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Social networks have become an increasingly powerful marketing tool for businesses both big and small. Some have certain applications and benefits, targeting visuals, info-bites and customer service benefits. However, LinkedIn has a more focused benefit: networking with your audience.

While you can network on any social network, LinkedIn is designed specifically to help businesses network with each other and a business-oriented audience.

One of the most widely used tools of LinkedIn is the groups it hosts. These groups can range from three up into the thousands, so it’s not difficult to find people to talk to. One of the biggest problems with these groups is new conversations are rarely initiated. Most of the time, the topic is related to old info or even replicated theories that people already know works.

It can be difficult finding someone who is interested and wants to continue a conversation. Using LinkedIn groups isn’t as easy as targeting a similar interest group and jumping in to see what the topic of the day is. Rather, it is how you perform in the group that will generate interest and ultimately sales.

So, how can you make the most of your participation in a LinkedIn group? The right approach is needed to generate interest.

Gather others
The initial approach is to start by simply inviting others to attend your groups or making announcements to your associates. It doesn’t have to be formal, because the primary goal is to get more people to interact in the conversation. Additionally, invites tend to spread quickly by word of mouth, and start conversations of their own (did you get invited?).

This is ideal if you want to have a group discussion. By simply inviting your associates and audience members to join in the conversation, you create interest to some extent. Remember that this is a networking tool to meet new people and the best way to do that is to get more people to converse with you. However, you can’t just invite an audience to the same old show they already know. You have to be ready to provide them with good reason to attend.

Out with the old, in with the new
As mentioned above, the main problem with LinkedIn groups is there are few new conversations started. Comments dwindle and basic interest drops because fewer people have something new to say. That’s where you come in.

Information that is shared or duplicated tends to be old and fails to spark interest. While it can be used effectively when enforcing your theories and business strategies, it fails to generate new conversation. And that’s where many LinkedIn groups falter. There is discussion in the group, but it normally only covers old information.

Create a new trend with a new idea and introduce it into your group. While it may be accepted or argued, it is a key stepping stone to initiating group activity.

Information that is original is the most valuable asset to a conversation. Few people enjoy talking about yesterday’s news or discussing the weather over and over again.

Work to create a solution that targets your customer’s needs and applies to your business. New approach? New applications? It’s all about new information that will generate new interest. An audience always loves to see a solution to a problem, even if the solution is a simple one.

When searching for new info to discuss, pay attention to new problems that arise. Are there popular questions trending on the Web that relate to your business? Are there viable solutions that you can provide? This is how you get involved with your group.

Then there is the importance of finding groups that are effective for your business. Groups might have labels and target specific conversations, but how they go about communicating makes all the difference. It’s good to relocate from group to group, searching for new topics and fresh material. If you find yourself surrounded by the same old information regularly, then the group isn’t growing well and it’s probably time to move on.

LinkedIn groups alone are not the key to networking. It is up to you to find and create conversation that will attract new audience members to help build quality conversation and new leads will follow.

Maria Elena Duron, CEO (chief engagement officer), buzz2bucks | a word-of-mouth marketing firm, is skilled at making networks “work” and harnessing powerful online and offline buzz. She facilitates online visibility services and word-of-mouth coaching and workshops – taking companies and professionals from buzz-worthy to bucks-worthy,

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