I have recently heard that every second a new member is joining LinkedIn. This is an incredible testament to the the growing popularity of LinkedIn. On the other hand it is a reminder to me that there are still lots of questions out there for beginners that may not be necessarily covered on my blog…so today I wanted to attack one of them.
This is an actual question that I answered on LinkedIn recently. And, indeed, when I first joined LinkedIn I was a little intimidated by the profiles of people that showed that they were a member of all sorts of groups and associations. How did these people have all the time to attend all of the group meetings? And how could they be qualified to join so many diverse Groups?
Which leads to a bigger question…what exactly ARE LinkedIn Groups? And do they have tangible and physical group meetings?
Of course in those days there was no limitation as to how many groups you could join on LinkedIn, and there was no search functionality available for LinkedIn Groups (remember those days?), so the only way you could find out about Groups was by literally looking at these logos on other people’s profiles. And even then you never knew how many members were actually in each group unless you joined them and did a search within the group (and, of course, the search results were limited to 500, so you never knew the exact membership number for any group with a membership larger than 500). I never felt that I had any qualification to join any LinkedIn Group and was quite intimidated by all of the groups…
My first LinkedIn Group was one that I saw on a particular colleague’s profile. Seeing that I was working in the IPTV (Internet Protocol TeleVision) industry, it was a pleasant surprise to find a colleague who had joined a group called “iptv”. Yes! Finally a group that I was qualified to join! I remember applying to join the “iptv” group, and then after seeing the display saying that I could contact the Group Manager, I immediately sent him a long message explaining how I was qualified to join his group. Needless to say, after gaining acceptance to his group, I slowly started joining more groups that looked interesting and pertinent to my LinkedIn objective whenever I saw the logos appear on other profiles. And now that I am a Group Manager I realize that it is not necessary to contact the Group Manager when you request to join their group because they will receive notification of your request separately.
Fast forward to the announcement that you are now limited to joining 50 LinkedIn Groups. I was at the time a member of 93 groups! Of course I manually removed myself from enough groups to get below 50, and it was through that experience and following months that I wrote about how to optimize your LinkedIn Group memberships.
I hope I have been clear up until now, but needless to say, do not be intimidated about joining LinkedIn Groups! Of course, what and how many groups you join really depends on your LinkedIn objective, but I have found that 99% of the time I have been accepted into any LinkedIn Group that I have applied to join. If a group will reject your membership, the reason why is usually written in their group profile, because some groups are exclusive to a particular demographic or qualification. You need to make sure you check the wording of each group profile before you join. And, no matter how open a lot of LinkedIn Groups are, please do not join alumni groups if you never went to that school or worked at that company…that is in essence lying, and because LinkedIn is for professionals, you WILL be noticed and potentially reported to LinkedIn Customer Service.
In case you are still confused about LinkedIn Groups, just as I talk about the difference between your physical and virtual network, consider these groups more of a “virtual” type. Anyone can start a LinkedIn Group as well, so they are not necessarily tied to any “physical” group and are really a means for people to find other people with similar backgrounds or interests to network together with. That being said, my two LinkedIn Groups (Windmill Networking in Southern California “So Cal Sushi” and Windmill Networking in Japan “The Izakaya Club”) are what I would call “virtual-to-physical” groups, aligned with my LinkedIn policy of creating a vast virtual network but slowly bringing these connections into my physical world. My groups are some of the few on LinkedIn that actually physically meet in person!
So, getting back to answering the question for those of you who may not have joined any LinkedIn groups yet, the logos that appear in the “Groups and Associations” section are all from being members of LinkedIn Groups. Joining a group is simple: do a Group Search, look at the Group Profile, select the choice to join the group, and then you will have a chance to change the settings for each group choosing whether or not to display said logo on your profile. By default the logo for each group you join will display on your profile, so in case it is not displaying or you want to turn it off, you can access all of your groups through your “User Groups” selection on the lefthand panel and then choose the “Settings” selection for each group to access this feature.
Now, there are some profiles where you will see links and not logos in the “Groups and Associations” profile section. The links that you see displayed there are not actual links. You can enter text into your Groups and Associations portion of your profile through choosing to “Edit My Profile”, and these will display on your profile as if they were links. However, if you press one of these, it will actually trigger a search within LinkedIn using that keyword, not a link to an external site. This is appropriate if there is an actual group or association that you are a member of that does not have a LinkedIn Group for it. This way, if someone does a keyword search for it, you will be found.
I plan to blog more on the value of LinkedIn Groups in the future so come back for more info!