LinkedIn have now started rolling out their newly designed groups.
Amongst the community of LinkedIn group managers the response has been universally negative, some might even say vitriolic! In this article however I want to focus on how these changes effect group members.
My conclusion is that they have done a great job on the look (aesthetic design) and a pretty shabby job on user experience (practical design).
When you initially go to LinkedIn groups (via the ‘interest’ menu as before) you land on a ‘Highlights’ page (see image above).
The main part of this page shows a summary of your ‘personalized’ discussions, or ‘conversations’ as they seem to have been renamed from all of your groups.
At the top of the page are two menus ‘My Groups’ and ‘Discover’. The former is the way you can navigate to your list of groups;
The Discover page is where you can find other groups that may be of interest (you can now join up to 100 groups). This is not a search page, that is still done via the search field at the top of every page, but a list of suggested groups based on LinkedIn’s interpretation of your interests. You can refine this algorithm by clicking on ‘not interested’.
Once you click into one of your groups you immediately see the list of ‘conversations’ headed by a ‘featured’ conversation as selected by the group manager followed by other conversations in date order. Above these you can create your own conversation.
This is where the problems start! The changes to what were known as discussions include the ability to @mention another member of the group, unfortunately this seems to be faulty (tried in 3 different browsers)! You can also add an image as well as a link, the image will replace any image from the linked page but the url will still show as is the case with status updates.
Click on the image below to view both conversations
This has changed from an area where you traditionally landed on a list of jobs from the main jobs section of LinkedIn (paid jobs) with the option of a ‘job discussion’ tab (free posts) whereas now you only see job discussions. This is a positive move for job seekers and Recruiters alike and as you can see the design is a significant improvement.
This is the most disappointing (and bizarre) aspect of the new LinkedIn groups feature. Members are still allowed to send a free message to fellow group members but in practice they can’t! A list of all members is accessed by clicking on the number of members in both of the places highlighted below. One key change here is that we can no longer see if someone is a 1st, 2nd, 3rd tier connection – I have no idea why they would want to drop that feature.
When you hover over a member you will see the icon indicating you can send them a message, clicking on this opens a message in your inbox (new messaging app).
But this is useless because LinkedIn have removed the member search feature! How are you supposed to find a member to message? The answer given to me by LinkedIn was that you have to scroll down the list….in a group with over 1 million members (such as the one above) that could take weeks…possibly even months!
In fact it is so ridiculous that I think it must be a mistake, there is no point in having messaging without a search field. You either have search and messaging or neither……have LinkedIn lost the plot?!!
This is important because groups were a great place to make initial contact with people on LinkedIn. Rather than sending someone an invitation to connect, it made sense to make an initial approach with a free group message. Now the only option for premium members is to use a valuable InMail credit (unlikely) or for free members to upgrade their account (even less likely) so all you can do is send an invitation to someone out of the blue which is pretty bad practice!
If this stays this way I can see users not bothering with groups anymore as the only reason to be a member will be to get involved in discussions and we know that very few people actually do that.
My hope is that this is just an error and LinkedIn will re-instate the search field.
I recently broadcasted a Periscope rant on this matter;
So as I stated at the start of this article, the changes look nice but that really isn’t the most important thing. If they have effectively removed group messaging on purpose then this makes groups much less interesting.
I still believe this must be a mistake and hope to see it resolved soon, in the meantime all we can do is contact the help centre on Twitter @Linkedinhelp and report the error, if everyone does then we have a chance of seeing a change.