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Social media is all about building a community of like-minded people. In an open letter issued in February this year, Mark Zuckerbergtalked about Facebook’s commitment in bringing people closer together for building a global community. He explains that Facebook stands for building this important social infrastructure to achieve things that we couldn’t on our own.

This need to expand individual outreach tonetwork with people who share same interests is the reason for social media groups such as LinkedIn Groups for getting popular acceptance.

LinkedIn Groups are not only popular amongworking professionals but also within businesses who are looking to build a valuable global community.

Academia need to know how to make the most out of LinkedIn Groups to engage multiple stakeholders such as recruiters, faculty, alumni, knowledge community etc.

What are LinkedIn Groups?
LinkedIn Groups can be explained as a “platform for professionals working in the same industry or having similar interests aiming to share content, find business solutions, expand knowledge, post and view jobs, make business contacts, and establish themselves as sought-afterindustry experts.”
Relevant groups that you wish to join can simply be searchedby using the search feature at the top of your LinkedIn homepage or can even be selected from the suggested listshown under “Groups you may like.”
The Benefits of LinkedIn Groups for Academia
LinkedIn Groups have several long term benefits for the academic fraternity especially faculty. You can either be a member or an owner of a LinkedIn Group.These networks have many benefits. Being an active participant in a Group can help faculty and educational institutions network with other professionals and businesses operating in similar or different fields.This can help leverage professional prowess of those who are outside of your immediate circle such as potential employers for your students, industry experts etc.”
As an academic institution, having a vibrant and active LinkedIn Group will help you connect with the right audience. By creating a LinkedIn Group, an educational brand can build a forum for their external audience to associate. This allows to increase institutional outreach and establish credible relationships with people interested in your brand.
Institutions can use LinkedIn Groupsas a channel to share proprietarycontent to showcase their intellectual prowess and faculty research useful for improving business operations. This will create a purposeful link between industry and academia forquality engagement.
Faculty can use LinkedIn Groups to buildpersonal brand and create online reputation. You can begin by engaging with posts and members of Groups that are relevant to your industry domain and areas of interest. Once you have gained noticeable traction by engaging with the right community, you can start sharing your insightful content and buildrecognition.
Sharing relevant content through specific groups on social media also helps to create maximum SEO impact anddrivetraffic to your website. These connections are extremely important to build word of mouth publicity and grow your industry linkages for driving placements, internships of students and organizing guest lectures & workshops / seminars. These contacts are also valuable in helping improve academic inputs through course revisions etc.
Groups can be joined on the basis of audience demographics that you think may be interested in your association. Academic institutions can also use LinkedIn Groups as a lead generation channel. Make a list of potential customers by using LinkedIn Group’s search function and filter by job title, company, and geographic location. This database can then be used to target lead generation campaigns.
LinkedIn Groups can further prove to be an important platform for searching right talent for your institute. You can easily identify those individuals in the group who fit in your hiring criteria.

How to Join a LinkedIn Group?
After understanding some of the benefits of LinkedIn Groups, you may want to know what is the way forward to start.
Initially, you will have to locate specific groups of your interest and choice. This you can do using the search field at the top of your LinkedIn page.To search for relevant groups you can either type a name of any group that you already know or type the relevant keyword. You can narrow down your searches by using filters available on the left side of the search results page.Additionally, you can also browse Group recommendations provided by LinkedIn. In case a group requires membership, you can ask the group admin for access.

How to Start a LinkedIn Group of Your Own?
On your LinkedIn homepage, browse the ‘Interests button’ and select Groups from the menu. Click on the ‘My Groups’ button and then the ‘Create Group’ button on the left of the same page.
Be ready to upload a logo for your group. You will also be required to fill additional details in the form such as your group name, summary, description, website, location, and visibility.
It is time tonow start adding and engaging your members. However, it is not advisable to begin in an ad hoc manner by simply inviting people to join and posting typecast content.
Here are a few tips that might be useful while launching a LinkedIn Group.
• You first need to create an enabling environment for your new members to pour in.
• As a warm up session, encouragethem to start introducing themselves in the group first. Simultaneously, you can greet / appreciate them with welcome messages too.
• Appreciate their content by engaging with their posts by liking or sharing them.
• Encourage members to exchange group information on their other social networks. This will also help in making the content viral to ensure maximum visibility.
• Provide group rules or guidelines to members for participation.
• Personalized communication can be established with any of thegroup members on an individual basis by sending private messages.
• Keep nurturing your group with useful information.
• Create exclusivity by posting sticky content in niche areas of group’s interest.
• As a group moderator, you may like to share summary of the most important discussions in the form a weekly newsletter or update to highlight valuable points discussed in the Group in that week.
• By using the ‘Manager’s Choice’feature you can pin a discussion thread to the top of your Group. In this way you can highlight the issues that are most relevant to the group members by giving it prime visibility.
• Sharingmeaningful group discussions on other social media channels will add new contributions to your posts.
• Ensure that members ask specific questions. Everyone shouldavoid making generic remarks. Discussions should be objective and not judgmental in nature.
• You will have to be a good listener. Pay attention to what others are saying to keep the conversation healthy and lively.

By following these simple tips, a LinkedIn Group can be made effective to grow your institutional as well as personal outreach.However, before moving ahead you should be very clear about the objectives of setting up a group on LinkedIn whether it is for personal branding or institutional branding. LinkedIn is a professional platform where serious and purposeful content is more appreciated than any other stuff. So, use the Group wisely to manage and optimize your brand presence online and in the process build your brand equity.

Social Media Snippets :Mark Zuckerbergvery recently shared a post on how Facebook is helping people connect with meaningful groups. You may be interested to read the post………..
“One way to bring the world closer together is by helping more people join meaningful communities. It turns out most people don’t seek out communities on Facebook or in the physical world. Either your friends invite you or we suggest them for you. So we’re looking for ways to help people find groups that will be meaningful to them.

A lot of people follow pages on Facebook for topics they’re interested in. So today, we’re making it easier to join groups around the pages you follow.

Some of these groups will be lighter — like people who follow sports teams or TV shows. Others will be more serious. Dealing with addiction can be isolating and AddictionUnscripted.com is a place for people affected by addiction to come together. Now if you join their page, you can request to join the Affected By Addiction Support Group to connect with people who are going through the same thing. So far, more than 45,000 people have joined the group to share their stories and offer support.
In today’s world, we all get support from a few sources: our family and friends, our communities, and our social safety net. In our civic discussion we most often focus on our social safety net, but I’ve found that our communities are often just as important for taking care of us, and we need to focus just as much time on building them.

One of the most important things we can do right now is bring people closer together through communities. Changes like this are a small step in that direction.”