There are many platforms for building an online community, but when it comes to professional networking, LinkedIn always gets the lion’s share of the attention. Established in 2002, it’s also one of the world’s oldest social networking platforms. Since its launch, LinkedIn has grown into a vast professional community with a strong focus on business networking, allowing its members to build valuable connections in their chosen industry. The platform can be used as a social media marketing tool, and itself encourages members to take the time and effort to create content that can be shared with like-minded people in their network who share similar interests. Big brands often use LinkedIn to put forward a positive image of themselves to current and potential customers, whilst leading experts in a variety of fields use the platform for answering questions and sparking discussions around content relevant to their discipline.
As of December 2019, LinkedIn had 660 million members and counting. So, why are individuals and businesses looking for LinkedIn Groups alternatives? Despite LinkedIn’s enormous popularity and its undeniable value in helping people further their careers or B2B business ventures, the platform isn’t without its problems. In fact, there’s an ongoing revolution against mainstream social media as people seek to take back control over their online privacy and brands look towards more meaningful engagement measures.
Why are brands looking for alternatives to LinkedIn Groups?
Thanks to its size and focus on professional networking, LinkedIn has long been an important resource for lead generation and for those looking to grow their personal brands. The LinkedIn Groups feature often plays a central role in that process by letting users create shared interest groups. But it’s far from the most effective way to engage a community.
Reason 1: Engagement rates are notoriously low
When you’re just starting out building your brand on LinkedIn, the obvious way to expand your network is to join several major groups in your niche. Some groups have millions of members. The problem is, the bigger the group, the lower the barriers to entry, and it doesn’t take long before the group gets inundated by thousands of others all vying for attention. While smaller groups are less likely to have the problem, engagement rates are usually poor all round. To receive a strong level of engagement that will help you grow your business and market a particular product or service, you’ll need to successfully reach your ideal target audience.
Reason 2: It takes too much time to build engagement
Using LinkedIn Groups can help you find people to connect with to expand your own network and increase your visibility on the platform. It doesn’t necessarily take much time either. What does take time is building an engaged community in LinkedIn Groups. Not only do you end up competing for attention alongside thousands of other people; fake engagement characterised by automated messages, replies and likes is a serious problem too. Finding more potential customers for your business often requires plenty of momentum and buzz online, so if a platform doesn’t provide enough engagement, lead generation is unlikely to increase.
Reason 3: You have minimal control over your information
As with the other major social networks, LinkedIn owns your personal data and information, and it has complete control over the future of your community. Although rumours the Groups feature is due for retirement have been quashed, the future of the platform remains wholly unknown. That’s why it’s a good idea to avoid relying on it as your one and only way to build a community, prospect for leads, or perform any other essential role in growing your brand. If you wish to become a standout thought leader within your niche, just creating a LinkedIn Group is not likely to be enough.
LinkedIn Groups alternatives
LinkedIn suffers from many of the same issues other major social networks have. Fortunately, there are lots of alternatives, which may or may not be better for you depending on your niche. LinkedIn itself, for example, largely caters towards B2B brands and jobseekers, so it’s not very suitable for building a consumer audience.
Facebook has become a serious advertising powerhouse. But this has also shifted the focus away from true community building. Facebook Groups is where people with shared interests come together in conversation. It’s often considered the B2C equivalent to LinkedIn Groups.
- Facebook has by far the largest audience of any social platform.
- You can create public, private, or secret groups.
- There are features for personalising and branding your group.
- Its enormous size makes it difficult to get found.
- The platform favours paid advertisers over brand community building.
- Privacy continues to be a top concern among users.
Originally launched as an online community for programmers, the Stack Exchange network has grown into a hugely diverse range of question-and-answer networks where professionals can share their expertise and build up a reputation in their fields of expertise.
- It’s tailored towards professional discussion.
- There are many topic groups to choose from.
- You can collect upvotes to increase your visibility.
- You can’t create your own community, but you can add contacts.
- The quality of answers varies a lot, and a lot are of questionable value.
- It is still heavily orientated towards programmers and other technologists.
Advertising itself as the front page of the internet, Reddit is the world’s leading aggregator of news and trending topics. With your own subreddit, you can build a community of engaged followers around a niche of your choosing.
- It is very easy to use on both desktop and mobile devices.
- You can collect karma points to build up a strong reputation.
- It has a strong focus on organic community building.
- You need to reach an undisclosed karma level to start your own subreddit.
- Any kind of marketing is frowned upon and may get you banned from some groups.
- It is largely unmoderated, with a lot of NSFW content.
Meetup was launched 17 years ago to provide a space for online groups to organize in-person events based on shared interests. It’s especially popular in consumer-facing sectors such as hobbies and hospitality. It can be a good LinkedIn Groups alternative if you are focusing on physical events.
- It’s the biggest network for organising real-world events.
- You can organise paid events and collect payments through the platform.
- It has a global reach with meetups organised in thousands of cities.
- Most members never actually attend events organised by the group admins.
- It’s primarily meant for organising social gatherings rather than brand building.
- It can be hard to maintain contact information on members.
Based in Germany, Xing is a professional social networking site catering primarily to European audiences. Although only a fraction of the size of LinkedIn, it is one of the fastest-growing platforms of its kind, particularly in the EU. It is positioning itself as an alternative to LinkedIn Groups in Europe.
- Members can set up an online ticketing shop with built-in payment processing.
- It’s better suited to European businesses and professionals.
- You can create your own group for a topic of your choosing.
- It’s still not very popular outside of its original German-speaking market.
- It has had an uncertain future with competitor LinkedIn growing rapidly.
- Xing Groups tend to see less engagement than those on LinkedIn.
What is the best alternative to LinkedIn Groups?
When you’re building an online community to further your professional goals and connect with other people in your niche, LinkedIn is by far and away the most obvious choice. But its also a platform that makes its revenue from advertising, which tends to drive the focus away from organic community building. This can present problems for brand community builders seeking to increase engagement rates or for personal users trying to make themselves heard in one of the most crowded social networks of all.
The best way to build a community which will stand the test of time is to do it alone, preferably using a customisable, mobile-enabled solution over which you have complete control. This will save time and provide the foundations you need to grow your audience and create a close-knit community of engaged and like-minded professionals. This applies in almost any industry, whether you’re a consumer- or business-facing brand looking to create a support group, brand advocate community, or just a lively gathering of people united under a common purpose.
Disciple was created to help people overcome the limitations of mainstream social media by building their own communities over which they have complete control. With our community mobile app, you’ll be better placed to build and nurture your audience and open new streams of revenue.