Open Group, Closed Group: Pros and Cons
September 8, 2009 14 Comments
When you create a new group on a social networking site like LinkedIn or Facebook, you are presented with several options. Other than choosing things like the group administrators and adding a logo, you can choose to make the group open or closed. In other words: anyone can join your group OR group membership is up for approval. There are pros and cons to each, and the answer depends on what the group is intended to accomplish, the resources you have available, and what makes the most sense for your audience. Let’s review:
Pros: Open groups don’t require a staff member or volunteer to approve individual requests to join. A potential member need only click the “add me to this group” link and they’re in.
There are fewer barriers to entry for this type of group. Additionally, you have the potential benefit of many more points of view and input from a wide variety of users.
Depending on the purpose of the group, open membership may be a good fit; if the group is meant to discuss a general topic or casts a wide net over a certain subject, open membership may be the best option.
Cons: Open groups can easily swell in size and become unwieldy. These types of groups can be magnets for people who want to join as many groups as possible, but don’t necessarily have useful points of view or information to share (read: salespeople and spammers). Once they clutter discussion boards and dominate conversations, your group may be rendered useless, and legitimate members will abandon ship.
You can make the decision later to convert your open group to a closed one, but once “undesirables” are in, closing the gates behind them won’t do much good.
Pros: Closed groups require a trusted individual (generally a staff member or a volunteer) to approve individual membership requests.
Closed groups provide members with a sense of legitimacy: they know that the people in the group have gone through an approval process. A good example of a type of group that can benefit from closed membership is an alumni group. It provides assurance to members that everyone in the group “belongs.”
Closed groups also keep a damper on spammers – those who rack up group memberships with the intent to sell products won’t make it through the sieve (unless they happen to have a legitimate reason to be a member of the group, of course).
Cons: Maintaining a closed group requires granular management. Someone (staff, volunteer or otherwise) has to make sure that each member request is legit…and that eats up time. It also adds an additional hoop to jump through, which may be a turn off to potential group members; someone who has to wait too long in membership purgatory may grow frustrated and withdraw their request.
What did I miss? Share your experience with closed and open groups in the comments.