LinkedIn Is (Quietly) Making Changes To LinkedIn Groups

iStock_000018457496XSmallLast week I was alerted to the upcoming changes to LinkedIn Groups when I came across a post from Gary Sharpe. If you go to LinkedIn’s Help Center, and type in “groups”, you will see these changes were very quietly posted there on February 17th.

It seems as if the changes, while announced,  haven’t started rolling out yet, as I don’t see much being said about them (as of this writing on March 9th)

Here’s what looks likely to change, and what it means:

1) Group managers will be able to choose one Managers’ Choice discussion that will be featured at the top of the page. Currently, there can be several that rotate among themselves, along with the group’s “hero” or banner image. This change will be felt more by larger groups.

2) The large cover or “hero” image will disappear.

3) If LinkedIn receives “repeated”  complaints that a post is inappropriate, LinkedIn will remove it. As with many changes that LinkedIn makes, I am less irritated with the change than LinkedIn’s wishy-washy use of a vague term like “repeated”.  What does “repeated” mean? Two? Four hundred and two?

4) The top contributor plugin will disappear. This will bother people who loved seeing their mugs up there as one of a group’s top contributors. Losing this doesn’t bother me as “top contributor” really meant “most often contributor” not most meaningful contributor. I always wondered if having the top contributors shown just led to people wanting to say something – anything – in order to get their photo up there. If anything, it encouraged mass, not class.

5) Group statistics: toast. This change hurts. I was always ambivalent about the demographic statistics (how do you define a senior person? is a manager of a $200M company the same as a VP of a $10M company?), but the ratio of comments to discussions was always the single best indicator of whether a group was worth joining. Many groups consist of fifty people a day pulling a post and run: post a headline, link to an article and disappear. That is not a discussion group, that’s a linkfest. (I don’t know if the term was originally his, but Barry Ritholz of “The Big Picture” blog has used the term “LinkFest” for years).

The reasons LinkedIn gives for making the changes are, as usual, odd. “To give you more space to focus on professional discussions, we’ve made these changes to simplify how groups  work.” How does reducing the images at the top from multiple to just one give me more space. How does removing the hidden statistics page give me more space for discussions? I suspect that over time LinkedIn groups as we know them will go away. LinkedIn just doesn’t seem that interested in groups anymore. Further evidence? These changes affect a couple hundred million LinkedIn users but the announcement quietly appeared in the LinkedIn Help Center. Meanwhile on the same day, February 17, LinkedIn used it’s official Blog to announce LinkedIn was availabe in Arabic.