Hi, Rachel here!

This week, LinkedIn have announced that they will be making changes to their popular Groups feature, after research showed that users want an easier to use experience and tighter membership rules. The most important change is that from the 14th October all Groups will be made private. Previously, any LinkedIn user could see activity within individual Groups. Now only Group members will be able to see the content and contribute to conversations.

It’s clear that LinkedIn have listened to their users – the Groups feature has faced backlash for being a place of “spam and self-promotion”, which some users find makes it difficult to focus on useful conversations and discussions. To combat the amount of promotional material which clog up a Group, LinkedIn have removed the “Promotions” tab, which has been replaced by a moderation process (of which Group moderators will be in charge). They also say they have improved their filters to weed out spam and low quality content.

Privacy is not the only thing that will change about Groups. LinkedIn are rolling out a standalone app for the feature on iOS, with an Android app soon to follow. Push notifications for Group conversations will be enabled, allowing discussions to continue on the go. You will also be able to use images and @ Mentions in conversations, bringing the feature up to speed with other social media platforms, whilst making the space more dynamic and easier to navigate.

It’s clear that Groups is a key feature for businesses and self -starters. The opportunity to discuss ideas, problems and successes with like – minded people is one of the main draws of LinkedIn. Add to this the fact that there are 2.7 million Groups, often with tens of thousands of participants and you’ve got a recipe for one of the best business networking arenas on the web.

Some believe that the changes to Groups will not only reduce the amount of spam, but also the amount that “Top Contributors” monopolise conversations. Communications strategist Michelle Messenger Garrett argues that;

“Just because you post a lot doesn’t mean it’s good or useful content, and a lot of it is the opposite. I don’t think [LinkedIn] should reward people for just posting or contributing. It should be based on what they’re contributing.”

I think this is particularly important considering the sheer amount of content we are exposed to every day on social media. It should be about quality, not quantity, and rewarding those who provide useful posts with a more streamlined and exclusive feature seems a good way to go about it.

LinkedIn are aware of the amount of what they call “low quality conversations” that often swamp Groups, saying in a post in its help centre;

“Members-only groups have created significantly more participation and conversations than others (up to five times more), indicating that members feel more confident contributing in these types of groups.”

A lot of it is about confidence – knowing that your conversation is between members only is reassuring, and a lot more realistic than the previous open forum format. Overall, these are positive changes for business owners everywhere. Let’s start actually TALKING again!