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Posts Tagged ‘Alumni’

Tower_of_Babel

With more than 400 million registered members worldwide (over 19 million of whom are based in the UK), LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional networking web-site. Quite a success story for a California company set up in 2003. It now operates in 24 languages and in over 200 countries – which is basically just saying “we’re on the internet…”

The company employed 500 full-time staff in 2010 but now has 9,200 employees, which hints at a story of rapid expansion. LinkedIn had an IPO in 2011, and year-on-year revenues (growing at 37%) for Q3 in 2015 were $780 million, the majority of which comes from what the company somewhat enigmatically calls “talent solutions” (this may mean charges made to headhunters, recruiters and search companies). This stat is the best indication of the real reason why everyone is on LinkedIn; to further career prospects via personal branding and network reach. And there is no doubt that LinkedIn has always been on to something in that regard.

LinkedIn has not liked to be too gimmicky. I think this actually endeared it to the baby-boomers and Generation Xs that were its primary users in the early years. Against MySpace and Facebook, LinkedIn felt reassuringly un-trendy. Generally, it has remained quite conservative in what it innovates or in what it changes. One feature of the site which has been around for a long time has been the Groups function. There are over 2 million groups on LinkedIn, and Business Schools in particular made good use of them as a constantly and self-refreshing database of contacts, as well as a forum for discussion and announcement. It was all working OK. Then, over the summer, the company made some low-key announcements about some radical changes it wanted to introduce to that groups area.  In August, the company announced that “the Groups team has been working on some really exciting new improvements that will change Groups dramatically.”  They weren’t kidding about the drama.

In October this roll-out reached the UK, and pretty much flattened every group owner’s enthusiasm for the Groups function. None of the changes made added up to anything better than what was there before. The new User Interface (UI) removed all ability to get an overview of what was going on in any of the groups you are a member of. It also removed the useful quick overview of any admin needing doing for group owners and managers. Existing groups were re-labelled as “Private and unlisted” as default, so no-one could search for them and new members were only by invitation. The only alternative was “Standard”, which can be searched for, but which (unbelievably) allows existing members to admit new members. For an alumni group, this is not healthy and also allows spammers to work their way into the groups. Then, the character limit for new comments or discussions was reduced from 4,000 to 1,000, presumably to suit a more mobile use of LinkedIn for Groups (perhaps they are looking to accommodate more Generation Ys or millennials?), so people can not expand on their thoughts as much.

I’ve no doubt that the Groups function on LinkedIn needs looking at. There are too many small or redundant groups, and quite a few that are too big for any member to make an impact within (no use being the 543rd comment in a discussion thread), but LinkedIn’s changes, and the strange way they’ve gone about it, have infuriated the community of moderators. Postings to the discussion threads in the official LinkedIn Moderator Groups have been pretty unanimous in voicing (in 1,000 characters or fewer) the frustration, and a lot of owners are openly asking each other for good tips on where else they can take their online groups for hosting.

It’s too early to say whether this is going to damage LinkedIn other than in terms of the small dent in its groups reputation. The site is now so enormous that few people/managers can afford to ignore it completely as a showcase, and it remains a good avenue to find and keep up with colleagues and potential network contacts, but they have managed to take much of the fun out of running groups. The Henley post-experience group had 8 sub-groups, all of which are now stand-alone spaces. I doubt these smaller groups will survive with any life in them, as a new member now has the task to hunt down and join each in turn, and spend most of their day clicking and scrolling to find them and see whether anything new is happening (which, when it turns out it is not, results in them not even bothering to check).

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