By Simon Wright
It seems that the world is getting connected, whether it’s through Facebook, Twitter or any number of other social networking sites. Of course, small business owners have long realized the power of establishing and maintaining connections, so it’s no surprise that many have been proactive in using the potential offered through LinkedIn’s industry groups.
LinkedIn is essentially a social networking site for professionals. Many use it to make contact with people they’ve worked with in the past, but the site isn’t just an excuse to catch up on old times. In particular, the LinkedIn Industry Groups feature offers the ability to tap into a knowledge base that’s pertinent to your business segment.
As an example, imagine someone who has set up a business that develops applications for mobile devices. As a fast moving industry, it will be vital to keep abreast of the latest developments and trends. Traditionally, this would have been done through subscribing to trade journals or attending conferences. These activities still remain valid but, in addition to those, the business owner can register for various mobile-related industry groups on LinkedIn.
Within LinkedIn, there are various ways to discover suitable LinkedIn industry groups. You might establish a new connection and see that they’re a member of the group, you might browse through the Groups Directory or do a search for relevant keywords.
Having identified a group, the process of joining is pretty straightforward. You simply click on then “Join this group” link, and confirm whether you want to receive group announcements and a daily or weekly email digest and whether you want group members to be able to contact you. You will then get a message to say that your membership is pending approval. The Group Administrator will review your request and will normally confirm whether you’ve been accepted within a day or two.
The value you derive from LinkedIn groups should be caveated by the adage “you get back what you put in.” Sure, you can be a passive observer of a group’s discussions, and you will get some value from this. However, the really powerful application of LinkedIn comes from actively engaging with fellow group members, either through online debate and discussion or by using your shared group membership as a way of approaching them with regards to working together offline.
Allan Schoenberg’s excellent blog, “Don’t Overlook the Power of LinkedIn Groups,” highlights further benefits of the LinkedIn Groups’ model. He comments that the private feature in LinkedIn means that discussions aren’t freely accessible on Google, meaning that your conversations remain within the LinkedIn community. Additionally, RSS feeds can be aggregated into groups, so that content is sourced from relevant trade journals and blogs.
All these benefits make LinkedIn’s industry groups something that all small businesses should check out, and they may be just what you need to stimulate debate and drive improvements in your business.
Simon Wright works as mobile delivery manager for Royal Bank of Scotland and has extensive experience across ecommerce and mcommerce including the launch and promotion of Web sites.