###Update 2: as of this morning (December 21) it seems that the process of moving to an Open Group is being made available to the group owner as you will be given the option to change across to an Open Group automatically. There should be a yellow band now with a clickable area and it will explain some of the implications and a bit of housekeeping you should do ahead of it. Also in the “Group settings” area of the “Manage” menu in the group you should find a button at the top which guides you through the process! Decide carefully though – no undoing the process once you’ve elected to make it Open! 🙂 ###
### Quick update: I’ve had a number of people ask how to make their groups open – as of end November 2010, LinkedIn are still testing and rolling out and, if you are interested in enabling this feature for your group, they recommend emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit an update page at lnkd.in/opengroups. ###
In yet another departure from their current setup, LinkedIn has announced that it is introducing Open Groups onto the site – indeed, this will be the default format of all new LinkedIn Groups going forward, once it is fully rolled out.
So what’s an Open Group? Well, this isn’t, as you might think, one that anyone on LinkedIn can join – those already exist as “open access groups” – but rather one where the content will be visible to everyone on LinkedIn (group member of not) and externally to LinkedIn as well, therefore making it accessible to Google.
Currently, most of the content on LinkedIn, including in this instance that in the Groups, is essentially hidden from Google because they are locked away behind the password and login. The main exceptions to this are individuals’ Public Profiles, a cut down version of the company page and the Jobs section for obvious reasons. This will provide a large area of new content coming out of the site – there are approaching 750,000 Groups on LinkedIn so you can imagine the number of pages this will add!
All current groups will remain in their current state, that’s to say closed with either a moderated or open policy on membership according to the owner’s preference. The owner will be able, however, change it to an open group at which point all old discussions etc will be made read only and archived (for members’ eyes only) and the new content will be visible to all. Well, that’s the plan anyway!
A note of caution – once you change your group to be “open”, you cannot change it back again, so make sure that you are certain of your decision before press the button!
Going forward, it seems that the default group setting will be Open Group – the “members-only” groups where content will only be visible to members (as is currently the case) will then be indicated on your Groups listing with a little “padlock” icon next to the name, as you can see in the image above.
It’s an interesting change and one that I guess will appeal to a lot of people looking to get a wider audience for their group’s activity and of course benefit from Google’s search power in terms of rankings. We’ll have to see how that pans out (and how to keep the rash of SEO only focussed groups at bay!!) but for now my advice would be set up any niche groups that you have been thinking about getting up and running to make sure you have the Group name “registered” and therefore the choice of how you wish to use the new functionality!