LinkedIn sometimes feels like the forgotten stepchild of social media. Everyone loves to talk about Facebook. Everyone loves to talk about Twitter. But when I ask people about LinkedIn, they say something like, "Yeah, I put my resume up there about three years ago."

This is unfortunate because one of the powerful aspects of using LinkedIn is that the people using the site have the intent of doing business.

Unlike Facebook or Twitter, where the focus tends to be more casual or personal, LinkedIn users are usually trying to get something done. Sometimes, the thing they’re trying to get done involves real estate.

For those interested in reputation management, a LinkedIn profile is often on the first page of results for a name search. For those interested in being found by people looking for a real estate professional, LinkedIn has the capability to search by industry and geography.

Yes, it’s important to have a solid profile on LinkedIn because of the things mentioned above. But if you’re one of the people who put your resume online and you later become a chronic Facebook photo-tagger and turned to twittering like a mad fiend, I’d like you to consider upping your LinkedIn game. A good place to start is with LinkedIn Groups.

Joining a LinkedIn Group

One of the good things about LinkedIn groups is that they tend to be organized around business topics. There are also a lot of groups organized around business topics in specific geographies.

Joining and participating in one of these groups helps you interact with more people in your community, increasing your social surface area.

While there are a lot of real estate-specific groups, I wouldn’t advise starting there. You can imagine how much spam gets pumped through those sorts of forums. A better bet is to find groups that are focused on general business networking in your area.

Some of these business-networking groups are split into demographic or broader industry subsets, and that might help if you find something that really clicks with you.

The main tactic here is to be present and a part of conversations in your local business community: just like you probably are in real-world groups. You’re there, you’re helpful, you’re meeting people.

Many local-focused LinkedIn groups get together in the real world as well — this is the opportunity to use your focused time online and to increase your time with people offline.

Starting a LinkedIn Group

As with Meetup, a group facilitation tool (see: "An online tool for in-person gatherings"), if you can’t find a group that looks like a good fit for the kind of business you do, start one.

Obviously, if you aren’t up to the task of attracting an audience and moderating a group, this approach isn’t going to work for you.

When starting your own group, keep the same things in mind as when you look for a group. A “Peru, NY Real Estate” LinkedIn group is likely to attract mostly other real estate people and a lot of spam and moderation headache.

But a “Peru, NY Small Business” group will attract a broader and more interesting conversation.

Another approach is to focus on a business challenge that is related in some way to real estate. For example, if you do a lot of relocation business, perhaps you could start a group for company human resource execs focusing on challenges around relocation.

Other benefits

A tangential benefit of being in a LinkedIn group is that when people are searching to find information about you, your group affiliations can be displayed. If two people claim to be local community experts and one of them is a member of local LinkedIn groups, guess which one looks more expert?

Another benefit is that sometimes you’re the one who needs something done. Your group of local contacts via LinkedIn can provide a sort of outsource channel to help you find services or products that you need for your own business.

NOTE: Attending the National Association of Realtors conference this month in New Orleans? Gahlord Dewald will present a session titled "Improving Conversations Through Optimized Landing Pages: Maximizing WordPress," from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 8, at the Morial Convention Center, room 225.

He will also present a series of workshops in the Market Leader booth’s (booth No. 439) theater area during the NAR trade show. He will speak about "Mobile Mojo for Real Estate Professionals" from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 5; from 11:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Nov. 6; and from noon to 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 7. He will also speak about "Online Strategies that Make Sense" from 3 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 6.

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