LinkedIn Groups Updates, LinkedIn Groups for PR & marketing prosLinkedIn users – and especially group moderators – are abuzz about imminent changes to the network’s forums. LinkedIn will overhaul its groups and begin introducing changes at the end of the month.

LinkedIn will roll Groups, now a stand-alone app, into its main app by the end of the month. Users will be able to take advantage of the functionality of the larger LinkedIn platform and group administrators, or admins, will be able to manage their groups directly from the iOS and Android apps instead of requiring an additional app. Conversations taking place in groups will appear in-stream on the LinkedIn feed, rather than in a separate tab.

In what it calls an effort to streamline the service, LinkedIn will remove several features, including ability for Group administrators to pre-moderate comments and the ability to email group posts to all group members. Group moderators expressed concern over the loss of those features, saying the forums could see more spam comments and could lose contact with members. But Mitali Pattnaik, the product manager for Groups, told TechCrunch that some of the discontinuations are temporary and will return in some form over time.

Groups to Get New Features

LinkedIn will add new features including the ability to post video and other media. Also, threaded replies will allow group members to respond directly to comments within the thread.

Admins will also obtain new controls such as the ability to pin important items to the top of a Groups’ individual feed.

The platform will terminate the moderator role. Administrative roles for groups will be limited to owners and managers to simplify functions.

Stephanie Casstevens, director of audience engagement & community at IMPACT, says the changes could prompt “a massive comeback” for the forums. Engagement on the groups had dropped. Because of previous updates, members had difficulty finding new groups and receiving notifications about group activities. Administrators feared the forums would disappear.

“Not only are Groups not going away, they’re poised to make a massive comeback,” Casstevens says.

LinkedIn Groups vs. Facebook Groups

LinkedIn probably hopes to seize some of Facebook’s turf in online discussions. LinkedIn may seem like the obvious choice for B2B marketing and PR, but some communications professionals say Facebook Groups offer a superior option even for B2B marketing.

Facebook has more users — 2.2 billion compared to LinkedIn’s 575 million. That size advantage translates into more potential customers. Many argue that LinkedIn’s professional emphasis provides a higher quality audience for B2B marketing and PR. Yet even business professionals spend more time on Facebook than LinkedIn, argues John Wieber of internet marketing firm Web Moves in Social Media Today.

At least currently, Facebook Groups provide better notifications and users can share more types of content. Facebook sends activity notifications to group members and sends group posts directly to the News Feed. Group members can share photos, videos, create events, host live webinars, and tag other members.

“While LinkedIn Groups have come a long way, they’re still no match for what Facebook Groups can do for your business and B2B marketing conversions,” Wieber says.

Bottom Line: Internet marketers are keeping a close eye on impending revisions to LinkedIn Groups. While some PR and marketing pros look on the changes with trepidation, others hope they’ll bring new life to the platform’s discussion forums.