Just over a year ago a fierce debate was taking place in LinkedIn – to redevelop groups or scrap them completely. In the end the decision was taken to relaunch the feature. Over the last 12 months, LinkedIn has made big efforts to talk to users including group managers, power users and LinkedIn trainers like myself to understand what they needed to do to fix groups.
Last week the new version landed on my desktop (and mobile) and it wasn’t what I was expecting. I am not sure what I was expecting, something radical or revolutionary perhaps but what we have got is the complete opposite – more of the same. Let me explain.
LinkedIn had promised to reintegrate groups into the core product and that’s exactly what they have done. When you click on a group you arrive at what looks like your homepage feed – except it is full of group posts, see below.
Fig 1: A quick video tour on the new design
It’s not so radical, not so revolutionary. However, it might just be a very smart decision. The number one challenge for LinkedIn is to drive up user participation and engagement, by scrapping the old interface and mirroring the user’s everyday experience I am guessing LinkedIn believe it will encourage users to jump in. Unless LinkedIn can persuade users to join in more often then groups are dead anyway and arguments about what other features should have been included are academic.
- Here are some of the key changes:
- The group page design mirrors the homepage
- Members can add images and video to posts
- Posts can now be edited
- The topic search has gone
- Group announcements are not available (for the time being)
- Email notifications are discontinued
- Group admin roles have been simplified
- Beefed up spam filter
Essentially the design changes put conversations centre stage and encourage users to drive the discussions. The role of Managers will become less important. Many managers are unhappy about the loss of group announcement and pinned posts but it seems like this is only temporary whilst LinkedIn roll-out the core design.
What’s in the pipeline
Mitali Pattnaik, Director of Product LinkedIn Groups emphasises that the feature is a work in progress and in her blog article Unveiling a New LinkedIn Group Experience mentions several features which are in the pipeline including:
Better navigation – a groups navigation panel on the home page.
The ability to start and join group conversations from the homepage feed
Relevant group suggestions on the My Network Tab
Separately LinkedIn has promised new moderation tools for admins and mentioned that they are exploring the possibility of a pinned post feature which would disappear once a member has read it.
As Mitali Pattnaik said – it’s a work in progress and I am encouraged that LinkedIn is investing considerable resources into the project. This is not a token effort.
Will the new design save groups?
LinkedIn had to do something bold with groups, which to be honest had one foot in the grave. By changing things to look the same they may just have done enough. There is no doubt that business professionals have an appetite for engaging in discussion around topics of interest, just look at the success of Facebook business groups. Personally, I am optimistic that new group design will prove popular. On reflection, it wasn’t commercially or technically realistic for LinkedIn to continue with groups as a separate platform within a platform.
By reintegrating the group experience back into the main product LinkedIn has changed the conversation, it is no longer a case of whether the new design will be successful or not, the fact is that LinkedIn has created an additional source of valuable content.
Have you got the new version yet? What do you think, has LinkedIn done enough?