I’m not generally an advocate of “light linking” (what some people call “open networking”) on LinkedIn, as I think it takes away from its core value as a system for “trusted referrals”. That said, I recognize one of the benefits of that practice is that it increases your reach and visibility on LinkedIn, i.e., you can see and be seen by more people.
But there are other ways to accomplish that without connecting with thousands of people one at a time. One way to do that is by joining LinkedIn Groups.
People unfamiliar with LinkedIn Groups are often in for a bit of a surprise. They aren’t like Yahoo! Groups or groups on most other social networking sites, as there is no group interaction — no mailing list, no discussion forum, etc. Being a member of a LinkedIn Group has one minor and one major benefit:
- Minor – The badges of the groups you’re in are displayed on your profile and in search results. This is a sort of “visual branding”, reinforcing your association with those groups without a lot of words. For example, this is how my The Virtual Handshake coauthor David Teten appears in a search result:
- Major – Fellow group members are a special sort of connection. While you do not have access to their extended networks for introductions, you are considered directly connected to them such that you can see their full profiles and they can appear in your search results, even if you aren’t within three degrees of them. If you sort search results by degrees of separation from you, fellow group members appear between your first and second degree contacts.
By joining just a few groups, you can add tens of thousands of people to your network without having to do so one at a time (and without the implicit commitment to make introductions for them). I don’t recommend just going “group collecting”, but finding groups of others who share your interests and affiliations is a great way to expand your network with people with whom you already have something in common.
LinkedIn has a Groups Directory on their site, but by their own admission, it’s incomplete and doesn’t include most of the more recently established groups. There are a couple of other directories of LinkedIn Groups that will be more useful in helping you find relevant groups to join:
- MyLinkGroups.com – DallasBlue’s directory of over 500 Linked Groups, including information about membership requirements and number of members.
- LinkedInGroupsDirectory.com – A recently created blog attempting to build a catalog of LinkedIn Groups. Personally, I don’t think the blog structure works very well for a directory, but I applaud the effort, and you may find it useful.