Useful LinkedIn Groups for HR Consultants

By Lin Grensing-Pophal, SPHR Sep 12, 2011

LinkedIn is one of the most business-oriented of the social media sites, and one of the tools it offers is “groups.” There are thousands of groups covering interests ranging from astrology (123 groups) to zoology (20 groups). For HR consultants, there are groups that can help you learn and leverage your business development activities—HR consulting (593 groups), business development (6,000-plus groups), social media marketing (1,900 groups), and so on.

Not all groups, of course, are created equal. Some are valuable and frequented by active and insightful participants. Others are dominated by shameless self-promoters. Here’s how to choose wisely from among the many groups available and how to leverage the value of your participation.

“I have paid close attention to groups’ strengths and weaknesses,” said Ron Thomas, principal consultant with Strategy Focused HR in Verona, N.J. While Thomas said that he finds the group concept a great way to connect with others, he acknowledged that it can be overwhelming at times because of the huge number of posts.

Angela Sinickas, with Sinickas Communications, Inc., in Lake Forest, Calif., conducts surveys and focus groups for HR vice presidents and corporate communicators. She follows several communication and engagement groups and found that value is driven by contribution. “I often provide free advice and links to over 130 articles I’ve written on the specific topics being discussed,” she said. Some of the discussions she’s engaged in have resulted in consulting projects, she added.

Best Practices

Wayne Breitbarth is a LinkedIn speaker and consultant and the author of The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success (Greenleaf Book Group, 2011). You’re allowed to join 50 groups on LinkedIn, noted Breitbarth who advised: “Join 50!”

There are almost 1 million groups on LinkedIn, and more than 8,000 mention “human resources” or “HR,” said Breitbarth. “Chances are one of them is an HR space that interests you or your clients.” Joining as many groups as you can makes good sense, said Breitbarth, because:

  • There is an initial level of trust that can exist among people who are “tribed” together around a cause, region, idea or affiliation.
  • You can send a message to anyone you are in a group with, thus avoiding a fee-based option.
  • When you search for people on LinkedIn, you get names or partial names from people you are connected to at the first, second and third level and through groups. In addition, your network gets larger as you join joining groups.
  • There is a jobs tab in all groups where members can post position openings for no cost.
  • Many groups have a regional emphasis, which can help to target specific markets.

However, noted Lynda Zugec, when determining which groups to join, it’s important to be at least somewhat selective. Zugec is managing director of The Workforce Consultants in Toronto. “There are many groups being formed each day for a variety of reasons,” said Zugec. “Finding those specific to you and contacting the right people will prevent you from a more generalized approach, which yields less attractive results and which can be considered intrusive to the group,” she said.

Another important point when selecting groups to participate in: Size does not really matter. Very large groups can provide you with access to many people and viewpoints and enhance your network, but small groups can be more focused and yield richer discussions and opportunities for interaction.

Jan Vermeirer is founder of Networking Coach, a LinkedIn training company and the author of How to Really Use LinkedIn (BookSurge Publishing, 2009). There are three ways to find groups that might be of interest, noted Vermeirer:

  • Through the groups directory—the box at the top right-hand side of your LinkedIn home page that will allow you to search for people, updates, jobs, companies—and groups.
  • Through similar groups. Once you join a group you will be provided with a list of similar groups you might be interested in.
  • Through others’ profiles. Check the profiles of those you’re connected to or those you admire to see which groups they’re involved with, and check them out.

One of the practical benefits related to groups is that you can join and un-join at will; there’s no risk in your involvement so “lurking” for a while to get the feel of a group can be a good way to determine if it’s right for you. If not, simply un-join.

In terms of participation in groups, Vermeirer suggested:

  • First listen, then talk. Don’t start discussions until you’ve gotten a sense for the “atmosphere” of the group.
  • Select the right groups for you: “Groups are excellent for building a ‘know, like, trust’ factor,” said Vermeirer.
  • Never sell in a group—that’s a sure way to turn people off.

Remember that participation in groups is fluid, not static.

Thomas said he reviews his list of groups from time to time and that he is maxed out at the 50 level. An important criterion is how well the group manager polices activity in the group, he said. Thomas joins only closed groups—those where membership is monitored carefully. “Open memberships have a lot of disadvantages because they allow the brand of the group to get sullied,” said Thomas.

Some LinkedIn Groups to Consider:

Group: Association of Management Consulting Firms (AMCF)

Created: 2008

Members: 3,000

About: AMCF is the leading global association of management consulting firms. Members vary in size, and their service offerings cover a wide range of areas, including pure strategy, IT, HR and very specialized areas. Some focus on particular industries, while others have a broad client base.

Group: Communication Leadership Exchange

Created: 2008

Members: 657

About: Formerly the Council of Communications Management, the organization itself has been around since 1955 to help experienced communications professionals share best practices and enhance their careers. It connects professionals of varied backgrounds and expertise yet sharing a common interest—gaining relevant, real-world, real-time communication insight from their peers.

Group: ERE.net

Created: 2007

Members: 19,000

About: For recruiters, human resource professionals, managers and others who are members of ERE.net.

Group: HR and Talent Management Executive

Created: 2008

Members: 69,000

About: A global group of human resource executives that exchange research and best practices in the field of HR and talent management (HRMS/HRIS, payroll, recruiting, performance, succession, learning, organizational development, compensation, benefits).

Group: Human Capital Institute (HCI)

Created: 2007

Members: 23,000

About: HCI’s global association for talent management and new economy leadership provides a clearinghouse for best practices and new ideas.

Group: Need A Speaker/Be A Speaker

Created: 2009

Members: 5,400

About: A group that serves those looking for speakers and those interested in being speakers, along with speaking tips, best practices and advice.

Group: Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)

Created: 2007

Members: 62,000

About: SHRM’s LinkedIn group allows members to interact and exchange information around a wide variety of HR-related topics.

Group: TLNT--The Business of HR

Created: 2010

Members: 940

About: A group for human resource professionals interested in talent management, benefits, compensation, training, development, organizational development and legal issues.

Lin Grensing-Pophal, SPHR, is a Wisconsin-based business journalist with HR consulting experience in employee communication, training and management issues.

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