can take a closer look at it it.

You can also hit "Like," which will notify the other group members that you like that post, or you can hit "Comment" if you’d like to say something about it.  

The next button over is "Flag" with a down arrow – this indicates the drop down menu.  If you think that a post is inappropriate, you can click "Flag" and then "Flag as Inappropriate."  You can also flag something as a promotion or a job – if someone has posted a job item on here, flag it, and the same if they’re posting things that are far too promotional and not facilitating the proper level of discussion (you actually see more of this on FB than anywhere else). 

There’s also a "More" button, but this is for group administrators, so it’s greyed out for regular group members. 

Below this scrolling ticker is a list of the most popular discussions – popularity is determined by the number of comments and likes on a discussion. 

If someone likes or comments on a post, that pushes it up towards the top.  Only the last comment or "like" is visible, so as not to get too cluttered on this page. It’s a good idea to browse through the discussions on the home page to see if there’s something of interest to you, and also to get a sense as a new member of a group, as to how the rest of the group is using it. 

If you’re interested in an individual post, you can click on the title of the post, or on "See more>>": 

The individual post pages look like this, with the overall discussion topic or link at the top and the same buttons here to "Like," "Comment," or "Flag" and additionally the "Follow" button that would allow you to follow this discussion – as we mentioned earlier – and the "More button" which gives you a drop down option to "Reply privately." That will send a private LinkedIn message to the person who started the discussion, if you don’t feel like sharing your response with everyone in the group. 

As you read each of the comments, you can see that under the person’s profile picture, you can "follow" them – this allows you to see their activity – and as you mouseover the individual comment, you’ll see that the option to "reply privately" to the commenter or flag the individual comment as inappropriate will come up. 

If you want to add your own comment, you can scroll to the bottom, where you’ll see a picture of yourself with a textbox where you can "Add a comment." Type your comment in there, decide whether you want to receive an email every time someone else comments on that particularly discussion (it defaults to checked) and the click "Add Comment." 

From here, you can either return to the discussions page by clicking "Discussions" in the menu, or you can see the next discussion or previous discussion by clicking "Previous" or "Next" at the top.  You’ll also see how many discussions are available for you to view.

If you’ve suddenly thought of something you want to mention to the group or ask of them, you have the option here of clicking "Start a Discussion" as well, which will allow you to start your own discussion as we talked about above.

We’ll go quickly through the other tabs in the individual groups: 

After discussions, there is "Members." This will give you a list of the members of the group sorted by the "most relevant." 

You can see how many members are in the group, and what level of connection they are to you – 1st, 2nd, 3rd or out of network.  On the left hand side, you can search through the members of the group if you’re looking for someone in particular, and you can see a list of the new members to the group within the last seven days. 

If you see a group member that you want to connect to in this list, you can click on their name to access their profile and add them – when you add someone, LinkedIn will ask how you know them.  If you’re both members of the same group, you can use this as an option.

If you want to see their activity without adding them to your list of connections, you can click "Follow XYZ" to follow them.  You can also click "Activity," which will show you the person’s activity within the group. 

When you mouseover someone’s name, you’ll also see that you can invite them to connect directly from this page, or send them a LinkedIn message as well. In general, if there’s something you want to do on a particular page within LinkedIn, they’ve got a way for you to do it.

The next tab over is "Promotions." I won’t show you an image for this because we don’t have any promotions within the ILN group – this is because it’s private among attorneys within our Network, who understand that the purpose is for networking, so it’s not an issue that we’ve had. 

In some of the open groups or groups with a lot of marketing folks (not to dis marketers, but we all know there are some bad ones out there!), you may see this occasionally where someone will be putting a purely promotional piece into the discussions. The moderator or members can flag this as a promotion, and it would then appear under this tab.  You can also add a promotion here directly if you wanted to. 

The next tab over is jobs. Again, we haven’t posted any jobs, so I won’t include an image.  But if you have an alumni page, or you’ve created a LinkedIn group for the purpose of recruiting (a great way to showcase the culture of a firm, by the way), you can post any jobs at your firm here. LinkedIn also has an overall jobs feature, but we’re not going to explore that in these tutorials. 

The next tab is "Search."

 

Search will give you a list of all the group’s discussions, and allow you, on the left hand side, to either filter these discussions by the Manager’s Choice (discussions highlighted by the group administrator), the Discussions you’ve started, the Discussions you’ve joined, the Discussions you’re following, or any pending submissions.  You can also search for key words using the search box and button above this list. 

For example, if I want to see anything that’s related to LinkedIn, or intellectual property, I’d type that into the search box, hit search and see the discussions that have happened.  This can be useful for new members to see what’s already been covered if they don’t want to repeat a conversation. 

And finally, there’s the "More" tab. 

This doesn’t take you to a "more" page, but instead gives you a dropdown menu to choose from.  Select "updates" and you’ll get this: 

This page is far more interesting when you’re following more than one person, unlike my test profile.  You can also select "All Updates" here. This gives you the same news items that appear in your news feed, but only related to this group. 

If you choose "my activity," you’ll get this: 

If you’ve had recent updates, these will appear here, and you can also see who might be following you and who you’re following. 

If you click "My settings," you go back to the settings page that we discussed earlier. And if the group has subgroups and you click on "Subgroups," you’ll get something like this: 

 

You can see that the ILN has four subgroups, which are open to anyone who is already a member of the ILN group. So I could join these subgroups just by clicking on the link to do so.  I can also click on the name of the subgroup to learn more about it, or if I think we’re lacking a sub-group, I can start a discussion that asks the moderator to add one. As with regular groups, I can also share these subgroups with another LinkedIn connection that I think might find them of interest. 

And finally, I can click "Group Profile," under more, which will take us back to the main group profile, but will now include a list of group members in my network since I have been admitted to the group. 

The only thing left to do with groups is to create one.  We’ll cover that in tomorrow’s post!