My good friend Maria has a fail-safe support system for her fitness training: The Running Buds. This group of women (numbering 127 in a secret Facebook group), regularly plans and meets for long runs, even in the worst weather. They provide accountability for each other and encouragement for the journey. They share helpful articles, post inspiring quotes, and cheer each other on, daily. Though I am a member of the group, I don’t benefit because I don’t participate or contribute. I have yet to join even one of their runs.

When you join a group for marathon training, you increase your likelihood for success. I have not joined a group, but have a defacto one including my friend Maria, my husband, my running partner, Laura, and my friend Sharon. All are encouraging me in my training.

If you hope to use LinkedIn to increase your influence, groups can help. However, joining several groups will not benefit you at all, unless you devote time to participating in the groups. What will benefit you is choosing one or two groups that are relevant to the ways you want to make a difference in the world. Once you have determined that a group is a good fit, you can begin to connect with others and contribute to the group.

Here are 5 ways you can contribute to LinkedIn groups to grow your connections and influence:

  1. Answer questions. Often people will use LinkedIn groups as a place to find mentoring and advice. If you are able to help and add value, don’t hesitate to answer questions posted in your LinkedIn groups.
  2. Offer help. Always seek to add value before you extract value. If there are ways you can help someone in a group, do it! One of the most powerful connections I’ve made online started in a LinkedIn group. Jesse Lyn Stoner was planning to launch a blog. Our friendship began when I offered to help.
  3. Comment on others’ content. If you want others to read and interact with your content, you need to go first! Read and interact with the content others are posting. Be encouraging. Share thoughtful comments.
  4. Share your own content, when appropriate. Instead of using LinkedIn groups as just one more place to drop your links, consider whether your content will be useful to your group. If so, share and invite interaction.
  5. As you have meaningful conversations, send connection request to members of the group. A LinkedIn group can be a great place to find and cultivate new relationships. If you see potential for a deeper relationship, send a connection request. Give a specific reason why you’d like to connect and follow-up as appropriate.

As with any initiative, the most important factor is consistent participation. To find success in networking through LinkedIn groups, you must show up consistently. That’s when the magic happens.

Tell me something! How have you found valuable and meaningful connections through LinkedIn groups?