Are LinkedIn networking groups just a badge?

Are LinkedIn groups just a badge for your profile or are they something more?
I loved LinkedIn. I like the concept of the site and I like how the company continues to grow functionality to what started as an online professional address book. In March of last year I wrote a few thoughts about LinkedIn group membership. But this week I was thinking specifically about the group membership badges that show on public profiles.

What’s really the purpose of the badge? It’s certainly a quick way to show group affiliation. It’s a way to show support for a cause or effort. It can also be a way to advertise for a professional group.  I see the badge as a digital stamp that tells those viewing our profiles a little bit more about who we are. The message of the badge is group membership.

Groups on LinkedIn don’t get the same level of participation. Some of them are dead while others are active.

Chances are that you are a member of a healthy group that is active with discussions, collaboration, news sharing, job posts, etc. But you are probably also part of a group that is inactive. I’m talking about those that have no discussions and are just a list of names.

Why is that? For some people it may be that they are stuck in the mindset that LinkedIn is only a place people visit when they are actively seeking a job. Others might not participate because LinkedIn is blocked by their work internet policy and they don’t do “professional” type activities at home. But maybe it could also be related to the charter of the group itself. Whatever the case, LinkedIn groups develop their own culture. Some thrive and some don’t.

When I looked at the groups I have membership in, I classified them into three categories:

  • Employment association
  • University alumni
  • Industry profession

The groups range in size from 20K+ members to a few hundred. In my case, the groups that are inactive are the ones associated with employment associations. One is understandable, it’s a company that no longer exists.

I know people actively create digital content for the internet. So what’s different about the LinkedIn group? Is it that contributing professional content is not part of the essential job duties? Is it that most people only think about their jobs from 8-5? Is it that they fear putting content on LinkedIn will make their employer think they are looking for a job? Or perhaps LinkedIn is beyond the tipping point of just how much time and content one can contribute to online communities.

So the group badge on a profile doesn’t mean active participation in that group.
Which is OK. But everyone should be aware that because I have a badge for some professional group doesn’t mean I’m an active participant. Personally speaking, I’ve held group memberships to several organizations where I have not been an active participant. I feel I either need to change that or drop the group. I want to keep my LinkedIn profile as accurate as possible about who I am and where I’m connected.

What do you think about badges on LinkedIn? How do you use them?