As I’ve learned more and more about LinkedIn, one question has remained: how do groups work on the site? If you’ve browsed profiles you’ve seen some that have nifty little graphical icons in their ‘groups’ section, icons for specific schools, professional groups, etc. But I haven’t been clear about how you join one of these mystery groups and how those icons show up.
I asked this very question about groups in My Linkedin Power Forum (see my earlier article on MLPF, Expanding the Limits of Social Networking with My LinkedIn Power Forum) and received a very informative note from Robert Leathern, the Director of Marketing at LinkedIn (and also author of the cool analystblog too).
Here’s what he explained to me…
There is a directory of recognized LinkedIn groups on the site at www.linkedin.com/groups, comprised of three different kind of groups, Basic, Premium and Partner. Basic groups are free, but don’t appear in the directory.
By default, Premium and Partner groups are included in the directory, while Basic (free) groups are allowed to appear in the directory for a small one-time listing fee of $200. As many LinkedIn enthusiasts ask, wanting us to continue to grow and thrive as a service, “how are you going to make money?” I can assure you that charging for group directory listings is not a major revenue stream, but it is a form of advertising for groups and helps to cover our costs in setting up groups at no charge :-).
One important thing to keep in mind is that “LinkedIn for Groups” is not really a set of interest groups aimed at ‘finding’ other LinkedIn users who share the same interests. i.e. we have groups for Real Estate Connect, the conference to be held here in SF this month, or for the Haas School of Business alumni, as opposed to a group for people who are wine lovers and live in the Bay Area.
We will certainly consider these type of ‘ad-hoc’ groups, but the current LinkedIn for Groups product is not aimed at those types of groups.
There are two steps to joining a group: invitation and approval. Many alumni organizations have pre-approved all their existing members to join, so that when someone with that particular email address clicks on the invitation link (which is distributed via email or on their website) they are let into the group. If the person is not preapproved the group administrator has to give them the thumbs up or thumbs down on joining the group.
We are trying to work to make sure that all groups are officially sanctioned by their parent organizations – in some cases we have volunteer efforts where an alumnus or association member has set up a group on behalf of this organization (e.g. XYZ University Class of 2002). We ask them to make sure they have permission to use the name/logo of the group and also try to get them to have their alumni relations or relevant people involved in this because a group for all of XYZ University will be much more valuable to the individual members than just a class-based one.
So there are some interesting issues around groups, and it has mainly been a grass roots effort to date with LinkedIn enthusiasts getting their groups into LinkedIn for Groups.
Robert talks more about groups on LinkedIn on his blog too. Check out his recent posting LinkedIn for Groups Group Directory for more information.
Me? I haven’t found any group where, as Groucho would say, I’d be welcome as a member and I’d want to be a member. But I’ll keep looking, and if there’s a directory of Basic (e.g., “free”) LinkedIn groups, that’s sure be nice to know about!