It’s time to move to a platform that actually benefits your members

I love LinkedIn for career networking but it’s a terrible platform for a community. Activity in a LinkedIn group tends to follow the traditional 90-9-1 participation model seen on other social networks: 90 percent lurker, nine percent contributor, one percent creator. By contrast, The State of Community Management 2016 report found that mature dedicated communities enjoy a 65-15-20 level of participation, with approximately 35 percent contributing regularly and about one in five creating and collaborating on content. Why such a significant gap? Here are the top five ways LinkedIn fails as a community platform.

  1. A lack of commitment to communities

LinkedIn is essentially a marketing platform—whether for talent or goods. LinkedIn has three main product lines—Talent Solutions, Marketing Solutions and Premium Subs—that are not focused on helping companies create communities. And earlier this year, LinkedIn released an account-based marketing campaign tool that allows marketers to send content to members. It seems clear LinkedIn is simply focused on connecting marketers with its more than 414,000,000 users and, with the acquisition by Microsoft, the lack of interest in community features may only get worse.

 

  1. LinkedIn owns the data

With LinkedIn Groups, you can’t analyze member activities and conversations to better understand what your members’ interests are, how they can benefit from your products and services, and what their challenges may be. With a dedicated community platform, you own the data and gain unlimited access to all the nuances of user activities, conversations and inquiries to gain deep insight into the brand, product issues and trends that are most important to your members. This information can transform your customer relationships and product lifecycle.

 

  1. It’s hard to engage members

LinkedIn Groups limit your ability to communicate effectively with various segments of your member population, such as new users versus advanced users, or Canadian members versus international members. With a dedicated community platform, you can segment members based on elements like their profiles and interests, and create targeted communications that can more successfully convey the value you offer, leading to a better member experience and increased response rates.

 

  1. High-value conversations don’t exist

The flow of content in LinkedIn Groups does not create an opportunity for high-value conversations around specific topics. With a dedicated community, you can develop and evolve profile and topic-based subgroups and hierarchies for like-minded members to more easily communicate, encouraging far greater participation and more valuable conversations.

 

  1. LinkedIn groups search is abysmal

With LinkedIn Groups, there is no easy way to search conversations to see if a member’s question has already been answered. This platform failure affects both the members with questions and the contributors who provide answers. Those with questions are forced to wait for an answer they could otherwise obtain immediately, while contributors are often forced to answer the same question over and over again. A community built on a dedicated platform will provide a simple way for any member to take advantage of the wealth of information that has accumulated over time.

 

If you are ready to abandon LinkedIn in favour of embracing a community you can truly nurture, start by focusing on the needs of your members to ensure they see the transition as a tremendous opportunity, not a worrisome disruption. For example, don’t simply announce the transition as a done deal to be imposed by a certain date. Instead, communicate with them well in advance, discussing your goals for improving the community and all the benefits you’d like to add. You can even solicit feedback. Reassure them that existing benefits and resources won’t disappear. Then ease into it. Lay out a timeline for the move to the new community and consider having both the new community and the LinkedIn Group accessible simultaneously for a short period, allowing vocal members to discuss the benefits of the new platform. Finally, eliminate friction by making it easy for members to import profile information from LinkedIn. The easier it is to start participating on the new platform, the faster it will thrive.

LinkedIn may have been a great way for you to test the waters of a community, but its limitations and focus on marketing are preventing you from making your community the powerful strategic pillar it can and ought to be. A dedicated, branded community you can manage will facilitate collaboration and accelerate organic engagement, leading to happier and more loyal members.

This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of Direct Marketing.

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Rob Wenger

Rob Wenger is a successful entrepreneur and business executive with a 19-year track record in building, growing and leading high-tech companies. He has been developing social networking applications for associations and non-profits for nearly 10 years. He is currently CEO of Higher Logic.

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