[Updated Oct. 2 to reflect restoration of the Current Member Count for Group Admins]
[Updated Sept. 27 to reflect addition of profile links as described in bulleted suggestions, below]:
This posting is in two parts:
- announced upgrades to LinkedIn's Group service, and
- whether the Groups function really holds value for sponsoring organizations.
If you're only interested in the second topic, skip to the last section.
1. LinkedIn for Groups - Upgraded?
A LinkedIn corporate blog posting on September 21 announced that the Groups function on LinkedIn had been "upgraded." Among new features, it said, is a form for creating a group, and the promise to process the form in 1-2 business days. This is welcome news for sure, as the turnaround time for creating groups had become weeks instead of days, and as of this past week the service had been "closed," with a promise to re-open in late September. And so it has.
So where are the new Group management features? The blog posting said, in part:
We have made several enhancements to the group management interface. All of the links are clearly listed in the box on the left side of the page. Some of the functions you can do as a manager are (i) view the group members, (ii) invite and accept new members, and (iii) edit the group info.
Only item (iii) is actually new - and even then, the feature isn't new, just the direct access for group admins. Group managers could always view membership, and process memberships on the site. The "edit group info" feature is fine, but should have been implemented a long time ago - it allows you to add a sentence about your group, and a link to your home page. This is rudimentary and has no functional impact on group management (although it's nice to have direct control over the URL and description of my own group).
In one way, the "upgrade" is actually a step backward because LinkedIn has removed the only metric for group managers that it ever provided on the site: the number of members in your group. This used to appear clearly at the top of the page where current members were listed; now it's gone. To find out how many are in your group, you need to export the list of members to your computer, then launch Excel and view the list as a spreadsheet, and scroll to the bottom to see how many lines are in the spreadsheet. LinkedIn refers to this as "an easy way" to see the number of members, but it's not. This appears to be sheer laziness on the part of LinkedIn.
A customer service rep from LinkedIn did send a couple of courteous and responsive emails when I asked about this. She said "through the redesign of the site the option of a total number was lost." But we already knew this. In a follow-up email, she said it's "a good possibility" that the number of members function will be added back in when the next re-design occurs. That's good, but it still falls short of a reasonable standard of utility for the site.
[NOTE: As of October 2, the Current Member Count has been added back to the Admin view. Thank you LinkedIn.]
Here are my suggestions for the kinds of reports that would make LinkedIn Groups useful, and that could be provided via a simple dashboard for group admins:
- the number of members in your group;
- the number of connections per group member;
- the percentage of connections that are wholly within the group; and
- traffic statistics for group members (such as number and frequency of logins, site stickiness, number of profile updates, number of searches per user, and success rate for connection requests).
- In addition, Caltech's Liz Allen suggested to LinkedIn several months ago that pending Group membership requests include a link to the requester's profile - providing a quick way to recognize the many recruiters and random "open networkers" who are joining every group in sight (but who are not eligible to join closed groups like alumni associations).
[Update: As of Sept. 27 this last feature is now implemented! A valuable improvement.]
Do you think I have missed the newness of "upgraded" items on the site? If so, tell us your point of view by leaving a comment, or send me an e-mail - I will update this posting with corrected info from LinkedIn, or from other users.
2. LinkedIn Groups: Who Benefits?
LinkedIn Groups do one thing above all: they drive new membership for LinkedIn. How? By using pre-existing group affinities to encourage copycat behavior on the site. "You joined the alumni group on LinkedIn? I'm an alumnus too, so I better join the group as well."
Alumni associations benefit by giving alumni in their closed network a way to connect fellow alumni with a larger, open network - in this case, all the non-alumni they are connected to via LinkedIn. They also have their logo and name displayed, albeit on a tiny scale and in marginalized locations on the site.
Alumni benefit by displaying their academic pedigree for personal promotion and for networking.
So how much value can your alumni association derive from this? That calculation is yours to make - and hard to compute in the absence of quantitative information about your LinkedIn Group's membership and your group members' behavior. LinkedIn could help itself and the organizations (like mine) that it proudly displays on its Groups home page by giving us tools and data that will let us measure our success and theirs.