One of the best ways to get involved in a social networking community – and find people who think like you, work like you, have your same interests, and, eventually, want and need your products and services – is by joining groups. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter each have a groups feature that allows you to build a rapport with other members and more easily disseminate your message to a targeted audience.
Click to “next page” to get started with joining, participating in, and creating LinkedIn groups.
Although there’s more information related to LinkedIn groups than the other sites, this feature is fairly intuitive to navigate. After you log in, you’ll see a “groups” link along the top toolbar. When you hover your mouse over it, you’ll see several options:
- My Groups: Once you start joining groups, you’ll click on this option to go to a page displaying all your groups. From that page, you can also visit discussions you’re following (“Following”), see LinkedIn’s recommendations for other groups you may want to join (“Groups You May Like”), view the group directory and search for additional groups (“Groups Directory”), and create your own group (“Create a Group”)
- Groups You May Like: This is the primary way to get recommendations for groups based on your interests, contacts, and groups to which you already belong.
- Groups Directory: This is the primary way to start looking for groups to join when you’re just starting out.
- Create a Group: This is the primary way to start your own group.
For now, let’s start with the group directory. This page displays featured groups, selected by LinkedIn based on their interest and popularity – and while you may certainly find a group that interests you here, most users will want to begin searching for specific groups that fit their own interests. Start with the key words that best describe your business – insurance, for starters, returns 4,525 groups, so you may want to narrow it down. You can sort by several different types of groups: alumni, corporate, conference, networking, nonprofit, professional, or other. Filtering the “insurance” key word search by networking group, for instance, returns 1,218 groups. Searching only for groups in English narrows it down further to 1,188.
Some other searches that may interest insurance producers include:
- “Long term care insurance” for all categories returns 46 groups, including the Society of Financial Service Professionals, Long Term Care (LTC) Insurance, Long-Term Care Insurance Producers (the official LinkedIn group of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance), and Disability Income and Long-Term Care Insurance Professionals.
- Using “health insurance” as a search term with the filter “networking group” returns 107 groups, including Insurance Professionals, Healthcare Reform, and Connecting with Insurance Agents.
- When you search for “employee benefits” and filter for “networking group,” you’ll see 63 groups, including Benefits and Health & Welfare Professionals, Benefits Selling, and International Employee Benefits Association.
As you can see, there is a multitude of ways to find groups to join. While LinkedIn is great for connecting with prospects through your existing connections, you may want to start with adding connections and seeing which groups they belong to. Joining groups that other insurance professionals belong to – especially those with connections in the hundreds – can be a great way to follow in their footsteps. To see which groups they belong to, visit their profile and scroll down to “Groups and Associations,” at the bottom of the page.
To join a group yourself, just click on the link and click the yellow “join group” button. Some groups will require approval by the moderator before you can join, which can take up to 24 hours. With others, once you click “join,” you’re in.
Participating in groups
Once you’re in a group, there are plenty of ways to get involved, learn new information, and share in the conversation. At the top of each group’s home page is a template for you to share a link, offer interesting information, or start a discussion by asking a question. It’s prefilled with your profile photo and a link to your profile that other group members can follow. Under that box, you’ll see something called “Latest Discussions.” This scrolls through the latest updates from group members and allows you or others to like a discussion, comment on it, flag it, and more. Listed below are the most popular and most recent discussions. You can also access all of the latest updates by clicking on “Updates” under the “More” tab under the group name.
Want to find out who else is in the group and how closely you’re connected? That information is under the “members” tab. Group members are asked to confine promotional activity to the “promotions” tab. Some groups also have jobs sections, and you can also search the group for certain keywords. Under “More,” you can choose to see only your activity, see any subgroups, and see a group profile.
Start a group
If you’re interested in starting a group, just go to the “Groups” tab at the very top of the page, and click on “Create a Group.” Required information includes your group name, group type, both brief and full descriptions of your group, your email, access privileges – whether it’s open access where anybody can join with a manager’s approval, or a request to join system where you or another manager must approve members – and a check box that you agree to the LinkedIn Terms of Service.
Optional items include a logo, your website or the website you want associated with the group, the language, and geographical location if you’re focused on a specific area. You’ll also be asked whether you want the group to appear in the groups directory, whether you want members to be allowed to display your group’s logo on your profile, and whether you want to allow members to invite others to join the group. If you’ve chosen the “request to join” option, you can also pre-approve members with a specific email domain, such as those from your company.
Once your group is up and running, you can invite your contacts, and the word will spread from there. Make sure to keep your group active by engaging in the activities mentioned under “participating in groups,” and invite others to do the same.