LinkedIn Groups: Are They Competing for My Membership? Why?

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On an average day, I receive an invite or two to join a LinkedIn Group.  It is only natural since I have so many connections as a LinkedIn Open Networker (= LION).  Since you can easily send out invites to join a group when you create it, it’s obvious that I am a common target to be the recipient of so many new group invites.  I don’t mind receiving so many, especially because every once in awhile there is one (like the We are Orange County group I blogged about yesterday) that causes me to cancel a different group membership and join the new one.

But let’s think about it: why are there so many groups competing for your membership? In some ways, LinkedIn helped create the competition when they limited the number of LinkedIn groups that you can join to 50.  At that time, and even now, I support what LinkedIn did, as it made me truly value the existence of LinkedIn Groups.  But at the same time, whenever you put a limit on the distribution of something, it creates a perceived precious asset.  And that is what has happened with LinkedIn Groups.  Subsequently, there is now competition to gain your membership.But, if LinkedIn Groups are small communities based on a common interest for you to network within, why the competition?  Shouldn’t members naturally gravitate towards those communities that they feel a bond with?  Well, in an ideal world, yes, but something tells me that some LinkedIn Groups are trying to become more than just that.  Let’s take a look at two real-life examples to see what we can ascertain:

I have blogged before about the competition that existed between the “official” LION LinkedIn Group and other open networking groups at the time (note: Networkers United! was subsequently kicked out of LinkedIn). I still get emails from the “official” LION group warning me not to join other “open networking” or LION groups. Why the issue?   Well, it is clear that this group, in addition to creating a new groups called LIONS Against Spam, which I mention in my blog post concerning LinkedIn’s policy on LIONs, is on a mission to “clean up” the public image of LIONs in the face of LI Management as well as the rest of the community.  And this is a noble cause which should be appreciated.  But why does this have to be at the expense of other open networking groups?

It is interesting that recently the Group Manager for the “official” LION group sent out an Announcement advertising a press release wire service to all of its 10,000+ members.  Is this in the spirit of open networking?  Spam?  Or is this an initial attempt to monetize this group?

Let’s look at another real-life example so that we may be able to draw some conclusions here.

What really bothers me is the new competition that I have seen recently in my home base of Orange County with the emergence of the We are Orange County LinkedIn Group.  Up until now there have been other LinkedIn Groups based on representing Orange County, but there seems to be some new friction going on:

  • Someone who posted a discussion about We are Orange County on another Orange County group had his discussions deleted
  • Someone who posted a discussion about We are Orange County on a different Orange County group not only had his discussion deleted but also got kicked out of the group

I don’t understand what is going on here.  How can you say you represent Orange County, yet when a new group comes along who’s sole purpose is to put Orange County on the map, you delete their posts and ban their members from you group?  Wouldn’t group members of these other groups be interested in this mission to put Orange County on the map?  Shouldn’t LinkedIn Groups that say they represent a geography be all-encompassing instead of deleting posts and removing members?

A lot of things can explain what is going on here.  Group manager feeling threatened by the sudden growth of a seen-as-competitive group?  Or could it be…

Money.  Yes, I think that’s what it is.  I may be wrong, but let’s suppose Group Manager’s are thinking about how to potentially monetize their LinkedIn Groups.  This particular group has recently started network meet-ups for a small charge.  But why is there a need to pay for a network meeting? Can’t you all just meet at a bar or restaurant?  It is interesting that I started my own Windmill Networking So Cal Sushi LinkedIn Group because I couldn’t find a local LinkedIn Group that actually had meet-ups, and it is still my policy that these are free.  Why should you have to pay for the opportunity to network?

In the old days, LinkedIn Groups started out as such pure and innocent communities of people banding together to share in a common interest.  LinkedIn expanded upon this functionality by offering Discussions, News, and Job posting boards, which have greatly expanded upon the value of LinkedIn Groups.  On the other hand, it has also increase the perceived value that some see in these LinkedIn Groups, opening up the door for some Group Managers to monetize their groups.

This post is not a rant on certain LinkedIn Groups or Group Managers.  I am only trying to add some perspective and appeal to Group Managers everywhere that represent “open” networking or geographies to be a little more accepting of other groups that complement your own group in doing something good for the LinkedIn community.  At the same time, for those members in various LinkedIn Groups, hopefully this will also serve as guidance as to which groups you may (or may not) want to remain a member of.

Comments from all, both agreeing and disagreeing with my opinion, are always welcome.  Let me know if you’ve had similar experiences!

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professionals strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
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Comments

  1. says

    Hi Neal,

    The limit on 50 groups per person is definitely having an effect on competition among groups. There are now over 300,000 groups on LinkedIn (8,000 were added in one week).

    If you consider that there are 41 million users… divide 41 million /300,000 groups = 136. People can be in 50 groups so the average group size if everyone were in 50 groups is 6,833. But most people are not in 50 groups.

    I did a survey of my connections and the average number of groups people belonged to were 15. If that’s true across LinkedIn then the average size of each group would be 2,040. But you still have to consider that there are several large groups over 100,000 and many over 10,000.

    So there is competition. There’s also the fact that if you start a group you should want it to grow.

    I’m not a fan of deleting posts or banning members for posting notifications of other groups. Unless, there is a written policy asking members to not post group announcements. I’ve seen some groups ban it and I’ve seen other create a feature post to add these announcements.

    As far as monetizing groups, group members are eyeballs and eyeballs can lead to traffic. If someone develops a way to monetize groups more power to them.

    If they do it right they will prosper. If they do it wrong they will find the group members leave for other groups.

    Sean

  2. says

    Hi Neal,

    The limit on 50 groups per person is definitely having an effect on competition among groups. There are now over 300,000 groups on LinkedIn (8,000 were added in one week).

    If you consider that there are 41 million users… divide 41 million /300,000 groups = 136. People can be in 50 groups so the average group size if everyone were in 50 groups is 6,833. But most people are not in 50 groups.

    I did a survey of my connections and the average number of groups people belonged to were 15. If that’s true across LinkedIn then the average size of each group would be 2,040. But you still have to consider that there are several large groups over 100,000 and many over 10,000.

    So there is competition. There’s also the fact that if you start a group you should want it to grow.

    I’m not a fan of deleting posts or banning members for posting notifications of other groups. Unless, there is a written policy asking members to not post group announcements. I’ve seen some groups ban it and I’ve seen other create a feature post to add these announcements.

    As far as monetizing groups, group members are eyeballs and eyeballs can lead to traffic. If someone develops a way to monetize groups more power to them.

    If they do it right they will prosper. If they do it wrong they will find the group members leave for other groups.

    Sean

  3. Neal Schaffer says

    Hey Sean,

    Thank you for compiling those impressive statistics..wow! Your figures really show how much competition there is. I am guessing that since LinkedIn imposed that group limit that the number of groups has doubled. If that is the case they really need to think about potentially increasing this limit.

    I agree about wanting to keep groups free as far as posting and/or banning, but I think it really comes down to the policy of each group.

    And for monetizing, you hit it bang on the head. Group management, like social media, is all about interacting with and respecting other people. Those that can figure that out may live long and prosper!

    – Neal

  4. says

    Very good post. I get lots also and finally can make some sense out of it. I figured some were eventually related to money at some point and they are. I get led to their websites named after the groups to pay monthly, etc. and get blah blah. I think some are honest folks who want to promote their causes also but as long as money can be made, those groups can be sacrificed. I am a member of a sales group and the owner deletes discussions if there is a mention of anything like an article, blog post and so on. He wants everything to go through the news article post which is a dead end. That is a junk yard of ideas and a miracle if any discussions in that section of the group. Why make a group? Money, ego, fame but hardly ever to improve or …

  5. says

    Very good post. I get lots also and finally can make some sense out of it. I figured some were eventually related to money at some point and they are. I get led to their websites named after the groups to pay monthly, etc. and get blah blah. I think some are honest folks who want to promote their causes also but as long as money can be made, those groups can be sacrificed. I am a member of a sales group and the owner deletes discussions if there is a mention of anything like an article, blog post and so on. He wants everything to go through the news article post which is a dead end. That is a junk yard of ideas and a miracle if any discussions in that section of the group. Why make a group? Money, ego, fame but hardly ever to improve or …

  6. Neal Schaffer says

    Hi Cush,

    Thanks for your comment. Not all groups are related to money, but I have a feeling that more and more groups are trying to slowly monetize things. And I know the sales group that you are speaking of because the Group Manager just deleted one of my discussions posts, which was not news nor to sell anything, but just to get ideas on what everyone’s pet peeves were. I agree that the News section does not get much action because people just aren’t going on LinkedIn to read the news. On the other hand, I do respect that Group Manager wanting to maintain what he feels is a “high quality” discussion board. And he was nice enough to inform me by email that he deleted my post. Either way, I think we are going to be entering an era where LinkedIn Groups start to take on personalities, and people will join or leave groups based on the environments that they are providing. It should be interesting….

    – Neal

  7. awesomeness says

    Sweet post!

    I have a Linkedin group and I am trying to monetize it by letting users have the opportunity of advertising in a weekly announcement. The announcement will get sent out to all members of the group and also featured each week, which leads to a ton of eyeballs. My group has 5,000 members.

    So is this against the Linkedin Terms of Service though, or am I good to go with this model? Please give me any advice you can. Thanks!

  8. says

    Hey Brandon,

    An interesting question. The Users Agreement has a list of “DONT'S” that you should read. Some of these include:

    DON’T
    * duplicate, license, sublicense, publish, broadcast, transmit, distribute, perform, display, sell, rebrand, otherwise transfer or commercially exploit LinkedIn (excluding content posted by you) except as permitted in the User Agreement;
    * rent, lease, loan, trade, sell/re-sell access to LinkedIn or any information therein, or the equivalent, in whole or part;

    It is possible that what you want to do violates these sections of the User Agreement. Obviously, don't take my advice but please consult a lawyer for an official opinion before doing anything. All it takes is one of those 5,000 users to tip LinkedIn off and report you, so better to have your ducks lined up, if you know what I mean.

    - Neal

  9. dave says

    Here is the Terms for linkedin groups.
    LinkedIn Groups Terms of Service

    You warrant to LinkedIn Corporation that you have the right to provide LinkedIn with a list of the names of your Group Members. Additionally, you warrant to LinkedIn that, should you choose to provide LinkedIn with the email addresses of your Members, you have the right to do so.

    You hereby grant to LinkedIn a non-exclusive, non-transferable license during the term of this Agreement to use, copy and publicly display on the LinkedIn Site any logos or trademarked materials you specifically provide for your group to Linkedin.

    So I wouldnt worry about it.

  10. dave says

    I dont see any reason for not monetizing your group.
    I am a group owner of a group of only 1000+ members. my group is very focused and I reject a lot of people. I keep recruiters and service providers to a limit by allowing no more than 15 percent in my group.
    That helps keep discussion pointed.. that being said. These groups provide a service to these Service providers and recruiters and anytime you provide a service there is always a value associated with it.
    Now some groups .. maybe that value prospect is different.. I mean those groups that accept anyone..
    but my group is extremely targeted. A recruiter could find a candidate in 10 minutes and currently pay ZERO for the service. compared to wondering through careerbuilder, dice, etc. for a long time without finding the quality we offer. The same goes for the Service Providers..Where else can they find that kind of targeted client for free? The flip side to that is that Service providers and Recruiters provide very little value to the group as a whole. Their interest in the group is merely monetary. not subject matter expertise. So I don't feel bad if I monetize their actions.

  11. says

    Hey Dave,

    Thanks for your input. Well, the Terms of Service may be stated as such, but LinkedIn has banned LinkedIn Groups in the past, so it's best to look at the User Agreement that we have with LinkedIn for advice on LinkedIn Groups. Remember, each member of your group has the ability to notify LinkedIn of anything about your Group that they are not happy about, and therein lies the issue.

    - Neal

  12. says

    Dave,

    Thanks again for stopping by! Whether you monetize your group or not is purely up to your objective of being on LinkedIn. If you provide a value to someone that can be monetized, I agree 100% with your view. In fact, it sounds like you are one of the more savvier LinkedIn Group Managers! I feel that a lot of Group Managers try to monetize LinkedIn Groups by spamming their members…it sounds like you are taking a different approach, so that is refreshing to hear.

    Do keep us updated on how things go for you!

    - Neal

  13. matt says

    Dave,

    Just curious, are you charging monthly or a flat rate for recruiters to join the group? Do you care to share any figures? Also, how did you handle existing recruiters? Did you delete their accounts and have they rejoin if they paid?

    Thanks,
    Matt

  14. matt says

    Dave,

    Just curious, are you charging monthly or a flat rate for recruiters to join the group? Do you care to share any figures? Also, how did you handle existing recruiters? Did you delete their accounts and have they rejoin if they paid?

    Thanks,
    Matt

  15. Megan M. says

    Dave–I stumbled across this thread as I was doing research on whether or not I could charge recruiters a fee for membership in my own LinkedIn group. We have about 1500 members in our targeted industry segment group. It's a gold mine for recruiters, but my staff and I are the ones managing the group, accepting new members, wiping out advertisements, and basically putting in the time to keep the group clean so it continues to add value to our membership. We are not looking to make money on these recruiters necessarily, but it would be nice to recoup some of our administrative expense especially considering recruiters are the ones benefitting monetarily from our efforts. Have you made any decisions on how you are planning to handle this dilemma in your own group? I would appreciate your feedback.

  16. Megan M. says

    Dave–I stumbled across this thread as I was doing research on whether or not I could charge recruiters a fee for membership in my own LinkedIn group. We have about 1500 members in our targeted industry segment group. It's a gold mine for recruiters, but my staff and I are the ones managing the group, accepting new members, wiping out advertisements, and basically putting in the time to keep the group clean so it continues to add value to our membership. We are not looking to make money on these recruiters necessarily, but it would be nice to recoup some of our administrative expense especially considering recruiters are the ones benefitting monetarily from our efforts. Have you made any decisions on how you are planning to handle this dilemma in your own group? I would appreciate your feedback.

  17. Neal Schaffer says

    Hey Sean,

    Thank you for compiling those impressive statistics..wow! Your figures really show how much competition there is. I am guessing that since LinkedIn imposed that group limit that the number of groups has doubled. If that is the case they really need to think about potentially increasing this limit.

    I agree about wanting to keep groups free as far as posting and/or banning, but I think it really comes down to the policy of each group.

    And for monetizing, you hit it bang on the head. Group management, like social media, is all about interacting with and respecting other people. Those that can figure that out may live long and prosper!

    – Neal

  18. Neal Schaffer says

    Hi Cush,

    Thanks for your comment. Not all groups are related to money, but I have a feeling that more and more groups are trying to slowly monetize things. And I know the sales group that you are speaking of because the Group Manager just deleted one of my discussions posts, which was not news nor to sell anything, but just to get ideas on what everyone’s pet peeves were. I agree that the News section does not get much action because people just aren’t going on LinkedIn to read the news. On the other hand, I do respect that Group Manager wanting to maintain what he feels is a “high quality” discussion board. And he was nice enough to inform me by email that he deleted my post. Either way, I think we are going to be entering an era where LinkedIn Groups start to take on personalities, and people will join or leave groups based on the environments that they are providing. It should be interesting….

    – Neal

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