LinkedIn Groups are valuable tools that can help you keep your finger on the pulse of the industry, says Pat Yoshida, an account manager with High-Touch Communications Inc. in Montreal.

“LinkedIn Groups provide tremendous perspective,” Yoshida says. “[You] can gain a lot just by watching what other advisors are doing. It really is invaluable.”

LinkedIn Groups offer more value to advisors than other forums and social-media platforms, such as Facebook, Yoshida says, because of their professional orientation.

“People seek out real information from reputable sources on LinkedIn,” he says. “I’m not convinced that such research happens on Facebook.”

Don’t discount other social-media platforms, Yoshida says. But if you are looking for a social network on which to start building your brand, LinkedIn Groups is a good place to start.

The following advice can help you get the most value from LinkedIn Groups:

> Target effectively
Choose carefully which groups you join. Spreading yourself too thin will only cause you more stress as you struggle to keep up with what’s being posted.

Start by choosing one or two groups. Yoshida suggests you look for groups with high levels of engagement and activity.

> Make a commitment
Your participation in LinkedIn Groups should be part of your broader social-media strategy. LinkedIn Groups require that you be consistent and active in contributing and responding to discussions.

Develop an editorial calendar, Yoshida says, to help you stay consistent in your postings. If you allocate time and effort regularly to your group networking, your name can become, like a brand.

As an additional benefit, your LinkedIn posts can be shared across other platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook.

> Contribute value
Always strive to offer real insight and information that will be of value to group members.

Your objective should be to be an educator, Yoshida says, and not a salesman. Look for groups and discussions to which you can contribute more value to a topic than anyone else.

“Aim to be the ultimate trusted resource for the needs that are appropriate to your target demographic,” Yoshida says. “The benefits will ensue.”

Geoff Evans, founder of Social Media Coach in London, Ont., takes it a step further.
The process of building your credibility will take time, he says. But understanding the challenges of your audience — beyond financial products — can help set you apart from the pack.

This is the second instalment in a two-part series on LinkedIn Groups.