Article: Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Why do most good intentions to create a corporate discussion group on LinkedIn usually end up in a near empty forum with a company logo on top? Robert Rooderkerk from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) and Koen Pauwels from Özyeǧin University studied what drives people to comment in a LinkedIn discussion group. Their results show that a company should motivate authors with a high expert status to contribute well-written and controversial posts to their Linkedin discussion. Just not on weekends.

Teams generate better ideas than individuals

The benefits to having an active discussion group on the company’s LinkedIn page are legion. Every post someone writes and comments on, reinforces their bond with the brand. Active online communities also help the hosting firm to position itself as a thought leader in knowledge-intensive industries. Customer discussions provide worthwhile feedback that can be used for product improvement and innovation. But researchers Robert Rooderkerk and Koen Pauwels say most discussion groups suffer from ‘undercontribution’. Only some posts evoke reactions, while the majority of the post lead to no interaction at all.

Usually people expect to reap social benefits from interacting with a high-status person and the same is true for LinkedIn, their study shows.

Philips Healthcare

To find out what posts perform best, the researchers studied the LinkedIn forum “Innovations In Health”. This relatively large discussion group is hosted by Philips Healthcare. At the time of their study it had 16,000 followers, mostly professionals in healthcare. The researchers say it is important to note that all contributions in the discussion come from members of the group. All Philips Healthcare did was monitor the discussions.

Readability and controversy

After analysing 316 posts and their following comments, Rooderkerk and Pauwels found that improving ‘readability’ of the post is the best way to get people commenting. The easier it is for the reader to get through the post, the likelier it is that they will comment. Although this may seem obvious, this may create challenges for members who do not write in their native tongue. The degree of controversy of a post also positively affected the number of follower comments, the study showed. This is consistent with earlier studies, say the researchers. When ideas presented in a post conflict with those of the reader, dissonance is born. This stimulates readers to comment on what they read in order to reduce that dissonance.

Expert status

Rooderkerk and Pauwels also found that a high ‘social, or expert status’ of the post’s author drives up the numbers of comments. Usually people expect to reap social benefits from interacting with a high-status person and the same is true for LinkedIn, their study shows. Interestingly a higher number of connections of the author does not automatically lead to more comments. Finally, posts that were perceived to have a lot of practical value to the reader also evoked more reactions.

No hyperlinks

The analyses also revealed that including a hyperlink or posting in a weekend has a negative effect on the number of comments. Hyperlinks require more effort from followers and may distract the reader from commenting. Weekend posts are likely only read after the weekend, at which time they have to compete for attention with Monday posts, the researchers found.

dr. R.P. (Robert ) Rooderkerk
Associate Professor
Rotterdam School of Management (RSM)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Robert  Rooderkerk
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