I haven’t ranted in awhile but I just got an e-mail that ticks me off. I won’t name the organization here — at least not yet — but here’s essentially what the message says [italics added and the association's name -- obviously -- changed]:
Thank you for your subscription to ZZZ Association’s LinkedIn Group. A recent review of our records indicates your LinkedIn profile does not link to our membership. Because subscription to this group is a member benefit which provides access to key connections and discussion opportunities your subscription will end effective August 13, 2010 unless it is affiliated with a current ZZZ Association membership. If your membership has expired, you can reactivate it today by going to XXX Website or you can call our member service center at ZZZ-ZZZ-ZZZZ.
Well how about that! I didn’t know I had to be an association member to connect via “their” LinkedIn group.
First, is this permitted within LinkedIn?
Second, what about that letter makes me want to renew? (Hint: nothing)
Third, isn’t it just wrong to handle this situation in this way? (Hint: obviously I think so)
Or am I just being too grumpy?
Okay, I’ve slept on this… and I realize that, of course, anyone who sets up a group in LinkedIn can decide who joins and who doesn’t (not a LinkedIn policy issue but rather the choice of the group about its members).
Which leaves the last two questions, which I’ll address again in reverse order, in more detail… please chime in…
Isn’t it just wrong to toss someone out of your LinkedIn (or other non-proprietary social network [SN]) group because they’re not a member of your association? I guess it depends on how the organization defines its purpose for the SN:
If the purpose is to replicate what already happens within the organization’s listservs, forums, and any white-label SN it has, then it makes sense to ban all non-members.
If the purpose is to widen the association’s reach, entice non-members to join (by giving them a taste of the sort of dialogue that already goes on inside the association), keep non-renewing members in touch (so they’ll be more inclined to re-join later), and provide another online avenue for current members to contact each other, then it doesn’t make sense to tighten the cinch on the network.
I have contributed to the organization as a volunteer in several ways over the years (writing for its publications, serving as a presenter at its conference, etc.). I haven’t renewed for several reasons, primarily because I’m no longer employed by an association that can take on the (for me) significant dues payments.
So getting an e-mail that’s as starkly clear as “Pony up your renewals dues or we’ll lock you down” ticks me off. It conveys all kinds of things, but primarily it says this to me:
All we really want is your money. We don’t want you to get any value from our organization unless you pay us for it. We are a closed group and only those who pay the admission fee are permitted to enter and interact.
So to the final question: What about this letter makes me want to renew?
Let’s see… do I want to pay $XXX to be a member of a group that doesn’t seem very interested in the voices of those outside their membership?
I’m thinking… no. I’d rather be a member of a group that
listens to its members: all the SN experts within the membership (at least those I know of) would advise this organization to keep the LinkedIn group open to everyone. The point of a SN is to connect people, not disconnect them.
listens to those who are not members: otherwise you live in insularity. There’s a huge difference between seeing the world through a window from the safety of your house and going outside to experience it. So if you have to be inside your house, isn’t it a good idea to be in touch with people who are out in the world and can inform your worldview?
appreciates the opportunity to stay connected with a member who has contributed in the past: isn’t a LinkedIn group a perfect (and inexpensive!) way to keep in touch with those former members? Otherwise, aren’t you suggesting that you could give a rat’s butt about what they’ve done for you in the past?
isn’t all about the money: yes, dues are important revenue streams (though some experts have been saying for quite awhile it’s a model that must change) but as soon as I get the feeling that all I am to an organization is an open wallet, then I’m turned off.
What am I missing? Am I still just being grumpy, despite a good night’s sleep?