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 LION on LinkedIn (a LinkedIn Open Networker is often referred to as a “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!