I won’t say I told you so, but apparently I’m not the only one annoyed by marketers misusing LinkedIn groups as a newsfeed for their blog articles and self-serving announcements. In fact, according to LinkedIn sources, there were enough complaints to warrant 4 (Apparently Facebook is doing the same thing beginning April 30, but I don’t care about Facebook.)

On the downside, the inability to use social media platforms such as Oktopost, Hootsuite, Social Sprout or any other 3rd party software to post to groups is an inconvenience. It makes it much more difficult to track ROI, and costs us some very useful analytics.

But LinkedIn has often stated its members come first (no sarcasm intended) and clearly the amount of crap that has been showing up in groups over the past year or so is not what groups are designed for.

On the upside, I believe we could see the return of LinkedIn groups as a place where buyers, sellers, experts and influencers meet to help each other solve problems. What an awesome concept.

How did we get here?

LinkedIn has always been more of a one-to-one network where people go to connect with other people and nobody is there to be marketed to. Unfortunately, many self-proclaimed social media and LinkedIn experts didn’t understand this.

As 3rd party applications made it possible to post directly to 50 groups at one time, these “experts” saw LinkedIn as an avenue for one-way communication with hundreds of millions of business people. Soon, LinkedIn groups were full of blog post after blog post after blog post with no attempt to create a discussion or engage any readers in a conversation.

Members began ignoring groups in droves; and I, for one, am happy to see those days disappear.

4 steps to get back into the group groove

Maybe you fell into the automation trap or maybe you just stopped using groups because they weren’t effective anymore. Wherever you are now, it’s a good time to stop and re-evaluate your LinkedIn Groups strategy.

If you’re looking for sheer exposure numbers, forget groups and focus on the LinkedIn content platform or advertise. If you want quality interactions, keep reading.

Step One: Rethink your use of LinkedIn groups. Prior to the attack of the auto-posting hoards, LinkedIn groups were communities where real live people asked and answered questions, shared news and insights of genuine interest to group members and got to know each other on a personal – if online – level. Handled correctly, LinkedIn groups V2 can once again provide value to buyers, and opportunities to marketers and sellers.

Step Two: Re-evaluate the groups you’ve joined. Are you a group in hopes of reaching a large number of people with your posts or is the group genuinely useful to you? Can you learn from and/or provide value to other members? I wouldn’t be too concerned at this point about the activity stats on the group because I think these are going to change.

Step Three: Pay attention. Many LinkedIn groups have published rules for participation. (You can read these in the group information section.) All of them have unwritten expectations for member behavior. Take each group one-by-one. Watch what happens inside these groups as the abusers disappear, and focus on becoming a good member.

Step Four: Change how you measure success. Group participation is not a game of numbers. It’s about engagement. Groups are an opportunity for marketers and sales people to interact with buyers early in the buying process. Sure, you’re going to have to measure this activity manually; but that’s the point.

Bottom Line

Above all, marketers are going to have to slow down and be much more thoughtful in their approach to groups. If you’re new to LinkedIn, this may be your first opportunity to experience one-to-one networking instead of one-to-many message blasting.

Join our LinkedIn Group

Throughout the deluge of blast posting, our community manager, Mindi Rosser, has worked hard to keep our group spam free and high value. She’s done a great job and we look forward to providing even more value as LinkedIn members once again seek out opportunities to share challenges and learn from experts. If you’re a B2B sales or marketing pro who wants to use LinkedIn in a more positive way, click here to join our group.