LinkedIn Groups are useful in so many ways. You can use them for:
Your own learning
Creating awareness of issues or educating your audience
Networking in an industry
Looking for employment
Looking for clients
The two types of groups are closed and open. Closed Groups are indicated by a tiny lock symbol. They are either closed tight enough that you cannot join without them giving specific permission, or else they have strict membership rules which will see you evicted if you violate them. These rules, if they exist, will be sent to you when you join the group, and also communicated on the front page of the discussions. Open Groups are not prescriptive in terms of members.
There are two kinds of groups you can join for the best value for your own needs. Groups in your vertical are people who are like you. These are groups in your industry, your peers and colleagues, perhaps even your competitors. Here you learn about your industry, discover trends and build your own personal brand and reputation, if that is your need.
The second kind of group is horizontal – you go out of your industry into someone else’s where you are more likely to find clients or necessary contacts.
Look out for Group rules and pay attention to what they stipulate and require. Some groups forbid self-promotion while others actively encourage it.
LinkedIn allows you to join up to 50 Groups, and you can control how much communication comes to you from each Group.
I seldom recommend that people start their own Groups. Unlike a Company Page where you post Company information, a Group is meant to be a lot more interactive, and less about your own company and more about the industry.
A bad example of a Group was a small B&B on the east coast, who set up a Group and invited their occasional clients. They hadn’t prepared any content to share and just used the Group as a portal to message their clients. But our occasional need to stay in a remote place that did not have huge tourist attractions, meant that the Group conversation was stilted and useless. And members had to sacrifice being in another Group that offered value, in order to be in this one.
If you are keen to start a Group, one approach is to find the type of Group that you would ideally want for yourself. If, and there is a good chance, the Group is not very active, then you could approach the Group owner or manager and ask to purchase it from them. That way you get a ready made audience and you just have to concentrate on producing good content for it and keeping the conversation going. But it will be a big task.