Lancaster PA Chamber Set to Remove All Non Chamber Members From LinkedIn Group. Good, bad? What Do You Think?

Lancaster PA Chamber Set to Remove All Non Chamber Members From LinkedIn Group. Good, bad? What Do You Think?

This morning I noticed that the Lancaster PA Chamber of Commerce is planning on removing all non paying chamber members from their LinkedIn group.

“In an effort to create The Chamber’s Linkedin group as an added benefit of Chamber membership, we will be removing any nonmembers who are currently part of the group.”

This struck me as a bit strange and a few questions came to mind.

The first question and the big one: Is this is a good use of social media?

LinkedIn is a free platform (with premium accounts available) for people to network with other professionals. If the Chamber is worried about exclusivity of it’s members is this the right platform for them? If they are just looking for a closed network for members, why go outside of their own site?

Social media is a way to engage your clients, a way to give them an outlet for discussion and a way for them to communicate with your brand/company. It is also a way to entice new customers. Is the chamber shutting out new potentials by creating a gated community on LinkedIn?

This morning I posted the question on Twitter and Facebook here are some of the responses I received.

@jeremywalter Yeah I saw that – I think it’s a good move for the Chamber … not so much for non-member marketers. Chambers thrive on exclusivity.

@wisegrass (Paul Stoltzfus) Seems a little controlling to me. But it makes sense. Still it seems weird. I guess they feel like if a person is on the LinkedIn group it implies current membership with the Chamber. #2 It doesn’t cost the Chamber anything to allow members to be part of the Chamber LinkedIn group. Maybe the LinkedIn group could be the “free giveaway” that begins a relationship with the Chamber and then turns into a paid membership down the road?

I also received a response from Laura Brady from the Lancaster Chamber and this is what she had to say.

@laura_brady good question, the intent behind doing it was to make the Linkedin group another exclusive benefit for your membership dollars

Now, Laura is also the one that sent the email this morning explaining that they will be shutting out non members. She also runs the group. I understand that someone will be monitoring the group as well as driving it when needed to keep it active. But it doesn’t cost the Chamber to set up a group on LinkedIn. Anyone can set up a group and it doesn’t cost anything to host it there either. So, is this really an exclusive benefit?

I think in a broader sense there is also a great marketing potential that is being missed. Last April I posted about how the majority of companies will fail at social media. In the post I talked about the main reason’s companies fail. One of the big reasons is that they don’t understand that social media is about conversations. It can get messy sometimes, but you still need to be transparent. By gating a community on LinkedIn you eliminate potential customers from seeing what your company is about. More importantly what people are saying about the company and how you interact with them. Paul’s second comment took the words out of my mouth or fingers as the case may be. Wouldn’t it be great if the Chamber would offer the group as an enticement? As a way to bring in new potential customers and give them a taste of what it’s like to be a chamber member? As new non-members join the group you now have a database of potential new members. You also know that they are interested in the Chamber and when they interact via discussions, you know what they want from the chamber. Huh, that’s also free market research!

So, my message to the chamber is: Think twice before you create an island around yourself. Plus, claiming that you are giving extra value to your customers by offering them something you get for free? People will probably see right through it.

What are your thoughts? Post your comments here and feel free to share this with others.

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