This is the first of 3 posts offering recommendations for how LinkedIn, managers, and members can improve the quality and value of LinkedIn groups. The initial post focuses on suggestions for LinkedIn and invites others to share their recommendations as well.
I've always been a fan of LinkedIn (LI) groups. My memberships usually hover around the maximum possible number (50), and I've started about half a dozen groups myself, two of which I still actively manage. I've learned a lot from my group memberships, especially through articles, blog posts, and other items people share. I've also gotten value from some of the active discussions I've joined/followed, from both learning and research perspectives. As a blogger and thought leader, I've been able to drive traffic to my posts by sharing them through LI groups, and I've gotten great feedback and fresh insights on my ideas. My engagement in LI groups has led to some interesting connections and more than a few opportunities.
But LI groups are far from perfect. Though there's a lot of "gold in them thar hills," there's also TONS of dirt! And digging through all that dirt to get to the precious nuggets can be aggravating and time consuming. For many people, in fact, the potential rewards are not worth the effort. We've all heard the lamentations about the poor quality of group content, the spammers who seem to have no respect for other group members (or themselves?), and the overwhelming volume of information. As a result, many people tune out, sacrificing the good because of the bad.
In a LinkedIn poll last winter, only 36% of the 789 respondents responded "yes" to the question, "Do you actually open and read emails from LinkedIn about group updates?" Forty-six percent replied "sometimes" and 17% said "no" or "never" (click here to view the poll results and/or read the comments). Given that active LI users are much more likely to participate in polls than less engaged users, these results probably should be viewed conservatively - in other words, with a more representative sample, the percentage of "yesses" would be much lower.
As an active group participant and manager, I thought I'd share my thoughts on how LinkedIn, group managers, and group members can each do their part to ensure that groups are viewed as "treasure troves" rather than "trash heaps." Rather than combining everything in one mega-post, I've divided it into three. In the first post, I offer recommendations for LI and invite others to share their recommendations as well. The second post will focus on suggestions for group managers, and the final post will focus on group members.
Suggestions for LinkedIn
Generally speaking, I'm pleased with the refinements LI has made to the groups feature. They've added lots of functionality and have provided both group members and managers with straightforward yet sophisticated customization and management tools.
As with other features, LI keeps refining the functionality of groups. Recently, for example, they added the ability to like individual comments, something that was on my wish list. But there are a few additional improvements I'd like LI to consider making:
Separate News and Discussion items again. Managers have different goals for their groups. Some want every item to be intended to initiate dialogue, whereas others (like me) encourage people to share news items as well. Many moons ago, the two were separate, but LI decided to merge them into a single function. Separating them and allowing managers to control the functionality of each, as they do now for Promotions and Jobs, would not only untangle the two types of content, but would also create better visibility - especially for the Discussion items. In a group where lots of content is shared, Discussions can sometimes get lost in a steady stream of News. Having separate streams accommodates the different flow rates and creates better opportunities for Discussion items to engage members. It also enables managers who want to prevent the sharing of links to disable the News function.
Add an Events tab. Groups are a great place to share relevant events, but they don't really belong in the Discussion/News stream. Although LI has a separate section for Promotions, it's not really a good way to share event information, primarily because Promotion items don't show up in group email notifications. To keep events from cluttering up the Discussion/News feed, I've tried creating a Manager's Choice item for Events, but most group members are either unaware of it or forget to use it, which means I have to do more Events management than I'd like. With a separate Events section, it's clear where people should share news and links about upcoming webinars, conferences, workshops, etc. And for what it's worth, I think groups are a much better channel for sharing event information than the general events feature, which I have found to be clunky and ineffective.
Fix the feed on the main group page (i.e., Discussions). I like that LinkedIn has offered two views: What's Happening and Latest Discussions, but it seems a bit glitchy. I prefer a straight chronological feed - especially as a group manager - but I have been having a hard time getting that view to stick. I assume they're aware of this and are working to fix it.
Notify group members about their activity. Specifically, it would be great if members would be notified when someone likes one of their posts and/or comments, as well as when their posts/comments are approved/rejected by group managers. Currently, you only get notified if someone writes a comment on a Discussion item you initiate or participate in.
Offer different alternatives for displaying groups on LinkedIn profiles. I like displaying my group memberships on my profile page, but it can really add a lot of unnecessary length. I'd love to be able to just highlight a few, with a link to a separate page with a complete list. Now that I think about it, chunkifying the profile so that certain elements (e.g., applications) don't overwhelm the core content would be great.
- If it's a feather in one's cap to found/manage groups, why is there no place on the profile to mention this?
- Regarding the link one can send out to invite others to join a group---why can it not be customized with the group name, instead of random letters and numbers? (They've never thought of it. Just had this discussion with LI.) (CSH note: I could make this request more general, by suggesting the ability to create custom group urls, like you can do with Facebook pages)
What other enhancements would you like to see LI make to the groups feature?
I look forward to your input.
- Courtney Shelton Hunt
PS - Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3, focused on group managers and group members respectively. If you'd like to be notified when those parts are published, please subscribe to the blog.
PPS - You may also want to check out these other posts related to LinkedIn: