How to Use Social Media Groups to Build your Personal Brand Are you looking for new ways to connect with your audience? Have you considered using social media groups to build your brand? In this article, you’ll discover how to create stronger relationships with your audience by joining and participating in groups on social media. Joining groups offers a proven way to form lasting, productive connections that generate leads, referrals, and valuable insight. Make your way into social circles. Affiliations are all-important to the growth of your brand. Find groups you’d be proud to be a part of, get involved, and make your presence known. To quote the founder of Leader Networks, Vanessa DiMauro: “To advance personally and professionally, we need to learn what others have experienced, share what we know, and be a part of something bigger than ourselves.” How to connect the dots Joining puts us on the path to belonging. Belonging leads to community. Community yields collaboration and knowledge sharing. And collaboration and knowledge sharing drive competitive advantage. That means joining truly is the first step on the path to excellence.” No doubt you’ve heard some maxims to this effect. You are the company you keep. You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. The power of positive thinking is contagious. Two heads are better than one. Sure, I’m bordering on (or borrowing from) cliché inspirational posters and Internet memes. But rhetoric it’s not. It’s life on planet togetherness. Joining and participating in groups can be immensely helpful for your career. That’s why professional groups are everywhere. They exist online and off, in all different sizes and for a variety of purposes. During the writing of my new book The Road to Recognition with co-author Barry Feldman, I was invited to become a member of a private Facebook group for non-fiction writers. Ideas are flying there. Any question I have, get’s an answer. Beneficial new relationships are being born. At the same time, I joined a mastermind group for public speakers that has become my favorite and most beneficial haunts on Facebook. I’ve met many of my speaking idols in the group and was introduced to a book publisher that has become a friend and collaborator, Rohit Bhargava of IdeaPress. The best engagement online is happening in social media groups. People join groups on social media for one purpose – to engage with others about a specific topic. You can find social media groups on any topic under the sun, from aardvarks to zombies. Yes, I checked to verify that. There are lots of Facebook groups about zombies. What’s the point of joining? Why should you join a group while building your personal brand? It’s simple. People who want to discuss specific topics look for groups to do that. It’s tough to get direct connections on social media with a complete stranger. It’s easy, on the other hand, to spark a conversation with a complete stranger with a common interest in a group. Three of the top social media networks – Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ – have groups (or communities for Google+). You can use the search bar at the top of each of these networks to find groups on topics related to your personal brand. The key to building your authority on a specific topic using social media groups is to find the ones where people are really talking. One of the downsides to social media groups is that many turn into havens for spammers, or people who come, post a promotion, and leave without ever looking at or participating in discussions. “The quickest way to grow an audience is to add massive value to someone else’s” The infinite benefits of professional groups While networking is certainly a part of the picture, joining and participating in groups can be beneficial in so many ways. You’ll: Be challenged, focused, and motivated —Groups can help keep you on track, enable you to think bigger and push you to achieve your goals. Be accountable —Talking to and working with your peers can challenge you to step up your game. Share your goals with them and ask them to hold you accountable. Get ideas —The collective power of the groups you join will foster your creativity and problem-solving skills. You’re likely to get ideas for projects or even products. Get feedback —Your peers will give you feedback to continuously help correct your course. Groups create a sense of security and trust. Gain confidence —Surrounding yourself with like-minded people will serve to support and inspire you. You’ll become a better decision maker and increase your confidence. Expand your skills —Interacting with other members will enable you to pick up new skills and talents. Develop leadership skills —Professional groups give you an opportunity to develop leadership skills. You may find yourself mentoring others, coaching, and teaching. Help others —Zig Ziglar said, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” You’ll find great satisfaction in helping others. Do some good —Groups tend to pursue worthwhile causes that you’ll be able to play a part in or lead. Make friends —You’ll get more opportunities to share your dreams and vision. You’ll create deep connections with some great people. Discover new opportunities —Collaboration opportunities will present themselves often. All kinds of doors may open for you. Who should you surround yourself with? Surround yourself with good people. They don’t have to be saints. They have to make you feel good. In a post on Inc.com, Janine Popick (friend, client, entrepreneur, and business leader), answered the question in several ways, which are too good not to share. People who love life —Get into groups and form relationships with people who have a positive attitude. They enable you to think beyond the job, which sometimes gives you more inspiration. People who are really good —We’re not talking about talent; we’re talking about people who are good to others, people with heart. These are people you want to hang with, talk to, and laugh with. People who challenge you —People who challenge you and ask the tough questions are golden. They’ll help you raise your game. People who listen —They may be hard to find, but these people want to know more about you. They want to help. They ask a lot of questions and listen closely to your answers. These people are a powerful force. Which groups should you join? There are countless trade associations and professional clubs. Meetups are hot. Millions of professionals value LinkedIn and Facebook groups. And, of course, mastermind groups are wildly popular for business owners and professionals who want to gather wisdom and grow. You might field invitations from friends and colleagues to join groups and trying them can be time well spent. However, don’t let chance decide where you’re going to spend your time. Do some research and aim to select a well-rounded mix of organizations. Asking your peers, influencers, and clients which groups they belong to is a smart approach for targeting worthwhile groups. Of course, the social media activities of your peers will also provide great clues. Try to diversify your group activities. Any one type won’t serve all your needs. Here are several different types of groups to consider: Mastermind groups The idea of the “mastermind” group is often attributed to Napoleon Hill’s descriptions of the concept in his books, The Law of Success and Think And Grow Rich. Hill credits Andrew Carnegie for the idea. But Carnegie didn’t invent the concept. Historians speak of The Junto, a club established by Benjamin Franklin for the purpose of debating important questions and exchanging knowledge of business affairs. Masterminds aim to sharpen your business and personal skills to help you achieve success. – They offer a combination of brainstorming, education, peer accountability, and support in a group setting. – Participants challenge each other to set and accomplish goals. – Membership requires commitment, confidentiality, willingness to both give and receive advice and ideas. – The agenda belongs to the group, and each person’s participation is key. Professional associations Professional associations are “knowledge networks” where members tend to be from a specific industry. – The primary purpose is to exchange information and ideas. – Members might be potential clients or partners. – Examples of professional associations: National Association of REALTORS, American Bar Association, American Medical Association, National Speakers Association. Casual contact business groups – They accept people from various overlapping professions. – They usually meet monthly and often hold mixers where members mingle informally. – Meetings often feature guest speakers or member speakers presenting on business topics. – Examples: chambers of commerce, Meetups, networking clubs, events. Strong contact network groups – They meet weekly, often for the purpose of exchanging referrals. – Membership may be restricted to one person per profession or specialty. – Meetings tend to be more structured, including open networking, short presentations by everyone, and more detailed presentations by one or two members. – They require a greater commitment from you. – Business Network International (BNI) is an example, with chapters all over the world. Community service clubs – These are formed to give back to the community. – They are good sources of word-of-mouth business. – Examples include Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis Clubs. Some other groups – Company-led communities – User groups – Internet-based forums – Women’s groups – Campus groups – Church and institutional groups Social media groups Social media groups deserve a special section here because the best engagement online happens in them. People join them for one purpose: to engage with others about a specific topic. It’s sometimes tough to connect with a stranger directly on social media. However, it’s easy to spark a conversation with that same person if they’re actively involved in one of your groups. You can find social media groups on any topic under the sun, from aardvarks to zombies. Yes, we verified that. The social media groups you’ll want to consider include: – LinkedIn groups – Facebook groups – Google+ groups – Twitter chats – Reddit communities Try not to get sucked into social media groups merely because they get numerous likes and links. Link bombing is not the point. Interaction is. Look for groups where activity levels are high, and members are consistently contributing to the comment streams. Real discussions give you a chance to learn, interact and add value. Every post may not generate comments, but if most of them don’t, you should move on. Tips for getting started: Join the group Some groups will allow you to preview discussions in the group before you join. Others will have privacy settings requiring you to join the group first. If you join a group then find out they do not have useful discussions, you can leave the group. Monitor the discussions Monitor the discussions and comments for a few days to get a feel for how friendly and responsive its members are. Search the discussions If you want to talk about specific topics, try using the search option. Read the group rules Every group has unique rules. Some allow specific kinds of discussions; others don’t. Generally, the groups that disallow link sharing and selling are the ones that will have the most meaningful exchanges. Participate in discussions Make yourself valuable by replying to posts. Answer questions and chime in with valuable information. Create insightful posts Try to be the first to share big news that will interest the members. Start discussions. Ask questions Ask questions to engage in interesting conversions. Get into it As is the case with so many things, what you get out of groups will be a function of what you put into them. Be a contributor and good citizen. Be generous. Although you join groups to advance your career, you need to remember the group’s not all about you. If you want to build your personal brand, remember to “work” the networking groups you belong to. Connect with the members and make things happen. These rules are applicable across all groups, whether on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+. In the unlikely event that you don’t find a group on your topic, you can always create one. Note that you will want to participate in a few groups before creating your own just to see how they work. Also, note that owning your own group means moderating the incoming members and their posts. You don’t want to create a group that ultimately turns into a spam haven. You want to create a group with real discussion. This is why it’s easier to start building your authority in groups by others. You can get all of the benefits without the hassles. Seth Price I’m on a mission to transform the way you think about personal branding to empower your life’s work. My keynote speeches connect me with audiences all over the world. Join me in creating ideas for bringing your brand to market.