The social media apocalypse is not upon us. LinkedIn groups, I assure you, are not on the brink of going up in flames and burning group owners to the ground in their wake. While we’re at it, Facebook isn’t on its death bed, either. And Twitter’s not going to crumble away like a withering leaf over a backlash against its rules and terms of service.
The Changes to LinkedIn Groups Streamline its Top Functions
Over the past month, I’ve gotten half a dozen emails and panicked inquires in response to Maggie McGary’s post proclaiming Why Associations Should Be Planning Their LinkedIn Exit Strategy. But the changes to LinkedIn Groups, which you can read in full via LinkedIn’s Help Center, were designed to create a better experience for users, not to ruthlessly make the lives of community managers and the organizations they work for a private hell. Instead, the changes phase out features that detract from groups’ most-used functionality: creating and participating in discussions. Why? Well, quite simply, to make it easier and more convenient for group members to create and participate in discussions.
LinkedIn Groups Aren’t Your Bulletin Board for Sales
Here’s the thing: if you’ve been using LinkedIn groups as a place to “push out” more marketing messages, you’ve been missing the point. These spaces were never meant to be the sister to email marketing or a bulletin board for your association’s products and services. If you have been using it as your personal sales stomping ground, let me ask: how is that working? Do group members comment on promotional posts? Have you used Google Analytics to determine whether you’re driving traffic and conversions based on those discussions? I’d like to challenge anyone using LinkedIn in this way to measure the efficacy of their efforts – and then determine whether you should be weeping over the changes or accepting them for what they’re worth.
How to Use LinkedIn Groups as They Were Intended to Be Used
As marketers, we’re always looking for new and creative ways to get our message across. But sometimes that means trying to shoehorn a solution where it simply doesn’t fit. So how do we avoid acting like one of Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters? Here’s my advice:
Understand how each social media platform is intended to be used, and use it that way. This doesn’t mean you can’t innovate and even occasionally skirt the rules, but if you’re trying to use a site beyond its intended purpose, you run the risk of either looking like you don’t know what you’re doing, or worse, turning followers off.
Be user-centric. We all have goals to meet. Some of us have bottom lines to prove. But we won’t accomplish any of that if we’re shoving messages and promotions down our followers’ throats instead of taking the time to understand what it is they actually want to hear. Users expect LinkedIn groups to be a home for professional discussions, a Q&A forum, a place to give and receive advice. Promotional messages can be jarring in that type of environment. Ever noticed how LinkedIn group threads are called discussions, and not posts? The name reiterates the functionality: you can’t have a conversation over an ad. If you’re facing pressure within your organization to just “send out” a message to prove you’ve covered your bases in marketing a product/program/event, try a research or analytics-based approach instead. If you can help show that “blasts” aren’t driving any conversions, you can simultaneously help prove that placing them in that space is a waste of time and energy!
Reassess if LinkedIn Groups can help you meet your goals. Maybe LinkedIn groups aren’t going to be the platform that boosts product sales, but can it serve to help you meet another important goal? Conducting market research for instance, or informing product development based on trending topics and conversations. The most successful community environments meet in the middle between a user’s goals and an organization’s goals. Find that sweet spot and savor it.
Snapshot: The Unspeculation-Free Guide to LinkedIn Group Changes
Here’s a quick rundown on some of the top changes to LinkedIn groups you should know about:
All groups are now private. Because people feel more comfortable having professional exchanges in private places.
You must request to join a group. This helps ensure that spammers and half-interested parties don’t junk up the group with meaningless “conversation.”
Content doesn’t go into moderation. This means that group managers don’t have to approve each and every post, which lessens the moderation burden, but also improves the relevance and timeliness of discussions. Of course, group managers can still remove conversations that don’t abide by group rules.
The Best Social Media Managers are Willing to Accept Change
I’m always shocked to see that some of the biggest naysayers against changes made to social media sites are those of us who rely on social media to make our living. As social media managers, we have to be willing to adapt, rather than longing for a past that seemed better than the present. We could all take a cue from Don Draper in that regard:
“And let’s also say that change is neither good or bad, it simply is. It can be greeted with terror or joy. A tantrum that says ‘I want it the way it was,’ or a dance that says ‘Look, something new.’”