A few weeks ago, Linkedin began testing a new look for groups. The new features are an attempt to make Linkedin more interactive, and easier for users to connect with others. Most of the new features are in located within groups. If you are an active Linkedin user, you know that much of the benefit comes from participating in groups – the discussion, connections, information, and learning.
I’m a member of Non Profit Network – MojaLink, which is a beta testing group for Linkedin’s new groups features. My guess is that every group will become more like this one. I’ve tested it out a bit. What I find is that there are so many new features added that it i hard to concentrate on the discussions. I spent more time within each discussion (which is what I’m betting Linkedin wants me to do), but I also left a bit overwhelmed with the idea that my “safe space” for participating in discussions has now become a competitive zone for influence, followers, and actions.
Some people have a Linkedin strategy to become an area Expert or to have their answers selected as a “Best Answer” in the Answers section of Linkedin. These features have never been available to those who answer questions within groups. Groups have always felt more like a group of colleagues and friends trying to help each other work through a problem or answer a question. Now groups will become a competing zone for influence. I understand how this will benefit individuals wanting to pursue a branding or expertise strategy. However, I will mourn the loss of the camaraderie that I enjoy in Linkedin groups where I am actively participating.
1. Group managers can feature discussions, called “manager’s choice,” to appear on the group’s home page.
2. Individual influence and popularity plays a stronger role.
There are two ways that Linkedin will now reward your participation in the group. First. if you participate a lot, you could be featured on the home page and on the side of every discussion as a “top influencer.” (*NOTE: the Linkedin developer who worked on the new Groups feature explains how one becomes a top influencer in the comments to this blog post. Essentially, top influencers represent people who have influenced others to take action within the Group.)
Secondly, Linkedin has made it very easy to “follow” someone’s discussions and contributions on Linkedin. You do not actually have to be connected to this person to “follow” him/her. Right now, you are already “following” all of your connections. If you want to follow someone’s discussions that is not already a connection, then click “follow” next to his/her name.
All the people that you follow currently appear in a tab next to My Groups called Following. Now, why would I follow someone I’m not connected to already? To get to know him/her, comment on his/her discussions, form a relationship. It’s yet another way to build relationships and connections on Linkedin.
3. Discussions look very different – they are more like a marketplace of actions instead of a discussion.
You can “like” a discussion. (The ubiquitous like button pops up here, too – but it’s not the Facebook Like Button.) You can follow anyone involved in the discussion with a click. You see all the comments expanded. One think I don’t like is that you no longer can read someone’s title and short description underneath his or her name. It is counter to Linkedin’s attempt to further interconnect people when you can’t view the brief bio of someone underneath his/her avatar within the group.
This is how the current discussion format still appears within most groups:
This is how the discussion looks within the newer version of Linkedin groups:
In summary, this is what Linkedin tells you is new in Groups:
I think it’s really about highlighting individual contributions, making participation easy with the “like,” and making connections easier with the “follow” button. The question is, will new connections still be strong ones?
What do you think about Linkedin’s new look? Are you participating in a group that has it already – and how do you find that the new look affects your participation?