Now that LinkedIn offers open groups, community managers have the option to change their group settings. Switching to open groups means you go from members-only content, to offering your group discussions as public conversations that are indexed by search engines.
Coupla’ of things:
- Current and past posts and discussions are not indexed by search engines, just the new stuff. Old stuff is archived in a super secret non-searchable section for members-only.
- If you switch to an open group, LinkedIn notifies group members.
- In open groups, anyone on the interwebz can view discussions, and discussions are sharable on Facebook and Twitter. However, there are manager controls available so you can restrict who actually is able to post in open groups.
I’m pondering the benefits of having a closed community versus an open community, and if the SEO advantages of open groups make it worth the extra moderation. Clearly SEO advantages are hugely important. However, in my mind your company only wins if people go from the LinkedIn group to your website. If people are just seeing the results in Google and not clicking through, or just reading the publicly available discussions and not doing anything beyond that, to me it feels like we’ve just exposed ourselves and compromised the conversations in our community for no reason.
I participate in and run closed communities and open ones. You can’t make a blanket statement and say that open or closed communities are better or worse than the other. It depends on your community’s content and goals. I’m a member of a closed Facebook group for community managers. Joining is invite-only, and beyond that, the moderators control who is let into the group from there. With a small group of only 100 people, the conversations, information and debate are high-quality. Is it snobby to keep some people out? Well, no. If this amount of moderation is what prevents Spamcakes from blowing up a productive group with stuff like “Come check out my webinar/ebook/social media thingamajig!” then I agree with it.
I run a Q&A site for social media questions at oneforty Answers. We get some great conversation over there. The community has grown to the point where a core group will take off and have these awesome discussions on their own without me having to lead or push. The overall quality of the questions on oneforty Answers is not great as the discussions in our (new) closed LinkedIn group, though. It requires moderation. We get a lot of spam. We also get a lot of random and off-topic stuff that I have to sort through. However, everything is indexed on search engines so we get traffic to Answers from that, and we get traffic from Answers to oneforty.com. So, the openness benefits us…
…or does it?
Having an open forum is an easy way to get content and followers at first. But if you aren’t benefitting the community with quality content and making it easy for riff raff to join and post garbage in your forums, people won’t stick around – at least the people you want to have stick around. SEO gains are great, but (and sorry to be all rainbows and butterflies) so are loyal evangelists of private communities.
I say, first, look at your goals for the community – in this case, a LinkedIn group. Is it another venue to push out your own content, or are you really focusing on the member conversations? I think if you figure that out, you’ll see how you feel about the SEO benefits vs. increased need for moderation of an open group. I’m still evaluating what I’ll do with my LinkedIn group, specially looking for ways that I can possibly get the best of both worlds: have the content indexed by search engines but maintain the quality conversations that we’d get in a private community.