By Sally Saville Hodge
For every 10 LinkedIn Groups that are likely to add value to your working life and business, there are probably 50 that are a waste of time.
That’s the purely unscientific, non-statistically valid impression I’m left with after a year or so of off-and-on exploring of many of these groups in the marketing and PR space. As a marketing tool for a business or professional association, they’re great in theory. But there’s a lot of hype out there that belies the effort it takes to make them effective.
A lot has been and is being written about LinkedIn. As a recruiting tool, as a marketing tool, as a promotional tool, as a research tool. And its groups have gotten their fair share of coverage, as well.
A LinkedIn Group is a forum for discussions among professionals with shared interests. I’ve seen varying counts, but one of the more recent was 650,000 of them with memberships in the tens to over 200,000 (for an e-marketing association). You can share links with your discussion posts, just as you can with your status updates. Your photo is attached to comments you might make. You can “follow” individuals.
For a business or an association, starting a group can be a great way of securing “ownership” of a specialty area of focus. There’s a discreet halo effect that can come of your group sponsorship.
My problem is that too many of the LinkedIn Groups that I’ve explored don’t make the grade. They just don’t engage.
The big problem is that there’s too much of the “let’s throw a social media party” approach to all this. What does that mean? It means the hard questions aren’t being asked, nor is critical thinking being undertaken, before launch.
Like, what’s the strategy going to be? How does a group integrate with your other social media efforts? How are you going to position your group? Encouraging nuts and bolts give-and-take? Or higher level thinking? Who’s going to moderate? What’s the voice going to be? How are you going to successfully encourage the kind of dialog that positions the group (and your business) as standing for more than just the same old mundane chatter?
Another issue is the commitment it takes to properly manage groups. It takes time. It takes consistency. Without someone (or someones) in charge and paying attention, the group will fail to create meaningful dialog. And it will likely be scattered with irritating spam from people who just don’t get the social media space and post blatantly self-promotional squibs in hopes that someone will bite.
Call me a curmudgeon. (I can take it!) But if ever there was a line made for social media, it’s “just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” It’s something more people should keep in mind as they explore the social media space and figure out how to make it work for them.