April 21, 2009

Are LinkedIn Groups Tuckered Out?

By Ken Stewart of ChangeForge (Twitter/FriendFeed)

Is LinkedIn making the leap beyond an online resume service into a socially-rich, community-driven platform? Last year LinkedIn announced its new application platform in an effort to stimulate the interactivity of its members, and also announced enhanced groups as part of this bold initiative to seed itself as the proverbial Facebook for professionals.

Many of you enjoy LinkedIn as an online holster for your professional accolades as well for keeping in touch with your professional network. One often used mechanism is that of groups. Perhaps you participate in some groups based upon your geography, your personal and professional interests, or maybe you simply want to network.

I began experimenting with a group to share more industry specific content with my network in the hopes of generating some interesting conversations. I took my time to pipe in several industry specific news feeds to keep content fresh, sent personal notes to each group member as they joined, and even posted regular discussion topics hoping to elicit opinions.

I watched the daily e-mail updates roll through, and was disappointed in the results of my social experiment; Discussion topics and news items alike consistently showed "0 comments", denoting the simple fact the discussions simply weren't happening. I quickly realized it was time to take a step back and taken inventory of the situation.

I started paying attention more closely to how I interacted with the default, daily e-mail digests I would receive from other industry-groups I had joined. Below are some samples of what I began to consistently see:

While the first group has over 5,100 members and the second has almost 900 members (after forming just a few months ago), amazingly, day after day I would see little to no activity outside of the posted discussions or news items themselves.

While my little social experiment is hardly comprehensive, discussions with other professionals in my network have offered much of the same qualitative analysis: Only a small percentage of groups see any significant conversation threads. So it would seem that in the minds of many I network with, LinkedIn groups are on the outs.

What are your experiences with LinkedIn groups? Are they helping you extend the conversation and do they yield benefits you would care to express?

Ken Stewart’s website, ChangeForge, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology in an information-centric world. He is always interested in connecting; To discover the many ways you may connect with him, visit him at DandyID.