Why social networking groups fail

by Urs E. Gattiker on 2010/03/10 · 42 comments 23,896 views

in e marketing 101 style matters

Below we outline the four steps required to nurture and maintain a group’s momentum on any social networking site, making the effort worth the time spent (see also 3 golden rules for best practice: LinkedIn and Xing).

Me, Inc.
Almost 12 years ago, management guru Tom Peters came up with the idea that each of us is CEO of Me Inc. Each individual has a personal brand to build up and promote and with a third of the US workforce being self-employed, and increasing job insecurity, people believe self-promotion is required to stand out from the rest.

Further discussion by Nils Montan on LinkedIn: Self-absorbed is not a personal brand

So what does it take to make sure that a group still adds value, besides everyone pushing their own brand?

Rule 1: LinkedIn and Xing groups require care
LinkedInViadeo, and Xing groups have been around for a while, allowing people with similar interests to share news, start discussion questions and so on.

In “What’s your experience of LINKEDIN Groups?“, my friend Nils Montan puts it this way:

    Image - Nils Montan - LinkedIn Group Owner - Law and Social Media NetworkingMany of the Groups I belong to are kinda ‘dead’. The owner starts them and and then just lets a thousand flowers bloom without rhyme or reason. Usually people seem to get bored and stop posting and the featured discussions stay up for months. Not a good situation.

Just as you would in your garden, a group moderator needs to fertilize the ground and tend the flowers to make sure they blossom.

Rule 2: Stay focused to avoid your group becoming a step-child
Many groups initially flourish, especially if they are started in a niche. However, if after the initial phase moderators no longer work in the garden, the group becomes an abandoned child.

Image - graphic - tweet - @_SENF_ - the pro-active moderating by moderators of SM Monitoring group on Xing warrants joiningWhat successful groups have is members that post thoughtful questions to generate real dialogue and thereby advance the collective knowledge of the community. In fact:

    Thriving communities, understand the purpose(s) of the group’s existence, sharing its aim and objectives with other members while actively contributing to achieve its goals.

Further discussion by Daphne R. Raban & F. Maxwell Harper: Motivations for answering questions online. Working Paper, 23 pages (not dated, around 2007).

Rule 3: Networks can be global but local ties are stronger
One of the interesting things we discovered on Xing is that many groups use it to arrange events. For instance, our SM Monitoring group might meet for happy hour in Basel or elsewhere. Groups form geographically and organize events such as mini-conferences or luncheons to get to know each other better in person.

Image - graphic - survey of 1,000 German managers - Xing - best known social network for professionals - 30-39 year olds - 50 percent know about XingXing recently published data (see graphic at right) that shows German managers’ contacts are primarily local.

This indicates that while networking is virtual, people want to build stronger social ties before trusting the other party to do business with them.

Find out more about this Xing-sponsored study conducted by Forsa.

==>  Why not connect with us at LinkedInViadeoXing or Ziggs.

Bottom line
Social networks like LinkedIn or Xing have some groups that thrive and others that seem to die a slow death. But besides following the preceding three rules, there are four steps you can take to help your group thrive:

    1. Provide structure and focus: The better the structure of the group (e.g., clearly defined and labeled categories to make posting in the appropriate forum easier), and the clearer the focus (e.g., we address social media metrics and little, if anything‚ else), the easier it is for members to participate and contribute valuable content.

    2. Support and nurture: Send people a welcome message as soon as they join, respond to discussion items, comments, etc. Show members that you are glad they have joined by acknowledging and appreciating their presence and valuable contributions.

    3. Share the gardening duties: Having several active co-moderators makes a real difference. A garden that is not given some love and dedication (e.g., 15 minutes a week) is just weeds. And yes, this takes time so sharing the burden helps significantly improve members’ experiences.

    4. Continuity is king: Better to have four contributions over a four-day period than four postings in a single day. Regular content that is valuable to group members will keep them coming back.

Even as moderators and members are challenged to tend these gardens and help their flowers flourish, so are the providers of these platforms. Facebook, Xing and LinkedIn fail groups and their moderators in two ways:

    a) Give credit where credit is due: Xing and LinkedIn thrive in part because their groups keep members coming back, but moderators get little appreciation from the providers (e.g., a free Premium Membership might be good).

    b) Prune the garden: Platform providers should keep better track of group activity and nudge absent moderators to tend their garden regularly. Inactive groups should be dissolved.

Finally, group moderators know that quite a bit of effort is required and results are not always immediate. If things do not seem to be working, you may have to shake things up to find your way.

Please, leave a comment! We love to hear your thoughts: how do you feel about Facebook, LinkedIn, Viadeo or Xing groups? Do successful groups share the same ingredients across platforms? Do you think groups are worth the time and effort spent by moderators and members alike? What is your experience? Please share your insights.

Gain insight by registering for our Free webinar: Benchmarking with the right metrics, or attend the German version: Wie messen Sie den Erfolg: 5 wichtige Schritte für Weblogs

P.S. – Visit My.ComMetrics (register yourself – benchmark your blog(s) => improve performance). You can get updates for this blog on Twitter by following @ComMetrics or get a free subscription by RSS, or get new posts via email:

Article source: Why social networking groups fail

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  • http://deborahdrake.com/Blog Deborah Drake – Catalyst

    Urs,

    I agree…you know I do…”What successful groups have is members that post thoughtful questions to generate real dialogue and thereby advance the collective knowledge of the community.”

    And yes, regular and thoughtful contributions can really make a difference.

    And a group will undoubtably always have a CORE of participants. Makes me think of the first time I heard the principle of the Bell Curve explained in a college economics class and it made sense to me then and holds true in my continued experience.

    • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

      Deborah

      Thanks for this comment. I find your comment about lurkers particularly interesting. For my own benefit I tried to define it saying:

      “Lurking can be defined as passive participation of group members which enables them to get to know the group better by learning the social norms, identifying the active contributors, and building trust before switching to active participation.”

      @TheCR (Rachel Happe) stated that lurkers have a great deal of value to a group or a blog:

      “Reading an initial post on a new blog is the start of building a relationship and trust. Different people have different 'lurker hurdles' before they feel comfortable participating.”

      I think Rachels is right in her previous comment made on this blog. Moreover, the same applies to social network groups on Xing or LinkedIn. People have to feel comfortable (e.g., with the topic, language) to jump in and leave a comment.

      To me it seems everybody would like to achieve:

      1 — keep the group growing steadily with new members BUT
      2 — get an ever greater number of lurkers to dip their toe into the water and start participating

      Put differently, keep the number of lurkers as small as possible while moving new members quickly from a state of lurking to active participation. Being personable and friendly surely helps while having your friends comment makes it easier to add your own five cents to their contribution made in one of the group forums.

      • http://deborahdrake.com/Blog Deborah Drake – Catalyst

        So in a sense as we gain trust, even if for a time our blog is simply observed, and our community grows, we increase the momentum and the reputation of being a community that is in a real but virtual conversation THAT can go offline and turn into more than the online dialogue.

        Recently, I unsubscribed from over half the Linked In groups I was part of because I wasn't even scanning the daily digests of posts and yet it was requiring me to take energy to acknowledge I didn't have time to read the abstracts and delete the email of the daily digest.

        I find with Social Media becoming a part of my daily activities, I have become more discerning of what I read, where I comment and when I tweet about something. In the name of quality over quantity so to speak. For the online presence I may have is intended to emulate the face to face impact I can have. Authenticity, Consistency and Congruency being two guiding principles of how I like to work, be and suggest that my clients practice marketing wholistically.

        It's simply more impactful in my experience.

        As always I appreciate your posts for how thoughtful and well prepared they read Urs!

        • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

          Deborah

          I find your comment very helpful:

          “So in a sense as we gain trust, even if for a time our blog is simply observed, and our community grows, we increase the momentum and the reputation of being a community that is in a real but virtual conversation THAT can go offline and turn into more than the online dialogue.”

          But I also find that your comment about LinkedIn rings a bell for myself. I have unsubscribed myself from various LinkedIn groups (applies to Xing as well).

          This is simply because I do not have enough time to do justice to some of these groups. Being a member requires time and not being able to give the time to a group seems unfair. So it is better to unsubscribe than not to participate at all.

          Deborah, thanks for sharing.

  • http://twitter.com/timgier tim gier

    My guess is that social networks fail for the same reason that most new endeavors fail – unrealistic expectations. The first expectation is that the endeavor is going to be a success. The second is that it is going to be relatively easy. Both of those expectations make sense, why would anyone start a new project that they thought would fail while also being disproportionately difficult?

    My experience is limited, but as I have tried to develop meaningful connections on twitter, I've had to work hard and to accept slow, but gradual progress. On my blog, even more so. I can only imagine the hurdles that one would have to overcome to establish, maintain and grow a group of involved, interested and interesting people who share a common focus. My hat is off to you.

    As far as lurkers go, I tweeted something the other day and a fellow who has been following me for months replied to me about it. It was the first time I had heard from him, but he had been paying attention to me, at least a little, all along. That's too easy to forget.

    Thanks for providing the forum!

    • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

      Tim

      Thanks for sharing this, it suggests that our expectations may be too high.

      But in some ways, maybe Deborah has a point as well, we may not only expect too much but be spreading ourselves to thing… being involved in more than 3 networks.

      Who can do a blog, run a Facebook group, participate in 5 Xing and/or LinkedIn groups and have enough time for close friends and family?

      So maybe less is more …?

      Thanks for sharing.

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  • obcag

    Thanks for sharing this article,
    I think that they all need local messaging channel to provide access subscribers.

    And also they need to create up-to-date poll and survey capabilities for groups. In turn, this will allow users to participate and contribute in the activities more easily than currently possible.

    I still feel LinkedIn, Xing and so forth are not yet passing the usability test, thereby making it tougher for groups to succeed.

    • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

      Dear Colleague

      Yes, most definitely up-to-date poll and survey capabilities with our Xing group SM Monitoring

      ==> http://www.xing.com/net/smmetrics

      would surely be helpful to make it more relevant. I agree on that one with you for sure.

      But one of the issues I have also discovered is that people are stretched a bit thin. In other words, we are often member in so many groups that it is impossible to contribute thoughtfully in each one….. if we would, it might take half the work-day to do so.

      Nobody has the time and can afford this. Hence, I have just removed myself from several LinkedIn as well as Xing groups to stay more focused.

      Thanks for sharing.

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  • bizchickblogs

    I prefer networking with Ning groups and other social networking groups, rather than LinkedIn or Facebook.

    I use LinkedIn primarily as a way of keeping touch with colleagues I met pre-entrepreneur, and I use Facebook for personal use.

    I do think I'll get to Facebook for business at some point in the near future, but I am definitely hesitating. Finding one or two groups that are fun, easy to mix with and don't feel like work is key.

    Thanks!

    • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

      Tia

      Thanks for your feedback. I like your distinction between:

      – professional versus
      – personal use (e.g., Facebook).

      But I think Xing groups ( http://www.xing.com/net/smmetrics) are not that different from LinkedIn or Ning groups like this one, are they?

      Nevertheless, whatever we use it takes time as an entrepreneur there is only that much time left besides getting your cash register to ring.

      Tia, thanks for sharing.

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  • http://www.seop.com/ search engine optimization

    Employers nowadays are using social media on checking a person they listed for a position on their company. They also check it for their employees. Dealing with your reputation online is good as if you can improve this it'll be something good for you.

    • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

      Dear Kristy

      Thanks so much for your comment. Yes the company surely checks social networks regarding a job applicant.
      Regularly posting on social networks helps in keeping the positive things about yourself on top of the served search results… :-)

      Of course, even employers need to be careful to trust everything they read. I must admit, I check for their social media profile in various places (e.g., Xing, LinkedIn, Viadeo, Facebook, Naijapulse, etc.)

      Sometimes I learn something before the interview that I want to talk to the employee about, such as if she has a fanpage with 10,000 names – because she things. In her case that was a great ice breaker.

      Kristy, thanks for sharing and I hope you come back soon.

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    Controlling the things that can be said about your website is not possible as anyone can do that.

    They can say negative or positive about your website but you can definitely do something about it. Such as getting an online reputation company such as reputationmanagementconsultants.com to help you on your reputation online.

    Manage it and deal with the negative feedback before it goes up on the search engine rankings.

  • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

    Thanks for giving us feedback about how you see reputation management.

    I agree with you that if your reputation is damaged, hiring a firm like your can help in case of online information causing unjustified damage to one’s online reputation.

    But reputation builds on trust and credibility as a professional source. Clearly, a reputation manager like yourself can help but ultimately unless people trust what one shares with other professionals (e.g., content, wiki entries, etc.), one cannot build a reputation. Moreover, out of sight = out of mind so regular contributions in groups, etc. is a must.

    To achieve a reputation in one’s professional network, one can surely use networks like LinkedIn and Xing or others.

    I find this pro-active approach, while following a good social media policy reducing the risk for having one’s reputation damaged a good strategy.

    Look forward to your next comment.

  • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

    Thanks for giving us feedback about how you see reputation management.

    I agree with you that if your reputation is damaged, hiring a firm like your can help in case of online information causing unjustified damage to one’s online reputation.

    But reputation builds on trust and credibility as a professional source. Clearly, a reputation manager like yourself can help but ultimately unless people trust what one shares with other professionals (e.g., content, wiki entries, etc.), one cannot build a reputation. Moreover, out of sight = out of mind so regular contributions in groups, etc. is a must.

    To achieve a reputation in one’s professional network, one can surely use networks like LinkedIn and Xing or others.

    I find this pro-active approach, while following a good social media policy reducing the risk for having one’s reputation damaged a good strategy.

    Look forward to your next comment.

  • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

    Thanks for giving us feedback about how you see reputation management.

    I agree with you that if your reputation is damaged, hiring a firm like your can help in case of online information causing unjustified damage to one’s online reputation.

    But reputation builds on trust and credibility as a professional source. Clearly, a reputation manager like yourself can help but ultimately unless people trust what one shares with other professionals (e.g., content, wiki entries, etc.), one cannot build a reputation. Moreover, out of sight = out of mind so regular contributions in groups, etc. is a must.

    To achieve a reputation in one’s professional network, one can surely use networks like LinkedIn and Xing or others.

    I find this pro-active approach, while following a good social media policy reducing the risk for having one’s reputation damaged a good strategy.

    Look forward to your next comment.

  • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

    Thanks for giving us feedback about how you see reputation management.

    I agree with you that if your reputation is damaged, hiring a firm like your can help in case of online information causing unjustified damage to one’s online reputation.

    But reputation builds on trust and credibility as a professional source. Clearly, a reputation manager like yourself can help but ultimately unless people trust what one shares with other professionals (e.g., content, wiki entries, etc.), one cannot build a reputation. Moreover, out of sight = out of mind so regular contributions in groups, etc. is a must.

    To achieve a reputation in one’s professional network, one can surely use networks like LinkedIn and Xing or others.

    I find this pro-active approach, while following a good social media policy reducing the risk for having one’s reputation damaged a good strategy.

    Look forward to your next comment.

  • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

    Thanks for giving us feedback about how you see reputation management.

    I agree with you that if your reputation is damaged, hiring a firm like your can help in case of online information causing unjustified damage to one’s online reputation.

    But reputation builds on trust and credibility as a professional source. Clearly, a reputation manager like yourself can help but ultimately unless people trust what one shares with other professionals (e.g., content, wiki entries, etc.), one cannot build a reputation. Moreover, out of sight = out of mind so regular contributions in groups, etc. is a must.

    To achieve a reputation in one’s professional network, one can surely use networks like LinkedIn and Xing or others.

    I find this pro-active approach, while following a good social media policy reducing the risk for having one’s reputation damaged a good strategy.

    Look forward to your next comment.

  • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

    Thanks for giving us feedback about how you see reputation management.

    I agree with you that if your reputation is damaged, hiring a firm like your can help in case of online information causing unjustified damage to one’s online reputation.

    But reputation builds on trust and credibility as a professional source. Clearly, a reputation manager like yourself can help but ultimately unless people trust what one shares with other professionals (e.g., content, wiki entries, etc.), one cannot build a reputation. Moreover, out of sight = out of mind so regular contributions in groups, etc. is a must.

    To achieve a reputation in one’s professional network, one can surely use networks like LinkedIn and Xing or others.

    I find this pro-active approach, while following a good social media policy reducing the risk for having one’s reputation damaged a good strategy.

    Look forward to your next comment.

  • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

    Thanks for giving us feedback about how you see reputation management.

    I agree with you that if your reputation is damaged, hiring a firm like your can help in case of online information causing unjustified damage to one’s online reputation.

    But reputation builds on trust and credibility as a professional source. Clearly, a reputation manager like yourself can help but ultimately unless people trust what one shares with other professionals (e.g., content, wiki entries, etc.), one cannot build a reputation. Moreover, out of sight = out of mind so regular contributions in groups, etc. is a must.

    To achieve a reputation in one’s professional network, one can surely use networks like LinkedIn and Xing or others.

    I find this pro-active approach, while following a good social media policy reducing the risk for having one’s reputation damaged a good strategy.

    Look forward to your next comment.

  • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

    Thanks for giving us feedback about how you see reputation management.

    I agree with you that if your reputation is damaged, hiring a firm like your can help in case of online information causing unjustified damage to one’s online reputation.

    But reputation builds on trust and credibility as a professional source. Clearly, a reputation manager like yourself can help but ultimately unless people trust what one shares with other professionals (e.g., content, wiki entries, etc.), one cannot build a reputation. Moreover, out of sight = out of mind so regular contributions in groups, etc. is a must.

    To achieve a reputation in one’s professional network, one can surely use networks like LinkedIn and Xing or others.

    I find this pro-active approach, while following a good social media policy reducing the risk for having one’s reputation damaged a good strategy.

    Look forward to your next comment.

  • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

    Thanks for giving us feedback about how you see reputation management.

    I agree with you that if your reputation is damaged, hiring a firm like your can help in case of online information causing unjustified damage to one’s online reputation.

    But reputation builds on trust and credibility as a professional source. Clearly, a reputation manager like yourself can help but ultimately unless people trust what one shares with other professionals (e.g., content, wiki entries, etc.), one cannot build a reputation. Moreover, out of sight = out of mind so regular contributions in groups, etc. is a must.

    To achieve a reputation in one’s professional network, one can surely use networks like LinkedIn and Xing or others.

    I find this pro-active approach, while following a good social media policy reducing the risk for having one’s reputation damaged a good strategy.

    Look forward to your next comment.

  • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

    Thanks for giving us feedback about how you see reputation management.

    I agree with you that if your reputation is damaged, hiring a firm like your can help in case of online information causing unjustified damage to one’s online reputation.

    But reputation builds on trust and credibility as a professional source. Clearly, a reputation manager like yourself can help but ultimately unless people trust what one shares with other professionals (e.g., content, wiki entries, etc.), one cannot build a reputation. Moreover, out of sight = out of mind so regular contributions in groups, etc. is a must.

    To achieve a reputation in one’s professional network, one can surely use networks like LinkedIn and Xing or others.

    I find this pro-active approach, while following a good social media policy reducing the risk for having one’s reputation damaged a good strategy.

    Look forward to your next comment.

  • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

    Thanks for giving us feedback about how you see reputation management.

    I agree with you that if your reputation is damaged, hiring a firm like your can help in case of online information causing unjustified damage to one’s online reputation.

    But reputation builds on trust and credibility as a professional source. Clearly, a reputation manager like yourself can help but ultimately unless people trust what one shares with other professionals (e.g., content, wiki entries, etc.), one cannot build a reputation. Moreover, out of sight = out of mind so regular contributions in groups, etc. is a must.

    To achieve a reputation in one’s professional network, one can surely use networks like LinkedIn and Xing or others.

    I find this pro-active approach, while following a good social media policy reducing the risk for having one’s reputation damaged a good strategy.

    Look forward to your next comment.

  • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

    Thanks for giving us feedback about how you see reputation management.

    I agree with you that if your reputation is damaged, hiring a firm like your can help in case of online information causing unjustified damage to one’s online reputation.

    But reputation builds on trust and credibility as a professional source. Clearly, a reputation manager like yourself can help but ultimately unless people trust what one shares with other professionals (e.g., content, wiki entries, etc.), one cannot build a reputation. Moreover, out of sight = out of mind so regular contributions in groups, etc. is a must.

    To achieve a reputation in one’s professional network, one can surely use networks like LinkedIn and Xing or others.

    I find this pro-active approach, while following a good social media policy reducing the risk for having one’s reputation damaged a good strategy.

    Look forward to your next comment.

  • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

    Thanks for giving us feedback about how you see reputation management.

    I agree with you that if your reputation is damaged, hiring a firm like your can help in case of online information causing unjustified damage to one’s online reputation.

    But reputation builds on trust and credibility as a professional source. Clearly, a reputation manager like yourself can help but ultimately unless people trust what one shares with other professionals (e.g., content, wiki entries, etc.), one cannot build a reputation. Moreover, out of sight = out of mind so regular contributions in groups, etc. is a must.

    To achieve a reputation in one’s professional network, one can surely use networks like LinkedIn and Xing or others.

    I find this pro-active approach, while following a good social media policy reducing the risk for having one’s reputation damaged a good strategy.

    Look forward to your next comment.

  • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

    Thanks for giving us feedback about how you see reputation management.

    I agree with you that if your reputation is damaged, hiring a firm like your can help in case of online information causing unjustified damage to one's online reputation.

    But reputation builds on trust and credibility as a professional source. Clearly, a reputation manager like yourself can help but ultimately unless people trust what one shares with other professionals (e.g., content, wiki entries, etc.), one cannot build a reputation. Moreover, out of sight = out of mind so regular contributions in groups, etc. is a must.

    To achieve a reputation in one's professional network, one can surely use networks like LinkedIn and Xing or others.

    I find this pro-active approach, while following a good social media policy reducing the risk for having one's reputation damaged a good strategy.

    Look forward to your next comment.

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