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October 26, 2009

3 Reasons LinkedIn Should Enhance the ‘Groups and Associations’ Functionality

In this open letter to LinkedIn, Brenda describes the need to enhance the functionality for the ‘Groups and Associations’ section on LinkedIn profiles…

Dear LinkedIn,

Brenda HainesHere’s an opportunity for you, one with the potential to pay dividends for individuals, companies and communities: Give the ‘Groups and Associations’ section of profiles more functionality – like Work History or Educational Experience.

Right now, ‘Work History,’ ‘Educational Experience,’ and ‘Groups and Associations’ are treated differently in LinkedIn – they display differently and have different functionality. (See photos below.) Adding functionality to ‘Groups and Associations’ would allow people to more easily connect based on professional, community or volunteer involvement.
 

Left: This is the way ‘Work History’ and ‘Education’ are displayed in LinkedIn. Right: This is the way ‘Groups and Associations’ are displayed in LinkedIn.

To be fair, there is no reason you can’t connect with people you’ve met while volunteering or through professional associations right now.

But, the mildly awkward decision of whether to connect with them as ‘someone you’ve done business with’ or as a ‘friend’ could be easily alleviated by giving this category of connections the same functionality as ‘Work History’ and ‘Education’.

That’s why it’d be slick to make ‘Groups and Associations’ function like ‘Work History’ and ‘Education’ – so that people can easily connect based on shared experiences in professional organizations or volunteer/community activities.

Adding this functionality has the potential to benefit individuals, companies and communities. Among the benefits:

  • Individual – On an individual level, professional associations and volunteer/community activities say a lot about who we are. Those who have contributed time, creativity and energy to organizations want to share that information with their connections, prospective business partners or employers.

    By adding roles in the ‘Groups and Associations’ section (much like job titles for an organization at which we have worked), each person is better able to tell the story of their involvement.

    But, there is another benefit as well. Adding this section would also allow you to connect easily – and remain connected – with others you have worked with on volunteer efforts. Right now, it’s easy to connect to people you’ve done business with, went to school with or are friends with. But the people you meet through volunteering fit a different category. It makes sense to make it easy to connect with them as well.

  • Company – A growing number of companies include community involvement or corporate philanthropy as a core strategy, one that helps build reputation, customer loyalty and/or helps them expand into new markets. (For a complete picture, see “The Next Wave of Corporate Involvement,” California Management Review 44(2): 110-125, 2002.)

    Adding a section that contains more information on these activities (like whether you chaired an HR committee or organized a fund-raising event) would help companies identify potential team members who are a natural fit into a corporate culture that includes volunteerism or involvement in community or professional associations. And, it would demonstrate to companies the level of leadership a person was willing to take on outside the workplace.

  • Community – Nonprofit and community organizations would also benefit from this information, by being able to identify potential volunteers, connect existing volunteers to one another and cement the relationships among them and encourage volunteer collaboration outside of meetings.

    For example, a local Rotary Club might ask its members to peruse the profiles of those with whom they are connected to find others who share their “service above self” ethic, based on leadership roles they’ve taken in professional association/nonprofit/volunteer activities. The same club might encourage all members to connect via LinkedIn – so that messages about volunteer activities can be sent directly to your profile.

I’d love to hear from someone at LinkedIn about whether this has ever been considered… and from you on how you stay connected with those you’ve met through your community / volunteer activities or professional associations.

– Brenda