There are many reasons to join a LinkedIn group and two enormous benefits can be realized when you do.

For starters, it is very easy to find a group that matches one of your interests. LinkedIn’s platform contains nearly 2 million groups and they can be found using the search bar for a category or topic of interest. Some of the types of groups include: Corporate, College alumni, Nonprofit, Trade organizations, and Industry-specific. For example, the term “promotions” currently yields over 2,000 group choices.

Once a group is found that looks intriguing it needs to be investigated. How many members are in the group? What is the purpose of the group? Is it an Open group or a “by invitation only” type group? Who are the group’s main contributors? Does the group match your target strategy or purpose? After all, the maximum number that a member can join is only fifty.

One main reason for joining a group is to increase your contacts. Once a member joins a given group they can invite many of the group’s members without knowing their email address! The invitation can be made solely on the basis of the shared group membership. That may not sound like a big deal but it is unique within the LinkedIn platform.

LinkedIn’s stated—and enforced—policy is that members do not connect with people that they don’t know. However, LinkedIn tends to accept the proposition that if an inviter knows the invitee’s email, then it is likely that the two know each other. Thus, new connections can be made fairly quickly by looking at the group membership roster.

Secondly, groups are also advantageous because members can start a discussion about a relevant topic with the entire group. That is, other group members can “like” or “reply” to the discussion. The result is that a huge, like-minded audience can be reached with a simple introduction, message or conversation. (Note that some groups have thousands, some tens of thousands, some hundreds of thousands and a few are over 1 million.)

Discussions can be about problem-solving, jobs or opportunities, sharing expertise, and making mutually-beneficial business contacts. Frequent posting within a group can assist in establishing credibility and even, being recognized as an industry expert. At the very least, an introduction should be posted once a member has successfully joined a new group.

Group logos appear at the bottom of the profile page. Looking at a prospective connection’s groups can provide insight into their interests and affiliations. Knowing this information can help to create a more customized invitation instead of the standard “add you” message that is often ignored by recipients.

In summary, there are advantages to joining LinkedIn groups AND being active in them. By doing this one can discover and develop powerful relationships that open doors to new opportunities. Time spent in these groups can return amazing and exciting results.

By Gary Kissel | LinkedIn Strategist | Speaker | Author