I've written quite a bit about LinkedIn groups in the past. Historically, they were the number 1 source of organic lead generation for my B2B marketing funnel - in fact, 80% of my leads came from LinkedIn Groups.
Yes, groups sometimes turned into orgies of spam and click bait, but a well-managed group often times did exactly what it was supposed to - brought together like minded people to discuss their common professional interests.
In my estimation, Groups began their death-rattle around 3 years ago when LinkedIn instituted (though never officially) the Site Wide Automatic Moderation policy. The basic premise of Site Wide Automatic Moderation (coined SWAM for short) is that if a member of a LinkedIn Discussion Group is blocked and deleted in one group, he or she will automatically be marked for moderation in all other groups they belong to.
This essentially meant that all you needed was one person - perhaps a competitor - to flag a post, and you were in LinkedIn purgatory for an undisclosed period of time.
While some might say this was a natural response to what was becoming a very spammy environment, it was clear to many of us that this was a huge overreaction. In reality, it may have been what began the downfall of groups.
Where Did Groups Go?
When was the last time you tried to access groups on LinkedIn? Have you noticed how difficult it is to even find them?
There's no link on your main dashboard - in order to access groups, you have to go into the "Work" drop-down and find it there.
This wasn't always the case. Previously LinkedIn Groups were treated as part and parcel of the overall LinkedIn platform, they were easily visible and accessible from the main menu, and navigating them was a simple and straightforward.
A Separate Product?
The new location of Groups is quite telling - the "Work" drop-down menu houses what LinkedIn refers to as it's other "Products," such as Slideshare.
Given its new home, is it possible that LinkedIn will try to spin Groups off into an entirely separate platform? It's entirely possible.
In marketing, currency is measured in attention, and for a time, Groups had a lot of attention. LinkedIn may see this as an opportunity for greater monetization of Groups. First, however, they would have to put some time and effort into cleaning them up and making them more useful.
This monetization could include things like in-group advertising, "pay to play" boosting of group posts so that more people see it - similar things that Facebook has done.
Or Will They Kill it Off Altogether?
There's a real chance that LinkedIn plans on totally abandoning Groups and letting them die a natural death. Or, they might hasten that death by killing them off in the very near future.
In reality, it seems that Groups are no longer what they once were. No doubt that some people may get great benefit from the sharing of ideas with other like-minded professionals, but they do not seem to have the kind of staying power that we all thought they would have.
What Does This Mean for B2Bs?
B2B companies, especially startups, need a scalable marketing strategy and LinkedIn Groups used to be one of the greatest channels to implement such. As with all marketing, B2B marketers will need to find where the white space now lies - the places that have not been inundated with other marketers, but still have the attention necessary to be a valuable channel for leads.