LinkedIn’s preeminence as a “professional” social network has changed the paradigm for maintaining connections in the business world. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for LinkedIn’s Groups feature.
I’ve often felt that Groups has so much potential as a key feature for LinkedIn, but various issues hinder its usefulness. For this modified teardown, I’ll give more insight into Groups overall, highlight why I see Groups as a priority area for LinkedIn, and offer a few solutions to increase user engagement in Groups.
Groups on LinkedIn aren’t that much different than on any other social media platform. Some groups are open to anyone; others need permission from admins to join.
As one might expect, LinkedIn Groups are much more heavily focused on the intersection of professional networks. While a college alumni Facebook group might be geared towards social events and campus discourse, a similar college alumni group on LinkedIn is likely to be filled with invites to networking events, questions about the business world, or job postings instead.
Why is it in LinkedIn’s interest to increase usage of Groups? Consider social network competitor Facebook, which has a very robust “Facebook Groups” feature. By connecting people who share at least one common interest or experience, Facebook encourages more posts, discussions, and other community-building engagement, thereby increasing network effects across the ecosystem (see Facebook’s festive “Mama Claus” ad for a humorous take on this community-building).
If LinkedIn were to improve Groups, people would have more accessible outlets to engage with others beyond liking “just got a new job” updates that pass by their feeds. Pragmatically, higher engagement in Groups can also be leveraged for higher revenue. Activity in certain groups can serve as a better proxy for ad and recruiter message targeting, a general win-win for those looking for job opportunities and those looking to fill them.
Transforming the usefulness of Groups isn’t going to happen overnight, but there are a few improvements I believe are low-cost and medium-potential additions to start things off:
Prioritize Groups Visibility on Feeds
The first step to improving the Groups feature is to give it more visibility.
After scrolling through 100 posts on my feed, only 1 was actually from one of my groups (someone posted a question about working at NGOs to The Phi Beta Kappa Society). Seeing posts from various groups in your feed more often brings these groups to top of mind, and encourages more participation in the online communities (likes, comments, and even content creation of one’s own). Conversely, a lack of visibility for groups can hinder the engagement funnel, effectively cutting off growth in these communities.
I looked through posts in my groups from the past couple days, and found a few interesting articles and questions that completely skipped my feed. Unless other group members are power users who check the group everyday, they, too are probably missing out on content they would want to engage with.
Improve Member Search
Groups need to have more ways to sort and search through your fellow members.
After scrolling through the member lists on a couple of my groups, there doesn’t appear to be any significant way that member names are organized. To start off, simple sorting would be great: “alphabetical”, “by degree of connection” (1st, 2nd, 3rd+), and “by location” are already available in LinkedIn’s main search bar, so it seems like this should be transferable to a much smaller subset.
Over time, expanding search functionality could prove incredibly valuable to group members, increasing their use of Groups overall. For example, being able to search current or former employees of a specific company could help people find connections who can share their experiences of working for that company. When you’re deciding between multiple offers, talking to both current and former employees is very helpful.
Add a “Jobs” Tab (Again)
People like to support one another, and I do see members share job listings in my groups, but there’s no easy way to search for these job posts.
LinkedIn apparently included this feature during a previous design iteration, but the option to add a Jobs tab is no longer available for group admins. I think this is a mistake; people like to be able to offer more targeted job opportunities in their online communities, and these opportunities are now lost among the other posts. For people who are comfortable in their jobs right now, a Jobs tab can also serve as a de-facto filter for these postings, reducing recruiter clutter and allowing them to focus on questions and discussions.
Longer-term, a Jobs tab can potentially integrate with LinkedIn’s redesigned Jobs page, allowing recruiters and employers to quickly share open opportunities with groups they are a part of. This forges more connections between LinkedIn’s features, and can potentially improve matching with job postings.
Increasing the visibility of Groups on the platform feed, improving member search functionality, and adding a Jobs tab are three steps toward enhancing a key feature for LinkedIn. Notably, two of the three features I mentioned (visibility and search) don’t appear that difficult to implement: the former requires an algorithmic tweak to give more weight to posts from Groups, while the latter can transfer functionality from the overall LinkedIn search bar to a narrowed subset of users. With all three product improvements implemented, I believe that LinkedIn users will begin to engage more in their respective groups, creating a positive feedback loop that will gradually enhance the vibrancy of Groups overall.