Story of Searching LinkedIn Groups for Interesting Conversations

Cluetrain ManifestoI don’t know whether it started, almost eleven years ago, with The Cluetrain Manifesto statement that “markets are conversations”, but the concept of listening to and then “participating in the conversation” has become part of standard advice to business owners and others wanting to get serious about using social media and wanting to attract people to their web sites.

The corollary advice is often, in colloquial terms, to find where the people you want to listen to and connect with “hang out” online, then hang out there too.

I’ve certainly given that advice more than once.

So how well have I been doing in terms of walking my talk?

Pretty well, I believe, in terms of my professional interest in social media and the services I offer there.

But not so well in terms of the focus of this blog, on professionals working from home. So I thought it was time I took my own advice and looked for “where the people hang out” – the people in question being, as I say, professionals working from home.

I started with the “LinkedIn Groups” on professional networking platform LinkedIn, which I know reasonably well, having co-moderated a LinkedIn group for several years and co-authored a book on LinkedIn for recruiters.

LinkedIn Groups – then and now

The decision to check out LinkedIn Groups was not intuitive.

There was a time, not so long ago, when there was no conversation on LinkedIn Groups. No forum, no discussion thread option. And the whole business of setting up a LinkedIn Group was not simple.

LinkedIn for Groups policy 2007
As the screenshot above shows, just three years ago, in 2007, to have a group on LinkedIn, you had to send a request to LinkedIn management and there was no guarantee your request would be approved.

And a year later it was not an easy matter to find groups to which you might like to belong.

The whole setup was called, in those days “LinkedIn for Groups”. At the time I found that an odd title, but with hindsight it seems to me that it was quite well chosen for the time, given that the idea was that LinkedIn might agree to establish a Group on its site if there was already a “group” existing externally, such as an alumni group, or a corporation group. So it was LinkedIn for(mainly or exclusively, already existing) Groups.

That has all changed and we now have “LinkedIn Groups”, with no intermediate preposition and a more open policy on setting up a group.

Create LinkedIn Group

Easy to set up a LinkedIn Group now

When you go to the LinkedIn site now, you can set up a group just by clicking on a link, filling out and submitting an online form and not needing to submit a proposal to LinkedIn management.

One effect of that is a plethora of groups, some with with many members, some with very few, even down to some with only one member,  namely the person who set up the group, who presumably sent out invitations to various connections to join and is still waiting for someone to accept.

But I was not looking just for a large group as such. I was looking for some sign that conversations were happening.

As I searched, I was somewhat surprised to find that many groups had no discussion going on and some had only a few discussion topics. Perhaps it’s a hangover from the old setup of LinkedIn for Groups, where there was no forum structure or other way of holding discussions with other members of a group.

The new setup for LinkedIn Groups has a setup for threaded discussions and some of the groups to which I belong have quite extended and informative discussions.

In the next post in this series of Looking for Conversations I will share the results of my search on LinkedIn Groups.

In the meantime, I hope you will share any suggestions about where to find good online conversations among business professionals working from home.

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