The photo credit by Shutterstock. 

The Groups feature of LinkedIn has continued to grow in popularity and utility. Groups are a powerful tool for expanding the depth and breadth of your LinkedIn network. Many Groups treat members similar to FIRST DEGREE connections - allowing you to make direct contact with a Group member without a referral or Inmail.

I am currently an active member in over 30 Groups (LinkedIn allows you to join up to a maximum of 50 Groups). I highly recommend finding AT LEAST 10 Groups to join - AND becoming ACTIVE in. Activity is key. Simply joining gives you some benefits but being active in Group news and discussions is where the real value and leverage is.

Some of the things you can do as a Group member, all of which help you to GIVE VALUE TO YOUR NETWORK and expand your network reach and network quality include:

  • Share great content and information as News Items in Group forums - blog articles you find online that would be of interest to Group members and other useful content online - news, events, book referrals, etc.
  • Cross-post YOUR own blog articles - ones YOU write - to as many relevant Groups as possible. I will very often cross-post my blog articles to five to ten relevant Groups - significantly increasing exposure of the article and maximizing the number of people who could benefit in some way from the advice and information contained in the article.
  • Participate - in a meaningful way - in Group forum discussions. Make insightful positive-minded comments; add value to conversations; give advice when asked; answer questions.
  • Utilize the Jobs feature of Groups. Search for jobs or post job openings. Groups are an excellent source of niche jobs and should be used by anyone actively engaged in a job search.
  • Connect directly with other Group members. Search for people to connect with - someone who shares a common interest, a common employer experience, a common educational experience. Groups are an excellent source for expanding your network of direct connections in LinkedIn.
  • Start your own Group! Create your own community and serve as the moderator of Group activity. Moderating and Group ownership gives you great exposure and strengthens your

Give consideration to the following ideas when searching for Groups to join:

  • Industry-specific Groups - Examples include Retail Industry Group, Health Care-oriented Groups, Travel Industry Groups, etc.
  • Trade and Professional Organization Groups - There are Groups for scores of trade and professional organizations. Join those relevant to you.
  • Employer Alumni Groups. Many of the Fortune 100+ companies have alumni Groups for their former employers. This is a great way to reconnect with former colleagues.
  • College/University Groups. Most major colleges and universities of Alumni Organization Groups on LinkedIn. Another excellent means for reconnecting with long lost contacts and friends.
  • Job/Career-Related Groups. There are hundreds of Groups in the job, career development, career management areas. If you're in a job search, you'll definitely want to check these out.
  • Social Media Groups. There are Groups for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn where you'll find forums for discussion of tips, techniques and very useful advice relevant to most major social media tools.
  • Peer-level Executive Groups. Check the various CEO, COO, CIO, CFO, etc. specific groups. A great way to connect with peer-level professionals and sharing useful information.
  • Functional/Technical Specialty Groups. There are scores and scores of these.  Find a Group or Groups relevant to your ares of functional or technical specialty (sales, marketing, accounting, IT, supply chain, etc., etc.)
  • Personal Interest Groups. An avid cyclist? Well, there are Groups. A devoted football team fan? There are Groups. A great way to share with people of like-minded interests.
  • New Business. Find Groups to join where there are members who are highly likely to be a source of business for you - potential customers, clients, buyers and influencers.  Look for ways to add value to these Groups through discussion and sharing of information.

Begin expanding your Group involvement and participation today. Another GREAT way to tap the power of LinkedIn!