Spend a lot of time surfing social networks? Put those hours to good use by strategically engaging in professional groups.

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If you’re like me, you probably belong to a number of business-related groups on Facebook and LinkedIn (along with some silly ones we won’t mention). There are loads of local and national groups you can get lost in online, no matter your profession. But do it strategically. Use those groups for camaraderie and commiseration, sure, but also tap into them for job leads, networking opportunities and feedback. Here’s how.

Introduce yourself. When you join a group, announce that you’ve arrived to the party. I usually lead with my one-sentence pitch about my professional backstory. I then explain why I’m excited to join the group and what I hope to offer and get out of it.

Respect the rules. Many group administrators post guidelines, usually found right up top on the group’s page. Read them. The group may not allow selling your product or grinding an axe, for instance. Membership may be by invitation only, in which case it might be secret. I am a member of an amazing group that was created a couple of years ago, spread like wildfire and spawned many smaller, focused groups — all adhere to a strict “cone of silence.” If I say more, I might get blacklisted. What happens in these groups, stays in these groups.

Drive the conversation. Don’t just passively “stalk” the group, relying on others to contribute. Engage. Link to an article, post a photo or video, or pose a question that can spark discussion and cement your place in this online tribe. For extra credit, consider coordinating a casual networking happy hour.

Show up. Literally. If other members are hosting or promoting an event, go. It’s an invaluable opportunity to make a true connection in the real world — and that goes a long way in a gig economy. At the very least, read and comment on members’ posts and links, and take a few minutes to check out their offerings or website.

Ask for help. Online groups are incredibly generous communities with loads of resources and expertise. When a longtime contracting gig went by the wayside, I found myself without a steady income and with a lot of time on my hands. I kickstarted my freelance career by taking Brené Brown’s advice and being vulnerable. I posted that I needed work, being specific about what I was looking for and highlighting my experience. Immediately, group members — some of whom I didn’t know personally — reached out, posting leads, messaging me privately and taking the time to meet up for coffee. Being vulnerable is a powerful tool.

Jennifer Worick is a veteran freelancer/contractor, publishing consultant and New York Times bestselling author. Email her at jen@jenniferworick.com.