Are LinkedIn Groups of any value anymore?

Ash Nallawalla

16 January 2012

LinkedIn

LinkedIn has thousands of discussion Groups, where actual discussion seems to be minimal. There was a time when a given topic had one or two groups, but now a popular topic will have hundreds of identical competitors. Anyone can create their own groups. Numerous small businesses (and some larger ones) have done this.

Why do people create LinkedIn Groups?

Most people in the workforce know that the Internet is a cheap way of reaching out to millions of people. At one extreme is the pastime of spamming those millions, but that’s the province of shady folks who go to great lengths to remain anonymous. At the respectable end, known as marketing, you need a large list of contacts, so you can promote your messages, being the owner of a discussion group.

So you create a LinkedIn group and call it, say, Internet Marketing, or E-Commerce, or Marketing Communications and so on. It doesn’t matter if someone else has a group with a similar name, but it cannot contain “LinkedIn”. If you’re into SEO, you have only 3143 other groups that appear to cover that topic.

Most of the popular groups have 50,000 subscribers or more. Some of the larger groups belong to a well-known brand, so they get their subscriber numbers fairly easily.

groups

Managing groups

Group owners and others who are appointed as managers can keep the group alive, by posting interesting questions and encouraging discussions. Some groups attract dozens of new topics or replies every hour, so the managers can’t possibly keep up with everything that has been posted, particularly spam.

spam in LinkedIn
Multiple spam responses in consecutive posts.

Readers can flag posts as inappropriate, as a promotion, or as a job. I presume that the managers are notified and I hope they take some action.

Why has LinkedIn deteriorated?

LinkedIn groups probably start with good intentions. Many never take off, but the ones that manage to gain critical mass rapidly attract self-promoters who drop in week after week with a link to an article on their own blog. Not many bother to check the discussion on LinkedIn, as they don’t want to waste their words on a site they don’t own.

Then there’s the small group of SEOs who use LinkedIn as a place to drop links to articles written for clients.

And finally, there are the blatant spammers, some of whom visit numerous groups and drop the same payload.

In its wisdom and probably to inflate its subscriber count for its IPO, LinkedIn seems to have stopped policing its rules. As mentioned in that article, you can search for any bad word and you will find the profile of a “person” that’s not real. There are millions of accounts on LinkedIn, so the staff could not begin to police its own rules. At least in my experience, if you try reporting a fake account, you’ll get a boilerplate response but the account will not be deleted. Feel free to try it.

So why has LinkedIn slacked off?

  • Primarily, because it costs very little to do nothing or next-to-nothing.
  • It would be impossible to clean up LinkedIn as it exists now and there would be no financial return.
  • The IPO is over and the investors are unlikely to know or care.
  • More pages help to display more ads.
  • Group owners can’t cope with the rubbish and some probably let it run on auto-pilot.

It’s all win-win for LinkedIn. Or, is it?

LinkedIn groups represent diminishing value to people who are interested in discussions. The product is flawed, in my opinion. Perhaps groups are a way of attracting paying members by giving them a platform, but I see another Orkut in the making. Some of the marketing groups I have belonged to (or am about to leave) are bereft of discussions and replete with self-promotional posts and spam.

Nobody is conversing with anyone.

 

 

Ash Nallawalla

Search strategist experienced in large, complex websites. Ash's Google+ profile

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