LinkedIn announced many major changes to their Groups feature in September, with rollout expected to be complete by the end of this week. Their new Groups iOS app launched October 14.
The changes will have profound effects for marketers, so we’re examining the key differences from the redesign.
Moderation Is Limited; Images and Tagging Introduced
New from LinkedIn: “To ensure groups are effective as timely conversation forums, conversations will now be posted instantly to a group without the need for manager approval.” “You can now make conversations as engaging as possible by posting images to any new conversations.” “You can now reference other group members and bring them into a conversation by typing ‘@’ followed by the group member’s name.”
What It Means for Marketers: Any member of a LinkedIn Group (more on how membership is changing in a moment) will be able to post conversations to that group without any moderation from group owners, managers or moderators. Group managers will still be able to remove conversations if they do not fit the group’s criteria, and other group participants will be able to flag comments and conversations as being inappropriate for the group. In addition, conversations will now allow the upload of images and both conversations and comments will allow members to publically call one another out by name.
Our Take: Scary stuff! All of a sudden, the carefully moderated (and possibly branded) group you’ve grown is a potential target for spammy posts and inappropriate content. It’s a shame LinkedIn has chosen to remove these safeguards – and it may be a deal breaker for many companies. Group moderation was one of the keys that differentiated LinkedIn from Facebook.
It’s even worse that they removed moderation in conjunction with allowing images! If a picture is worth a 1,000 words, just imagine the potential for inappropriate graphic content in your group. Finally, the potential for one member to offend another has grown with the ability to tag other group members by name. With some groups having nearly a quarter of a million members, this has the potential for abuse.
LinkedIn’s solution to the moderation concerns is a new Groups mobile app, complete with “push notifications for conversations in your groups so you stay updated on what’s happening in your community.” Unfortunately, it’s only available for iOS right now, so Android users will be stuck using the main LinkedIn interface for moderation.
Membership and Visibility
- All Groups are Now Private Groups: “Conversations in groups won’t be visible until you’ve joined the group.”
- All Groups are Now Members-Only Groups: “Members-only groups have created significantly more participation and conversations than others (up to five times more), indicating that members feel more confident contributing in these types of groups.”
- All Groups are Now Standard Groups or Unlisted Groups: “Unlisted Groups don’t show up in search results and only the group’s owner and manager can invite members to the group. Standard Groups do show up in search results and any member can invite any of their 1st degree connections to join.”
What It Means for Marketers: All marketers will need to become a member of any group they’d like to participate in – this has the potential to be a problem, as you are limited to joining only 50 groups. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to preview the content and quality of a group’s activity prior to joining, as all conversations will only be visible to the group’s members. Unlisted Groups are still an option for efforts that need not be as public (think partner or reseller forums and customer-centric user groups), but a group can only be made unlisted if it is created that way initially by the group owner (with a one-time exception for all existing groups to become Unlisted now). All other groups will be Standard Groups, where group membership is no longer under owner or manager control – first-degree connections will also be able to add group members without an owner’s approval.
Our Take: When coupled with the first change above, this means that Standard Groups have lost nearly all of their moderation safeguards. Conversations and comments are made live immediately, and group members can now invite and approve new members without a manager’s moderation. In short, it’s going to be very important for group owners to dedicate much more time at more frequent intervals to ensure the content and membership of their groups doesn’t lose focus, allow in competitors or become the target of self-promotion spam. What had previously been a passive process will now require increased attention around the clock.
Standard Groups have lost nearly all of their moderation safeguards Click To Tweet
Finally, privatizing the content means that search engines can no longer index content from LinkedIn Groups. This makes it harder for organizations to discover “dark social” conversations where they are the subject of discussion, and removes any SEO value for having content appear in groups.
Goodbye Promotions Tab, Hello Content Filtering
New from LinkedIn: “In an effort to focus on quality conversations, we’ve removed the Promotions tab. Any new promotional posts will go to the moderation queue for the owners, managers, and moderators to approve.” “LinkedIn has improved the filtering of spammy and low-quality content so that promotional conversations stay out of the conversation feed. Note: Job listings and job conversations posted to the main conversation feed are automatically moved to the Jobs tab.”
What It Means for Marketers: It’s difficult to say how effective LinkedIn’s algorithm will be at auto-demoting promotional content, but all of that content will now be held for moderation. Minimally, many groups will need to update their guidelines to reflect the removal of the Promotions tab, as many moderators recommended that as an option for self-promotional blog posts and event listings.
Our Take: Set some time aside for extra moderation! While removing the Promotions tab might be a nice idea toward improving the overall quality of content in many groups, the reality is that spammers aren’t going to stop spamming due to the technicality. It does mean moderators will need to spend more time sifting through all content held for moderation to approve the handful of relevant conversations that are high quality and on topic.
Subgroups Become Standard Groups
New from LinkedIn: “Group owners will no longer be able to create subgroups. If you’re the owner of a parent group with subgroups, you may wish to rename your subgroups.” “In order to surface these subgroups to members and to help these subgroups grow, they will now be treated as their own independent groups.”
What It Means for Marketers: With subgroups graduating to Standard Groups, many marketers may find they are now managing several more groups than before. At this time, LinkedIn does not appear to be offering the ability to merge the groups together back into the parent group, and the moderation for the groups will now be entirely separate. As the groups are existing Standard Groups, they cannot be unlisted for the purposes of keeping them out of search or more heavily moderated.
Our Take: While subgroups rarely made good on their promises of becoming niche communities within a larger group, their graduation to fully-fledged Standard Groups has the potential to be a headache for moderators who don’t have adequate resources allocated.
Group Activity Emails Switch to Digest Form
New From LinkedIn: “We’ve created a digest of the most popular and recent conversations to cut down on emails from your groups.”
What It Means for Marketers: You can no longer rely on Group Activity emails to highlight conversations or comments you’re involved in.
Our Take: While the emphasis here may be on attempting to showcase the top content, LinkedIn has inadvertently built a scenario where the focus will be on comment activity instead of quality. Marketers will be tempted to abuse the comment section for conversations to ensure their posts will have enough “activity” to meet the popularity benchmark and be included in outgoing email digests. Inclusion in these digests will become of paramount importance as it will be the only way to increase visibility for content outside of LinkedIn itself.
Time to Quit LinkedIn Group Marketing?
Coming on the heels of API changes that made it more difficult to post content to LinkedIn Groups, are these new changes a death knell for marketing in LinkedIn Groups? Probably not. When applied correctly and supported with adequate resources, the “new features” have the ability improve the quality of content and discussion on LinkedIn Groups, which should please the average group participant … albeit with a lot more work involved for the group owners and moderators.
What’s the harm here? We’ve lost our distinct outlet for professional discussion and on-topic postings that LinkedIn offered, as Groups will soon look very much like their Facebook counterparts. By limiting options for moderation and member approval, LinkedIn has eliminated what made them unique. And for the many companies that eschewed Facebook groups due to fears about the lack of control, LinkedIn now offers no competitive advantage.