LinkedInAs the leader of the Nonfiction Authors Network on LinkedIn, I am sensitive to those users who defy social media etiquette and spam groups with unwanted messages by posting links to their blogs where the content isn’t related to the group, and offer blatant promotional announcements that are just downright inappropriate.

What people don’t seem to realize is that they aren’t making friends by violating group policies. They are instead alienating themselves from fellow members. While other forum owners take a more laid-back approach and allow spam to clog up their networks, I quickly ban repeat offenders on the Nonfiction Authors Network LinkedIn group.

Despite the challenges, I still believe that participating in forums can be a great way to establish yourself as an authority in your field and to attract book readers. Here are some simple guidelines to make the most out of LinkedIn groups.

Choose Your Groups – While you can join many groups on LinkedIn, it’s not realistic to think you can participate regularly in all of them. Choose one or two where your target audience can be found and make a point of being active there. LinkedIn displays the most active forum participants along the right sidebar, so consistent effort can pay off with extra recognition.

Review Guidelines – Most groups have clear member guidelines and rules. Be sure to review these so you understand what the boundaries are.

Answer Questions – If you want to position yourself as an authority, demonstrate your knowledge by contributing to forum conversations. Provide value and members will notice. 

Promote in Context – Mention your services carefully and in proper context. If a member asks for tips when redesigning a website and you are a web designer, this is an opportunity to respond with: “As a web designer, here are my suggestions…” or “In my book, XYZ, I talk about this at greater length.”

Ask Questions – Engage with the group by soliciting feedback from fellow members.

Share Blog Posts – If appropriate and within group guidelines, share your latest blog posts if they relate to the topic of the forum, but don’t just be a drive-by poster. If you’re going to share your blog, also make sure to actively engage in other conversations. As a group owner and user, I find it obnoxious when members do nothing but blog-bomb the group message board.

Respond to Comments – Pay attention to responses to message threads where you are involved and acknowledge those who reach out to you.

Show Personality – You can really stand out on a forum by being witty, thoughtful, and smart.

When in Doubt, Ask – The forum moderator will appreciate your checking in to ask about what is appropriate. This is also an opportunity to get to know the group leader and perhaps offer to help out. Co-moderators can also gain added visibility on the site and based on my own experience, most moderators would welcome offers of additional support.

Subscribe to Updates – LinkedIn allows you to subscribe to an email summary for each group that you belong to, which will show up in your inbox daily and allow you to see the latest activity on the group’s board. This is a handy way to scan group activity without having to log in to LinkedIn, allowing you to decide whether there is something you want to respond to.

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