linkedin-groupsFrom LinkedIn’s Help Center, words that will make any regular LinkedIn user nervous:

“We want everyone to get the most out of every visit to LinkedIn Groups. To that end, we’ve simplified several group features to ensure that groups will always be the most trustworthy place for you to gather with like-minded professionals. The new Groups changes will make sure that the LinkedIn experience is easier to understand and navigate for all members.”

(Posted September 22, 2015. Just go to the LinkedIn Help Center and search for “LinkedIn Groups”)

LinkedIn is in the process of rolling out this simplified version of LinkedIn Groups. I received it last week (I didn’t receive it because of any special status, I believe these are pretty random. I was one of the last people to receive LinkedIn publishing). I had already gone through the Help Center’s long list of what was new and what had been changed in Groups, and the bottom line seemed to be that Groups would be more time consuming to administer for Group owners, but there was the prospect of better Spam removal by LinkedIn.

Then I found some changes that hadn’t been listed in the Help Center announcement. Maybe these are teething pains and will be corrected by LinkedIn. Maybe not.

Here are the changes made to LinkedIn groups:

In the “old” main Groups page, your groups were presented as tiles. In the new format, they come in a drop down list. Also new is a list of your top five most active groups – the ones with the newest discussions. Gone are the superscript numbers that used to appear on the tiles of Groups with the number of new discussions. Outside of the top five groups, you now have to go through and open every one of your groups to see if there have been any new discussions in the past day. This will create a long winded version of “Simon says”. Simon says, “no new discussions here. Try another group.” Repeat up to ninety-five times.

Removed are any indications beside any person’s name in any of my Groups – in either the discussion area or the member list – as to their relation to me on LinkedIn, whether they are a connection or a 2nd level connection, 3rd, or out of my network.

The search box in the members list is gone. There used to be a search box in the upper right corner of the Group member list where you could search by location or keywords to find Group members. There is a search box on each Group’s main page, but this is limited to searching discussions.

In the Group member list, a lot of information and options associated with each member is gone. Now each member is listed by name, along with their Headline. Gone is your relationship with that member (as mentioned above), their location, the option to “Follow” or “Connect”, and the option to “View their activity”.  You now find all these things by clicking on their name and going to their profile.

Lastly, in the Group members list, all the Group members are listed in what appears to be completely random order. Members used to be listed by their relationship with you – connections first, 2nd level connections next and 3rd level after that. I pulled up a Group I am a member of which has just under a million members. The first person listed: a 3rd degree from New York with 500+ connections. The second person listed: someone outside my network in Kenya with 17 connections.

jackie-chan-whatTo make sense of these changes, you need to ask yourself why LinkedIn would make them.

How to make sense of the LinkedIn group changes:

Making these changes frees up resources within LinkedIn to do other things. Can’t see it. All of these features were automated and wouldn’t seem to require a lot of additional bandwidth from LinkedIn employees.

Spite. Although popular with the conspiracy theorists out there, I am confident that LinkedIn does not have a Random Feature Removal Generator. Well, pretty confident.

Drive people to sign up for Premium subscriptions. Second most popular conspiracy theory. I think this may be a happy side effect but is not the primary reason for these changes.

Put the browser extension and third-party LinkedIn App crowd out of business. Ah, yes. I wrote about LinkedIn versus the browser extensions a few weeks ago (it will be on my profile if you are interested). There are browser extensions that will send messages to people you designate in your groups, and browser extensions/apps that will send connection invites to people you designate within your groups. But without the ability to search for people in your town, for example, and by listing group members in random order, those browser extensions will be pretty useless.

What’s the real fight for LinkedIn Groups?

So I think the reason for many of these changes is to fight the add-on extension crowd. That would also explain why LinkedIn didn’t list these changes in their lengthy explanation in the Help Center. I suspect that automated add-on software – like fake profiles – is a real issue for LinkedIn, but one they are not keen to draw attention to.

There are very real side effects of these changes, and they will affect salespeople the most. To search within a particular LinkedIn Group, you will need the additional filters available through a premium subscription. To send someone you find in that search a message, you will need to use InMail, another premium subscription feature. It seems that free messaging within groups will be relegated to on an opportunistic basis. As only around ten percent of a typical group’s members ever participate in discussions, you will now have a pool of ten percent of the people to exchange messages with. And only when their conversations are scrolling by. All in all, the result is a pretty awkward and ugly methodology.

Unfortunately, as LinkedIn continues to play whack-a-mole with the third party add-on companies. The losers are LinkedIn members.


3d483feAbout the Author, Bruce Johnston: Bruce Johnston is sales coach and strategist specializing in LinkedIn. He believes LinkedIn is not all about your profile; it’s not all about being found. It is about being proactive. LinkedIn is a contact sport. He also trains a module on how to search LinkedIn effectively.  

If you liked this post, please like or share it. Thanks. I accept invitations to connect on LinkedIn from like-minded sales and marketing professionals. If needed, use my email address – [email protected]