LinkedIn Is Making All LinkedIn Groups Private

Career-focused social network LinkedIn is revamping the Groups experience to improve the quality of conversation and is also launching a standalone iOS app for the feature.

Launched in 2004, LinkedIn Groups was among the first features of the career-focused social network, intended to create connections and discussion among professionals with common interests. Now, with a roster of more than two million Groups, the company has decided it’s time to revamp the experience.

linkedinOn Oct. 14, the company will start unveiling those updates, rolling out revamped Groups on the desktop and a standalone iOS app. (An Android app is also in the works.) The app will offer push notifications for Group conversations.

The changes, reported first by Venture Beat, are aimed at improving the quality of conversation within a feature that many complain is often filled with spam and self-promotion. LinkedIn says the changes were made after studying internal data and soliciting feedback from thousands of users. The general sentiment: Make Group controls simpler and tighten the reins on membership.

The biggest change — the one that LinkedIn believes will make a qualitative difference — is that all Groups are being made private; only Group members will be able to see the contents of conversations, and only members will be allowed to contribute. LinkedIn also won’t allow search engines to crawl the discussions, another key, it believes, to providing a trusted private space for people to communicate.

“Our data has shown that open groups have historically attracted a larger percentage of low-quality conversations,” LinkedIn wrote in a post in its help center. “Members-only groups have created significantly more participation and conversations than others (up to five times more), indicating that members feel more confident contributing in these types of groups.”

For Group owners, the change means they will have to decide whether to make their Group a Standard or Unlisted Group, the only two classifications that will remain after next week. The main difference between the two is control and visibility. Unlisted Groups are… unlisted. They won’t appear in the LinkedIn directory of Groups, Group badges won’t display on members’ profiles, and only owners and managers can invite and approve new members. In Standard Groups, members can invite first-degree LinkedIn connections to join and can also approve requests to join from such connections.

That change has caused some controversy among Group moderators, many of whom want to maintain full control of membership in Groups that aren’t cloaked in secrecy. If you are interested in the issue, there’s a robust conversation about it going on in the LinkedIn Group Moderator Community (membership required).

Among other changes to Groups:

  • Better Content Filtering: LinkedIn says it has improved its filters to strip out spammy and low-quality content. It has removed the Promotions tab, which currently collects such posts, in favor of sending posts flagged as promotional to a moderation queue. Posts about jobs will be automatically moved from the main conversation feed to a Jobs tab.
  • Moderation: To improve timeliness and continuity of discussions, conversations and comments will go live immediately after a member posts. Group managers and moderators will be able to remove off-topic content and place problem members in a moderation penalty box.
  • Images And Mentions In Conversations: People starting a new conversation will be able to upload a photo. Members will be able to @mention other members when starting a conversation or when commenting within one.
  • Cutting Out Subgroups: All subgroups will be converted to independent Groups. From LinkedIn: “We recognize that subgroups were important to the organization of some of our larger groups. However, for the majority of our members, the experience was confusing.”

By Martin Beck