LinkedIn Groups was once a haven for valued discussion and a healthy way for people to have an opinion and post their own voice for others to read. But in the years that followed they’ve more or less degenerated into spam forums and in some instances, for dodgy companies selling LinkedIn connections of all things.
But sadly it’s just a little worse than that. Although Groups are seen as a marketers paradise and a place to cultivate a shopping list of prospects what many are unaware of is that they are run by PR and media agencies entirely for the use of their clients.
For example a US-based company runs more than 100 LinkedIn groups and sub-groups for various ‘business’ communities (ie corporates). These include Owned Groups with a total membership in excess of 1.5 million, including the biggest professional group on LinkedIn, which has more than 795,000 members.
I don’t mind the enterprising nature behind it but the issue I have with this is none of this is disclosed very openly, and “curating” content in favor of your client goes against what LinkedIn Groups was for in the first place; an open discussion forum on topics of choice. I couldn’t find the list of 100+ groups run by this company but you can find out laboriously by looking at who is involved in the firm and then spotting who are the most prolific posters….
And then that begs the question; who really owns the content after you post it, and did you realise you were giving your information away for free to a larger undisclosed organization ?
This is separate to Groups run by a brand, or a networking group for alumni, those are clearly marked and obvious.
LinkedIn has already pushed forth LinkedIn Today and the INfluencer streams in a big way, all front-page headline acts we gravitate to as soon as we log in so with 200m members and 2.4m companies listed there it’s a content and lead generation goldmine. As Jeff put it, LinkedIn sees its future as a publishing platform for professionals.
One of the areas where we’re making strong traction in is LinkedIn as a professional publishing platform. You see with the momentum we’re generating now in Influencers, LinkedIn Groups, Slideshare, people are increasingly turning to LinkedIn to publish professionally relevant content,” Weiner said. “We think that’s going to create a very strong platform and very valuable context for large enterprises, for small-medium businesses who want to target [and] engage with professionals.
LinkedIn also wants to play big with ‘sponsored content’ much like everyone else but using their professional base to do it. Imagine you’re a company with a wealth of available content built over the years; Case Studies, Surveys, Whitepapers, Company Blogs, Weiner wants to be able to serve that content as a status update and target specific followers and they’re already working with the likes of Xerox, The Economist and Blackberry.
But Jeff’s plans could go awry from the inside if he’s not careful and apart from unmoderated spam in some groups, we have the opposite problem of subtle censorship and undisclosed agendas. If Weiner wants to succeed as the professional content king then LinkedIn definitely needs to move to publishing within status updates and disassociate itself from Groups.
So if you’re looking for a good discussion pick your Group wisely, or better yet just engage directly, at least then you’ll know who you’re dealing with.