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.
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?