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Are you curious about “Open Groups”? Why are some LinkedIn Groups “Open” and what does this mean for their members? In this post I will explain the difference and outline the implications of being a member in an Open Group on LinkedIn.

 

A Group Member’s Perspective:

Only a Group Owner can decide whether a LinkedIn Group is Open or Closed. I think these terms are misleading and they can cause confusion. When a LinkedIn Group is ‘closed’ it means that the discussions within the Group are only viewable by members of that group. When a LinkedIn Group is ‘open’, it means that the first page (or Home Page) of the Group is viewable by non-Group members and anyone on the web can see these interactions. Better descriptions would be ‘private’ and ‘public’.

 

The only reason for going public (Open) is the added visibility for the Group on the web at large via search engine indexing. Being found on the internet is extremely important for many customer facing businesses (Business to Consumer or “B2C”), a whole industry tweaking and enhancing this visibility has emerged, they specialize in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing).

 

I doubt that being indexed on the web, is something you are looking for when you join a LinkedIn Group. I believe there are 2 downsides for the Open Group Member.

(1) Being seen by everyone on the web may cause Group activity to be reduced. The shyness factor.

(2) It could also result in increased spammer attention on a Group and Individual basis. No thanks.

 

Bottom line – ask yourself before joining an Open group – do I want my Discussions to be visible beyond the Group and on the web for everyone to see? If the answer is no: check which of your Groups are Open or Closed. How can you tell? Look for a small padlock icon preceding the Group Name.

 

This Group is Closed.

 

 

This Group is Open.

 

 

 

A Group Owner’s Perspective:

I run 9 LinkedIn Groups, over 20,000 members. All of my Groups remain Closed. Why am I not persuaded to open these Groups? Here’s my reasoning:

 

(1) It’s currently a non-reversible step. If LinkedIn allowed me to try it and change my mind on Open v Closed, I’d maybe try it for at least one of my Groups on a trial. So that’s a deal breaker, for me.

(2) As a Group Owner/Manager, the secondary focus after keeping spam out, is decent membership growth. I’d prefer someone to join my Groups rather than be able to view discussion/interaction merely by looking through the open window of the Discussions Front Page. I’m not convinced that having a Group open in this way spurs growth.

(3) Does spam or increased spam result from opening a LinkedIn Group? I don’t know. My gut tells me that my Groups could be targeted by bots and frankly, LinkedIn need to give folks who run Groups better anti-spam tools. 95% of the time I spend on Groups involves fighting spam via moderation. I’d like to spend more of that time on encouraging engagement within and promoting these communities.

(4) Since the vast majority of LinkedIn Groups started out as private (Closed), opening Groups without canvassing your members is guaranteed to piss many of them off. I’ve seen some Group owners attempt to get consent but my guess is that many Open Groups went that way with little or no discussion. That’s just bad for business. Just because LinkedIn Groups are virtual doesn’t mean that real-world conventions/etiquette ought not to apply.

(5) LinkedIn’s open Group experiment has been running for over 2 years now and there’s been no findings that I’m aware of signaling whether the initiative has been successful. If it’s been good for Groups (in terms of growth, engagement etc,) I would have expected to see that published.

 

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That’s all from me for this week. Please take a few moments to share this article with your network. I read and respond to all comments.

By Andy Foote

 

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