If you are on LinkedIn for a specific objective, start a LinkedIn Group. Period. There is no better way to start your own community and add your own brand to the LinkedIn community. I have already posted information on how to promote your LinkedIn Group, and am working on new material as to why you should have a Group and how to best utilize it, but if you have not started your own LinkedIn Group or have not joined and participated in many of the communities that exist, you may be missing out on one of LinkedIn’s greatest features.
It is ironic that although the Group feature provides an excellent avenue for social networking, recent changes enacted by LinkedIn have made it hard for Group Managers to efficiently manage their LinkedIn Groups. If you currently have your own LinkedIn Group or are thinking of creating one, you need to be aware of these issues.
Yesterday, I wrote about the “RSS Spam” potential in LinkedIn Groups because of the new functionality added last week. Today I wanted to discuss the issue of communicating with Group members from a Manager’s perspective. Last week LinkedIn prevented Group Managers from exporting member’s email addresses as well as the ability to view their email addresses. While this does add more privacy to members, it means that the only way for the Group Manager to communicate with their members is by either sending out an individual message to one person OR to send out a message to everyone! There is no in-between.
This is very regrettable as sometimes a Group Manager might want to send out a message to a subset of members for whatever purpose. I do this often when managing invites and RSVPs to a group lunch or event that I hold. Now it is not time-effective to do so within the LinkedIn Inbox realm of creating messages for each person or having to wait for the LinkedIn server to respond everytime I want to add another contact. Anyone who has ever tried to create an Inbox message and send it to multiple contacts will appreciate what I have to say.
So what does this mean for the Group Manager? It’s literally send to everyone or send to no one. Or you use another tool (excel spreadsheet?) to register everyone’s email addresses as they join (if you can see it) or ask them for their email address when they join and take note of it separately, afterwards using the email client of your choice (gmail or outlook) to actually send the email.
What does this mean for the community member? You may start to get a lot more general targetted emails from your Group Manager that may be irrelevant to you.
The net-net of this is that 1) LinkedIn is not showing their trust in Group Mangers in the name of “privacy” and 2) it is getting harder for Managers to provide a very customized experience within the LinkedIn framework which are forcing groups to add Ning.com or other networking portals to supplement what they can’t do on LinkedIn (like easily communicate with their members).
I still highly recommend LinkedIn as The Platform and their Groups as great communities, but don’t be hesitant to join these other networking portal sites because they may provide you with a deeper and more communal experience.