With more than 200 conversations happening each minute, LinkedIn Groups are a powerful way to connect with customers and other professionals on the social network. Here, members are encouraged to exchange and share experiences, business knowledge, interests, and ideas — making Groups a great resource for brands. But with so many great conversations and a wealth of valuable information available, finding the best fit for your brand can sometimes feel overwhelming.

To help you more efficiently and effectively manage your participation in Groups, LinkedIn has introduced a new navigational feature called Interests. Found in the menu at the top of your LinkedIn homepage, Interests makes it easier to stay up-to-date on what’s happening in Groups you’re a member of as well as those you manage. This helps make your time spent on LinkedIn more productive so your social team isn’t spread too thin trying to manage multiple social presences.

With Interests, you’ll see all of your current Groups in one place. If the Group has new activity, you’ll instantly see the number of updates, new discussions, or job postings within that group by hovering over it. LinkedIn has also made it possible to start or join a conversation in any of your Groups directly from this page. The conversation feed will give you a quick look at conversations that took place since your last visit so you can easily get involved.

There are currently millions of Groups around different topics, including entrepreneurship, careers, social marketing, and so on. The average LinkedIn member belongs to seven Groups, and those who engage receive four times as many profile views than those who don’t. With stats like these, participation isn’t an option. Whether you’re joining a Group for the first time or already manage your own, here are a few tips for starting conversations.

Be Thoughtful

LinkedIn Groups aren’t for link dropping. While brevity is always appreciated, there are no character limits here. Ask thought provoking questions that are relevant to the Group’s interest and encourage engaging conversation among members.

If you’re managing a Group around your brand, encourage multiple employees from different departments to take turns participating in conversations. Members will appreciate the different perspectives, and it will also demonstrate that engagement isn’t the sole responsibility of just one group within your company.

Be Helpful

On LinkedIn, it’s okay to toot your own horn. Groups are a great way to showcase your expertise on a particular topic. But be careful that your participation doesn’t come off as self-serving. As a member of a Group, regularly answer questions posted by other members, and direct them to outside resources that might be helpful. If you share your own URL, provide context as to why it’s beneficial for the Group.

The same rules apply for your own Group; however, here it’s more kosher to share content that’s directly related to your product or service. People who join a Group about Brand XYZ are already interested in it. This is a great opportunity for you to share related how-to’s, guides, and blog posts. But be sure that you’re also talking about things that matter to your organization, not just your own product/service.

Be Relevant

For this, it’s important to know who the other members of the Group are. Find Groups with members who are prospective customers or influencers in your industry. Then, make sure that you’re sharing content and starting conversations that are relevant to these audiences. For example, you wouldn’t join a Group dedicated to Facebook marketing and only talk about Pinterest.

Additionally, make sure that any comments you leave is relevant to that piece of content. You’re not going to start a dialog by leaving a robotic or lackluster response. “Great article,” isn’t good feedback. Instead, highlight one or two reasons why that article resonated with you. Or, if you don’t agree with the article, don’t just leave a link to something that’s better. Explain why you didn’t like it or ask questions of the original sharer.

The most important thing to know about managing LinkedIn Groups, as a member or admin, is to not overdo it. Instead of being a member of 35 different Groups, focus on being an active, contributing member of those most relevant to your cause. You’ll find that it’ll be much easier to keep up with Group activity without having to sacrifice quality of content or engagement.

You can learn more about getting started with Groups on LinkedIn’s Help Center.

[Image credit: B Rosen, jlhopgood, Paul Downey]