[Editors Note: This is the start of a biweekly series of tips & tricks for collaborating more effectively with other professionals through LinkedIn groups.]

Millions of our members join their first groups to associate themselves with a university, company alumni group, trade organization, or professional interest. (Or Red Sox Nation.) Having the logos of these groups on your profile adds depth and color to your professional identity on the Web. But the logo is only the start of the story.

Here are 5 ways to get the most out of your groups memberships:

1. Commit to a couple of groups focused on your key professional interests. LinkedIn groups provide the opportunity to collaborate with professionals you would otherwise never meet – and with current and former coworkers, all in the same professional environment. Pick a couple of interests about which you’re most passionate and jump into the action of groups focused on those interests. Many of our most active members find their participation in the right groups directly enriches what they do at work.

2. Follow other groups. Groups provide a great way to keep track of what your fellow professionals have on their mind and what news they think is notable. Subscribe to the digest emails summarizing the activity of the group. Use our new tools for “Following” to keep an eye on the specific discussions you care about most. I use this a lot myself to monitor the flow of key discussions from my work email so I can jump in quickly at the right moment.

3. Use the news. Posting news is one of the best ways to participate in groups – it takes less thought and work up front than starting a discussion, and groups provide an easy way to get your fellow professionals’ take on an article or blog post… or to gain additional reputation for your take. Post a couple of articles a week that catches your interest while browsing the Web, the newsletters you get, your RSS reader, your Facebook feed, or Twitter. Now that managers can add RSS feeds to their groups, suggest they include your favorite news source or your own brilliant blog.

4. Involve your coworkers. You’ve invested a lot of time building up professional trust with your coworkers, both past and present. Invite four (or more) coworkers with whom you usually discuss your favorite professional interests to join you in the broader collaboration in your LinkedIn group.

5. Learn about your fellow LinkedIn members. LinkedIn groups are unique because they’re special contexts within the world’s largest professional network. Take full advantage of that by clicking through to the profiles of fellow members, sparking conversations about what they’re working on, and as relationships develop – inviting them to become connections.

LinkedIn groups are powerful ways to get noticed and enrich your professional network in these difficult economic times. One of our favorite success stories is this one from the Wall Street Journal blog we mentioned before.

Got a LinkedIn Groups success story? Please share it in the comments.