Linkedin® was in the news all weekend for its big-ticket IPO last week. Regardless of what you think of the valuation of Linkedin's stock, Linkedin itself is still worth its virtual weight in gold when it comes to building, maintaining and extending your reputation.

I've written before about giving recommendations and using Answers. Here's another tip: join and participate in Groups.

We all like gathering around a campfire and being part of something bigger. We like learning from and sharing successes and complaints with like-minded people.

There are tons of great Groups on Linkedin -- from personal interest to professional associations. Here's how to use them:

  1. Have a strategy. Rather than just joining groups willy-nilly, think about what you want to get out of the Group. Business? Knowledge? Partners? Then look for groups that will meet your need and serve your purpose. I'm a member of the Insurance and Financial Communicators Association group because it's a great way to keep up with issues we might address at the IFCA annual conference (where we frequently present) and to share information with other professionals. It's also a solid biz dev activity. You can find groups by searching or letting Linkedin do the work with "Groups you may like" (Under the Groups tab),
  2. Poke around. Before you join, look around the Group. What topics are discussed and how active are the members? Does the activity serve your needs? If not, move on. There will be another group (or you can start one!). I watched one group for about a week with the hope of learning more about the industry. But the members weren't very active and without any interplay, there wasn't anything to learn.
  3. Join in. When you find a group you like, get active. Post relevantly -- some self-promotional, some informational. Ask and answer questions. Make connections. Be a solid citizen. I subscribe to the daily digest of each Group I'm in, and I try to comment, post or otherwise participate at least three times a week.
  4. Get more. When and however you participate, be sure to add a little more information (even though your name and title will show up with anything you post. I usually include a link to this blog or my Twitter handle are for folks who'd like to connect with you otherwise.

Getting involved in Groups is another great way to establish your credentials and extend your reputation. Get busy!