Groups are like hidden LinkedIn gems. Indeed, they are grouped at the very bottom of your profile, under "Interests."
There are LinkedIn groups for professionals across a wide variety of industries. These groups a good way to follow what's going on in your industry or your clients' industries. For example, I'm in several groups that have to do with public relations, communications and financial services. You can also check out university alumni groups and workplace employee and alumni groups, and groups for entrepreneurs.
You get custom news feeds.
For each group you join, you can peruse a corresponding news feed that has to do with that particular niche. This is ideal if you're feeling out of touch with your industry, want to learn more about a product, service or profession, want to network with people who work in the same industry or went to the same college. I belong to groups that cover AP style, banking, credit unions, journalism, PR, social media and more.
You can also expect some of these custom feeds to include job postings and queries from those looking for specific types of vendors. You might not find these opportunities in your main news feed.
You get to work a "smaller" crowd.
LinkedIn Groups can be large -- hundred or thousands of people big -- but they can feel small because they are specific to you, what you do and your interests. They offer the chance for you to share articles and insights with your crowd.
You can also benefit from crowdsourcing. Is this industry conference worthwhile? Has anyone seen an article on this topic? Can anyone recommend a someone for a project I'm working on?
Because LinkedIn groups are hidden at the bottom of your profile, you might forget to regularly visit those pages. Mark your calendar to check these pages like I plan to do.
You get to shine and shine a light on others, too.
If you've written an article that has to do with your line of work or subject matter expertise, share it with the groups that will dig knowing about it and be likely to share it, too. That's how you can quietly shine in a group.
And if you see someone in your group has shared something noteworthy, like it, share it -- and help them shine too. This is what LinkedIn is all about. This is what it means to network online.