B2B marketers and PR pros bemoaned the loss of the LinkedIn Groups API. LinkedIn terminated its API (application programming interface) for its groups this summer. That means marketers and other business networkers cannot post to LinkedIn Groups or view the forums through external tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, Sprout Social and HubSpot. They must log into LinkedIn and post directly to groups. B2B marketers were, and are, perturbed and concerned.
Some marketers are re-evaluating their LinkedIn strategy as a result. While the change may not seem earth-shattering, it adds substantial time to marketers’ busy schedules, especially those representing multiple clients at agencies.
LinkedIn didn’t say why it ended the API in its announcement, but observers speculate that it was to increase engagement on its groups. The professional networking site may also wish to decrease the number of blatantly promotional posts. Some groups seem dominated by promotions of webinars, ebooks and blog posts. You might wonder if anyone reads posts.
One Company’s Analysis of the Imapct
Carver Technology Consulting LLC, a B2B marketing agency, frequently posted to LinkedIn Groups through third-party tools, generating healthy numbers of leads, says Bob Carver, the company’s founder and principal consultant. An analysis of its LinkedIn marketing uncovered both expected and surprising findings, Carver explains in Social Media Today.
Without scheduling tools, its publishing became more inconsistent despite the team’s efforts.
Manual posting became even more time consuming than expected.
While large, active groups still see many posts and conversations, activity in some smaller groups dried up. “In several groups, we were the only people posting, or doing the majority of posting,” Carver says.
Referral traffic plummeted. Inconsistent posting cannot account for the drop. Many LinkedIn users who relied on external tools to aggregate and view content from the forums don’t bother to sign into LinkedIn directly, he says.
LinkedIn is following a risky strategy. If busy professionals cannot access content without the time-saving tools, they’ll post less and visits groups less often, if at all. Groups will become less popular, predicts Sarah Warlick, content director at bbr marketing.
“That would be a shame, since the peer-to-peer interactions between far-flung professionals in many niches has been both pleasant and valuable,” Warlick comments.
How Marketers Can React
Pressed for time, marketers and other networkers may become more selective about what they post, rather than sharing everything.
Marketers will re-evaluate their groups and abandon less active groups, causing some forums to fall by the wayside.
More companies may consider advertising on the platform, which might be LinkedIn’s intention. It may be trying to follow Facebook’s example to encourage more advertising.
Marketers may focus more on engagement by commenting on posts. Social media experts consistently recommend engaging the audience rather than using social media as a bullhorn.
“The biggest lesson that I learned, that I share with clients, is to focus and minimize,” says Julia Angelen Zunich, president, Z Group PR. “Being a member of 39 groups does not necessarily mean more contacts, referrals or projects.” Focusing on one or two groups in each key category and then focusing on being an active, contributing member to one or two groups in each key category produces much better results, Zunich says.
Bottom Line: LinkedIn’s decision to shut down its API for its groups prompted worries in B2B marketing circles. Marketers and other professionals are analyzing the impact of the decision and re-evaluating their LinkedIn marketing strategies. LinkedIn probably hopes to increase interactions and limit barefaced promotions. It’s not clear if that will happen.