I use both a Facebook group and a LinkedIn group as community engagement tools. I like them both, but for very different reasons, and what I really wish I could do was combine my favorite features of each and get the best of both worlds.

I have tested different ways to build engagement and conversation with my audience. Last September I started a Q&A forum on Qhub called oneforty Answers where people could submit and answer questions related to Twitter apps and other social media topics. After two months, it wasn’t getting quite the traction I wanted it to, so I focused on a new LinkedIn group.

Around the same time, I got involved in Facebook’s new groups. They are a far cry from the cheesy groups I used to be invited to in college for purposes like “Hey I lost my cell phone give me all your numbers” or “Hey I need to do this survey for my senior seminar paper….” (Remember those throw-backs? Aw yeah…)

I love the functionality of the new groups so much that recently, with the beta launch SocialBase, I dared to try something different and use a Facebook group to engage our beta testers.

Which do I like better?

Pros of LinkedIn Groups:

  • People have a “business mindset” on LinkedIn. No distractions from personal things like on Twitter and Facebook that clutter conversations. That has always been the clearest benefit.
  • “Top Influencers This Week” shows you your most engaged community members
  • “Follow” functionality: If there is a certain noisy member of the group, community members can “unfollow” that person.
  • You can do open groups and your brand name can receive SEO value for conversations involved in the group (could be a good thing if they are relevant to your keywords.) I’ve chosen to keep my group private because I’m nervous about spam.
  • Granular admin options. Need to sell your boss or client on using social media? Show how you can customize this group to what is the right fit for your business.
LinkedIn Group Admin options - lots of 'em!

Cons of LinkedIn Groups

  • No reporting. There isn’t even so much as a Facebook Insights type of weekly email update that tells me about the number of comments or number of group members so I can gauge the progress or engagement week-by-week.
  • Invitations – I have to be connected to someone on LinkedIn in order to invite them. I have to send the invitation, wait for them to accept, then send the group invitation. It’s just a bit of a process.
  • No custom URL’s for brands. I’m hacking it with a custom Bit.ly… http://bit.ly/14tLinkedIn
  • Discussions are odd: Your comments are limited to 200 characters. It’d be nice to be able to “tag” another community member in a comment the way you can on Facebook, Disqus and Livefyre comments. This would enhance the conversations and drive people back to the group if they got a Tweet or an email update when they were mentioned in a comment.

And now for Facebook…

Pros of Facebook Groups:

  • I like that you can tag people in comments – drives a lot more engagement and it makes the discussions much more interactive.
  • You can add links, photos, videos, or do a poll with a question – more options than with a LinkedIn group. I share screencasts of SocialBase and it presents then better than they would be presented in a LinkedIn group.
  • Chat function would allow you to chat with group members. Haven’t tried this yet but could see this being useful.
  • Documents feature lets you collect things like Twitter handles if you are going to make a Twitter list of all the members.
  • Integrates with events feature. Again, I haven’t used this but could see this as useful if my group was bigger.
  • Better email notifications than LinkedIn. You can reply to discussions right from the email. It also gives you a better preview of the discussions to make you really decide if you want to actually login to Facebook and see the conversation. LinkedIn just tells you there was “an update” or “a discussion” added to the group.  That doesn’t peak my interest much and make me want to return.

Cons of Facebook Groups

  • No reporting – No way for me to get a report of number of discussions or group members to track engagement, no feature to show “top influencers” like with LinkedIn.
  • I have to add someone as a Facebook friend in order to invite him or her to the group. Obvious creep factor here…
  • No custom URLs
  • Can’t download a list or group members names or email addresses into an Excel sheet or anything so when using this in conjunction with other marketing activities it’s a little more tedious to track which beta testers have joined the group and who hasn’t.

This is what I want: I wish I could have the technical functionality of a Facebook group within the context of a LinkedIn group.

I’ve gotten more comfortable adding people on Facebook. I won’t add just anybody, but I’ve accepted that I’m out there and online…that it’s just this mix of personal and professional. However, when I have to add someone as a Facebook friend to have them join a Facebook group for my company, I might be violating other people’s boundaries.  Others might not be as easygoing about it. At least if you are adding someone on LinkedIn to join your LinkedIn group, it’s less personal.

It would be helpful if I didn’t have to be Facebook friends with someone to invite them to a Facebook group. Or, maybe Facebook could make it so if someone was a “fan” of our business page I could invite them to our (private) business group (which would be helpful for peeps like me with private betas). It’d also be helpful to have Facebook Insights-type of reporting just to be able to measure progress on group engagement.

However, I love the technical functionality of Facebook groups and wish I could have something like that surrounded by the business environment and mentality of LinkedIn’s site. People want to talk about business-focused things when they login to that site, so for things like B2B software, it’s a golden lead generation and B2B community building opportunity. I think that’s a mind-share thing that LinkedIn has and Facebook doesn’t (plus… why would it want to? They’re doing just fine…) But LinkedIn can change the technicalities of groups.

That’s my take on my my experience with these two types of groups. Are you using either for your communities? What’s your take?

17 Comments on Facebook Groups vs. LinkedIn Groups: Which is Right for Your Community?

  1. Jeff Turner
    May 23, 2011 at 3:38 pm (6 years ago)

     You could create a Facebook account just for work. This way it has no personal info. It is a bummer on the reporting. I wounder if the Facebook and LinkedIn API’s allow you to pull data. Then you could write a reporting tool. I might look into that (programmer in me 🙂 )

    Reply
    • Janet Aronica
      May 23, 2011 at 3:51 pm (6 years ago)

      LinkedIn API is very closed…. Facebook I’m not so sure about. But I would recommend this as an area to hack on… B2B marketers use LinkedIn a lot and are seeing lead gen benefits from it. I think if you created reporting tools for LinkedIn groups people would be more likely to pay for something like that than another Twitter app or something… #freestartupidea

      The ship has kinda sailed on the day when I could’ve created a professional Facebook I think. Everything is so mixed now I just have to accept it. 🙂 I’m pretty cool with it now actually, probably just more comfortable with myself in general so that’s why.

      Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  2. Anonymous
    May 23, 2011 at 4:47 pm (6 years ago)

     Janet – I used to like LI groups a lot, then they turned into self-promotional pits of SPAM for the most part. I do like FB groups, but my down-side to them is that people can add you if they are a friend of yours. For some reason I got notifications that I was in an End of Times group, because a bonehead friend put me there (go figure). One thing that annoys me of though is the update feature if email in enabled for the group. A highly engaged group can really kill your inbox. 

    Have you ever looked at cultivating a FB fan page and running like a community? While there are some restrictions to emails, you still get reporting and can see what content drove conversations. 

    Reply
    • Janet Aronica
      May 23, 2011 at 5:06 pm (6 years ago)

      Hey Jeff – Yep FB pages definitely do have the reporting which is nice but the drawback there is that those are public. I think part of the reason that our LinkedIn group is working (and I should’ve maybe emphasized this more in the post) is that I have that kept as private. That was the problem with #Answers – we had that public and we got SO much spam. Forums grow much faster that way but the spam is awful.

      Agree re: FB groups and the email updates… they can certainly kill your inbox and you have to go to your account settings on FB to change what notifications you get. (And as we know, changing your account settings on FB requires a PhD.)

      Reply
    • Janet Aronica
      May 23, 2011 at 5:06 pm (6 years ago)

      Hey Jeff – Yep FB pages definitely do have the reporting which is nice but the drawback there is that those are public. I think part of the reason that our LinkedIn group is working (and I should’ve maybe emphasized this more in the post) is that I have that kept as private. That was the problem with #Answers – we had that public and we got SO much spam. Forums grow much faster that way but the spam is awful.

      Agree re: FB groups and the email updates… they can certainly kill your inbox and you have to go to your account settings on FB to change what notifications you get. (And as we know, changing your account settings on FB requires a PhD.)

      Reply
      • Anonymous
        May 23, 2011 at 6:00 pm (6 years ago)

        At the end of the day a clear winner for groups will be a company who builds a livefire or Disqus like system that can carry over multiple environments. 

        Reply
  3. Kellee Magee
    May 23, 2011 at 4:50 pm (6 years ago)

    Janet:  this is amazingly helpful comparison, thank you!  Do you have a quick thumbnail on either of these vs. Google Groups – or it that such a ‘third runner up’ it’s not even worth discussing?

    Reply
    • Janet Aronica
      May 23, 2011 at 5:02 pm (6 years ago)

      Hey Kellee – I haven’t looked into Google Groups and don’t really know anyone using those yet. Will let you know if I find a comparison though! 

      Reply
    • Janet Aronica
      May 23, 2011 at 5:02 pm (6 years ago)

      Hey Kellee – I haven’t looked into Google Groups and don’t really know anyone using those yet. Will let you know if I find a comparison though! 

      Reply
  4. Brian Gilbert
    May 24, 2011 at 12:57 pm (6 years ago)

    Thanks for the analysis – the one thing that jumps out at me – both really some sort of reporting tools.  Even something rudimentary would be OK.

    Reply
    • Janet Aronica
      May 24, 2011 at 2:42 pm (6 years ago)

      Absolutely correct. Not sure if you’ve played around with FB Insights but it’s very basic in my opinion because it just tracks things like engagement which isn’t $$ or real ROI, but it is nice to understand traction in whatever you are doing. To not have an efficient way to measure that in something you are spending time on is annoying.

      Reply
  5. SharelOmer
    June 10, 2011 at 12:03 am (6 years ago)

    Great post Janet,

    Do you feel that at some point a twitter group will emerge ? 

    LI is positioned more for professionals
    FB more for big brands
    Twitter is a nice mix… 🙂

    Thanks,
    Sharel

    Reply
  6. dangerlach
    July 19, 2011 at 2:31 pm (6 years ago)

    I used to join certain groups because once a member you could email other members without having to be a connection.  Now it seems LinkedIn has changed that.  Is that right or am I mistaken?

    Reply
  7. Chad Cardwell
    August 19, 2011 at 3:49 pm (6 years ago)

    Thanks for the writeup, Janet!

    Having just spent the last few days creating and setting up a private LinkedIn group, I can verify that as a group manager, I can invite people using emails (no LinkedIn connection required). This can be done by manually typing emails or by importing a CSV file. Granted, this only works if you know their email addresses, which my unique circumstances allow for with my target audience. Another option is to provide or post the “Group Join Link” somewhere outside of the group, which takes them to the overview page where they can request to join.

    As for Facebook vs LinkedIn, I just spent the last few weeks banging my head against the internet to fully understand the differences in their groups, and your comparisons pretty much validate everything I’ve learned. However, I will say that I just posted a comment on a LinkedIn group discussion that was well over 200 characters in length, and you can reply to discussions via email now. When posting a new discussion, you’re limited to 200 characters in the title and then possibly as much as you want in the body. They also just released overhauled mobile apps that include basic group discussion viewing and commenting.

    At the end of the day, the reasons I chose LinkedIn for my group over Facebook are (1) subgroups, (2) group admin controls, and (3) it’s a more professional environment.

    Oh, and if you’re still deciding which is best for you, this is good-to-know info on LinkedIn group limits:
    https://help.linkedin.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/190/~/general-limits-for-linkedin-groups

    Reply
  8. dannymallinder
    May 2, 2015 at 2:04 am (3 years ago)

    Be good to read an update on this article as there have been a lot of changes since 2011 to both platforms.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment *