It's not what you know, it's who you know.
We've all heard this one before. It refers to the fact that sometimes, knowing the right people can lead to opportunities that you would not otherwise have received.
In community association management, networking can do a number of great things for your business, from trendspotting, to vendor recommendations, to ideas for out of the box solutions to common problems. Industry events are a great resource for networking, but it can be hard to be helpful AND receive all the help you need for the year in just a few days at an event. If only there were a solution that was available throughout the year...
Social Media to the rescue!
Among all of the available social media networks, LinkedIn stands out as the only social network specifically designed for business. People often use LinkedIn as a sort of online resume that they only bother to update when they are looking for a job, but there is so much more value to LinkedIn than that. LinkedIn has tools to promote your brand, manage your reputation and of course, improve your networking. Perhaps the most valuable feature of LinkedIn is Groups - the perfect online networking vehicle.
LinkedIn groups provide an online message board where professionals with similar interests can connect with each other to share content, ask and answer questions, and list job opportunities. In other words, all things networking. Once you have joined a group, LinkedIn will make it easy for you to keep up with it by sending you regular emails each time an update is posted to the group.
Setting it Up
To access groups, you'll first need to set up your free LinkedIn account. The setup wizard will walk you through the basics of getting started. I recommend that you complete as much as possible before you start joining groups. Some groups are private, and the group leader will look at your profile to assess whether you are a good fit for that group. Red flags that someone is not a good fit include people with no connections to other people and people with nothing in their profile (likely to be a spammer).
Once your profile is set up, you are ready to begin joining groups. You can join up to 50 groups, but unless it's your full time job, you probably cannot keep up with more than a few groups at a time. To save you the trouble, I have compiled a list of industry specific LinkedIn Groups and some basic information to help you decide which ones you may wish to join.
Top 10 CAM industry LinkedIn Groups
Community Associations Institute (CAI) [Private]
Weighing in at over 13,000 members, the CAI group is the mac daddy of community association management networking (is anyone surprised by that?) This group is great for keeping up on trends and staying in touch with the industry as a whole. The group tends to be very active, and stays (mostly) on topic.
Condo & HOA Law & Living [Private]
Nearly 6,000 members strong, this is THE group to go to if you are looking for information about laws affecting community associations. This is not to be confused with 'free legal advice'. (You always get what you pay for in my opinion) but the group is moderated by respected industry lawyer, Donna DiMaggio Berger, and a number of high profile industry lawyers do regularly post here.
If you're looking for a big audience in the CAM space, this is definitely it. The group sports nearly 10,000 members, many of whom are board members. While you may need to wade through a few more 'marketing' posts than usual, and there is a lot of post overlap with the CAI group, this group is generally good for hearing board member POVs on issues affecting the industry.
Condo Association (and HOA) Network [Public]
With more than 5,000 members, this group tends to contain a large amount of overlapping content with the groups already listed. That said, it does have a few exciting things going for it. First of all, this is the first public group to make it onto our list. Being public means there is no gate guard deciding who can and who cannot be a member, which opens the door to a lot more potential in terms of differing opinions and varied advice. Another cool feature of this group is the many subgroups they have set up - one for each of the major metropolitan areas in the US. While I cannot vouch for the activity level in each and every metropolitan area, this does offer a great opportunity to discuss issues that are unique to your location.
Community Association Ink [Public]
More than 3,000 members contribute to this group, which focuses on news and publications involving/affecting community associations (hence the pun INK). The moderator of this group is a highly respected member of the community, Mark R Benson, who has devoted his retirement from active community management to helping the industry grow and improve. Benson is very active on the board, regularly sharing little known articles and striking up thoughtful discussions on what they mean for the industry at large.
Tech Savvy Property Managers [Public]
While this group of nearly 4,000 members is not strictly related to condo/HOA management, it is still an interesting group to keep tabs on. As a small part of the larger Real Estate Management industry, Community Association Management has a tendency to be slow to adopt new technologies. Keeping up with what's going on in the larger industry can do a lot to push you ahead of your competition in that regard.
Community Manager Forum [Private]
With less than 2,000 members, this group might be easy to ignore except for one fact. It is strictly intended for community association managers (and vigorously moderated). As such, you will see a lot less spam, or larger discussions targeted to board members and homeowners and a lot more focused conversation between professional managers. If you are looking for a place to go to get advice from your peers without fear of judgement or discovery by your clients, this is home base. Moderated by Julie Adamen of Adamen, Inc. who keeps things lively and active.
Another small but focused group with about 2,000 members, this group provides an excellent sounding board for self managed communities to reach out and learn from each other. This group is not as active as some of the others, but they are quick to weigh in when someone does post a question related to self-management.
This group of approximately 2,000 members is titled after the magazine of the same name. Like the community manager forum, its focus on the management side of the business serves as a good sounding board for its membership.
With only 800 members, this group is tiny compared to the others mentioned, and I could have listed others here in its place. But I chose this group as the final one in my list because, once again, it serves a unique niche - in this case CAM insurance. Due to its small size, this is not the most active group, but it is a great place to go to discuss pending changes to insurance policies, upcoming claims, or get some good, practical advice on issues you are currently experiencing.
BONUS -TOPS User Group [Private]
Being TOPS, I couldn't pass up an opportunity to toot our own horn just a little bit. For users of TOPS Software, we also have a LinkedIn group, the TOPS User Group, where users of the software can get together and discuss the program and how they can make the most of it in their organization. This group gets an added bonus - first notice on all upcoming program updates. This is a great way to get a heads up before the rest of our users on when new features or products are coming.
So there you have it! 10 (plus 1) great industry groups on LinkedIn that you can use to Network throughout the year with your peers and constituents. Go forth and get those networking engines going! (If you're looking to connect with someone to get started, you are always welcome to connect with me - we're friends, right?)
Social Media has proven time and again to be effective for business, yet the community association management industry seems stubbornly slow to adopt it. There are a number of factors that may be keeping you from adopting social media, from simply not having enough time in the day to add even one more thing, to not seeing the value or ROI in social for your business.
To better understand how people in our industry are using social today, Gladly, a private social media platform built for community associations is conducting an industry survey, the results of which they will be sharing publicly. Please take a second to complete the survey to help us all get a better picture of how our industry uses social media.