As you probably already know, participating in group conversations on social platforms such as LinkedIn or Google+ is a great way to network with freelance colleagues and prospects. Such groups also provide a chance for you to demonstrate your expertise in your field.
Recently, I had some extra time so I decided to participate in conversations on LinkedIn Groups. I had been really busy for a while–too busy to take part in any recent conversations. Now that I had some extra time I was looking forward to joining a few interesting discussions with my peers. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that there were no active conversations in some of my groups.
If you want to network effectively, joining the right group or community is important. There are literally hundreds of special interest groups on various social media platforms. Choosing the right ones can be confusing.
In this post, I’ll provide six questions you can use to decide whether you want to join a particular LinkedIn Group or a Google+ community. Many of these questions apply to other social media platforms as well. If you like this post, you may also like 3 Quick and Easy Ways to Network Online that You Probably Don’t Really Use.
(Note: The general principles in this post apply to both LinkedIn Groups and Google+ Communities as well as to special interest groups on other social platforms. Unless otherwise indicated, I’m using the terms “group” and “community” in the general sense.)
How to Find the Right Group for You
Choosing a group for networking can be confusing. Here are some questions to help you choose the best communities for your freelancing business:
- What is the topic of the community? Is the topic relevant to your freelancing business? Just because you’ve been asked to join a group doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a good choice for you. I’m frequently invited to join groups that have little or nothing to do with my business interests or goals. Be picky about which groups you join.
- Are the discussions on topic? There’s nothing more frustrating than joining a discussion group for a particular subject, and then getting bombarded with off-topic messages. Even before you join an open group or community, you can often view the discussions to see if they are on-topic. If you see lots of off-topic conversation, skip that community.
- How many members are in the group? If the group is too small, it may indicate that there is not much interest in the group. Very small groups also provide fewer people to network with. In my experience, groups with less than a hundred members are usually too small. On the other hand, if the group is extremely large, you may find it hard to get noticed in the crowd.
- Do you know anyone in the group? If you notice that a client, prospect, or respected colleague is already an active member of the group, then you may wish to join that community so that you can have more opportunities to interact with your contact. The presence of colleagues can also be a good sign that the group is a good fit.
- Is the community still active? Occasionally you’ll run across an inactive group. Someone started the group long ago and has failed to follow through and keep the conversation going or people have just lost interest. I’ve seen groups that haven’t had any active discussions in several months. Obviously if there’s no conversation, there won’t be many opportunities for networking.
- Is the group open to new members? Some groups take anyone who is interested in joining. To join other groups, you must be approved by a moderator. The communities who restrict membership can be more focused, but they can also be more difficult to join.
Are you interested in learning more about how to use Google+ Communities and LinkedIn Groups? Here are two posts that can help
- Seven tips for using Google+ Community features. This post from Andy Wolber on TechRepublic provides step-by-step details (with screenshots) for sharing on a Google+ Community.
- 6 ways to get the most out of LinkedIn Groups. In this post on ragan.com, Matt Haskell shares some practical tips for participating in LinkedIn Groups.
Do you already use Google+ Communities or LinkedIn Groups to network? What are your favorite groups or communities?