Last weeks post on my view of where LinkedIn is now as a channel attracted plenty of attention and comments from the likes of Matt Alder and Mr.LinkedIn, otherwise known as Mark Williams. my view is that the channel is predominantly becoming a people reference channel, and the place for targeted connecting and content posting/sharing, with an increasing number of users accessing the channel,commenting etc through third-party applications and e-mail.
When I first signed up for the channel, it wasn’t the case. I did plenty of networking and connections by being active in groups, and answering questions. Most of the books that I’ve seen talks about the channel operating in the same way, but in my view, it doesn’t. When I surveyed source of hire from 50 companies who promote hiring from LinkedIn, the source of hire story was much the same. This is the results that came back from the research, and this was data from the companies who were speaking loudly about their success on LinkedIn:

> 45% came from direct sourcing from LinkedIn where the recruiter initiated the approach. most had a LinkedIn recruiter account and felt it was effective.
> 19% came from PPC advertising. (In particular the ad featuring the picture from the profile in the “work here” ads) seem to have been very effective.
> 14% came from direct approaches to recruiter profiles or company profiles. (Hence the need for a well optimised profile and easy to find contact details.)
> 11% came from shared jobs and updates
> 7% came from company groups
> 4% came from other connections

You can read the full post HERE

I thought it was worth taking a closer look at group statistics to see what story they are telling. I took the data from 30 of the groups I belong to. The results are as follows:

> Total members: 343,010

> Average members per group: 11,433

> Largest Group: 134,980 members

> Smallest Group: 40 members

> Total Discussions: 2,144

> Average Discussions Per Group: 71

> Total Comments: 412

> Average Comments per group: 20

> Discussions per member: 1:168

> Comments per member: 1:596

> Comments per discussion: 1:3.5

From the groups that I looked at, only 2 stood out as being different to the trend:

> The Boolean Strings Network

> Recruitment Consultant.Eu

Both of these reversed the trend and had more comments than discussions, and conversation between members. These groups aside, the majority of members don’t contribute. The best way to get connections and to message without being connected is to belong to the same group. Sharing a group also raises your position in search, and recommendations for jobs, and as a “person you might know”. Looking at the contributions to the groups, I think most people are joining all 50 groups without getting involved in them. Joining a group in your target market is the most effective way to get reach and messaging, the channel is built this way.

Looking at the nature of discussions in groups, they are mostly links, rather than open discussions. You can share content with all your groups without going in to them, and I suspect this is where most of the discussions are coming from, and the reason for the lack of comments. The average user visits the channel directly 2.8 times a month.and according to comscore, spending 12 minutes in total a month. Thats not a lot of time for visiting groups, reading posts and commenting.

That said, I’m not saying that groups are a waste of time. Amongst the 50 I belong to there are probably 3 that stand out as communities. the common denominator amongst these is a strong and committed group owner or manager who takes the time to approve posts, generate discussion and move posts to promotions and jobs to jobs, they also spend time checking membership applications and issue warning messages to wrong doers. With the lack of quality groups, a good one really stands out, so there is opportunity, but you really need to be committed, as well as having an active plan for recruiting new members who are regular contributors and commenters in other groups.

Probably more concerning from the 30 groups I looked at is the week on week growth and decline. From the 30 groups, 5 grew by % of members, 8 remained static and 16 had shrunk in membership. The total decline across all the groups was 334%, showing a significant number of leavers against joiners.

What I am seeing from this data is that with a few exceptions, the channel is much more about posting and sharing via updates and groups than it is about connecting within the groups and having open discussion. I know from my referer figures that the channel remains the top source because of the targeted nature of the network. My LinkedIn connections, and those in the groups I belong to form my target audience. Posting in to LinkedIn is an essential part of my strategy, but I’m not expecting any conversation.