As a social networking business tool, LinkedIn is definitely growing on me. At the outset, I knew LinkedIn was a great way to research potential clients and PR and marketing managers within those organizations.
I also knew it was a fantastic way to grow my professional community. I’ve met a number of very smart people from my LinkedIn connections. And, it’s allowed me to start new relationships with people I’ve wanted to approach for some time.
Through the groups functionality, I’ve strengthened relationships with independent PR consultants from across the country, learned about new tools through professional organizations and reconnected with former colleagues through alumni groups.
But recently, LinkedIn rolled out some new updates to its Group functionality that have already changed the way I interact on the platform. Below are five of the newest changes and what they mean for you as a participant–and manager–of LinkedIn groups:
* Placing a premium on discussions. Probably the biggest, and most impactful, change in LinkedIn groups is the new look for the group home page. Besides the basic cosmetic changes LinkedIn made to the layout (which I love), participants now have the opportunity to “like” posts. This gives you more opportunities to help identify topics that are most important to the group. In the end, this will make it easier for participants and group managers to identify which topics are resonating with participants more quickly. Back to the layout. The new format makes it much easier (and more intuitive for beginners) to start a discussion (remember, the premium?). In fact, the whole top half of the page (above the digital “fold”) is now all about discussions and content. And, as we just discussed, thanks to adding the “like” functionality, the most popular and impactful conversations should bubble right to the top so you can find them more easily.
* Browse and review comments more easily. One of my favorite new features is the ability to review the last three comments for each discussion by easily mousing over the participants icon. Very easy and efficient way to read the latest without clicking through to every discussion. Again, Linked is clearly putting more emphasis on quality discussions. But, they also seem to be putting more time and energy into the “experience” of visiting LinkedIn. Clean, easy to navigate, scannable. Nice.
* More chances to follow. It’s certainly not obvious, but you can actually follow people on LinkedIn. I know, I really didn’t realize this either until last year. But, with these new updates, LinkedIn has expanded this feature, too. Now, it’s easier to follow people (shows up right under your photo when you start a discussion) and you can even follow individual discussions by clicking “follow” on each separate discussion page. What’s great about this new addition is not only will that discussion show up in your “activity” pane, it will also show up in your inbox.
* Ability to highlight fresh–or recycled–content. Formerly known as “Featured Discussion”, LinkedIn decided to change this feature to “Manager’s Choice” due to confusion over who was previously featuring these discussions. Group managers will now have the ability to highlight discussions in a box on the right-hand side of the home page–and these discussions will take on a more prominent role in the group digest email soon. Great way for group managers to highlight new content–or content that really struck a chord a couple weeks ago, but a topic not everyone in the group may have seen.
* Identify top group influencers. Want to find out who’s contributing to the group on a regular basis? That’s much easier now–thanks to the “top influencers this week” box in the lower-right-hand corner. This new feature will help participants get a better feeling for who’s really involved in the group. And, it will help managers, too, since there’s a great deal of value in knowing who’s most active in your particular communities.