Back in 2008, when the Internet was finally throwing off its stabilisers thanks to better connectivity (who misses the modem dial-up tone?!) I decided to set up a group for the members of my event community on LinkedIn.
Admittedly I was a little behind the curve, but I didn’t see why I couldn’t join the party. So I set up Who’s Who in Events primarily because at the time there didn’t appear to be another group for event professionals in the UK and I thought I would give it a try.
Nearly six years later, and the group I founded by inviting my 65 contacts now has 80,000 members (and I have a few more connections). It is the third largest event industry group and the 270th largest group on LinkedIn – which out of 2.1 million isn’t bad! I’ve stuck to my guns in terms of keeping it a curated group (despite the temptation to just open up the floodgates and let everyone get on with it themselves) and believe this is what has kept it both industry focussed, geographically diverse and unique.
When working with clients on their event marketing strategies they often begin from the standpoint of “we need to set up a group on LinkedIn”. By the time I have finished telling them about my experiences it isn’t top of their priorities. Quite simply, running a successful group is practically a full-time job.
For instance, it doesn’t matter how often you tell your members the rules, some of them just don’t follow them. No promotional posts in the Discussions tab – doesn’t apply to me surely? And one person’s interesting blog post is another’s spam. Doesn’t everyone want to know about how to write a CV? Why can’t I answer a question with a blatant promotional post?
Some people get very cross. Most of the time I am polite, occasionally I am sarcastic (bad habit I know – but I’ve had it for a long time and I’m not changing now), I try to be helpful where I can. I’ve made changes where I think they are beneficial and kept the wagon on the road. Sometimes I get hauled up by someone who tells me it is the membership’s group and I have ‘no right’ but I’ve tried making the membership take control and it hasn’t worked (doesn’t mean I won’t try again sometime). With 2,099,999 other groups to compete with I’ve got to keep the majority happy. I made lots of sub-groups, but that just made 10 times more work, so now there are just three (they are self-managed and somehow have never quite got going).
LinkedIn doesn’t make it easy for me: a slightly more sophisticated membership filter would automate some of the entry procedure – so that I wouldn’t be greeted with hundreds of poor people awaiting approval (which is the reason so many groups have become open to all); an incremental advertising revenue model similar to YouTube would allow me to massively increase the activity and information available to members, making them come back to the site more often because I wouldn’t have to keep stopping to make a living elsewhere; a nice HTML newsletter for members on a proper weekly basis rather than the current automated timing which means at some point you have to miss out a day.
I’ve taken a decision to remove the promotions tab at the end of this month – too much good stuff gets dumped in this graveyard. But some of the content can’t go in the discussion forums because it will just get clogged up – so I am trying something new and curating a Who’s who in events company page where the best will be posted. I’m not sure if it will be popular – but I am going to give it a try.
I’m proud of what I have achieved, with a little bit of help here and there, and one day soon I hope I’ll be announcing that we have hit 100,000 members.