Some time ago, I wrote an article entitled ‘How to Keep LinkedIn Group Discussions Flowing like Water.’ A very small section of the article discussed reviewing discussions or attached articles before responding. The article also brought out that many people respond to LinkedIn discussions solely based on the title of the discussion, without ever reading the contents. After reviewing discussions gone wild (off topic) in many groups, I decided to write a detailed article to explain why feedback (opinion) should compliment the main topic. This article also explains what people can do when discussions go off topic.
It’s Confusing and Makes No Sense
Diverting from the original topic causes discussion confusion, and if your comment is totally off the topic, it makes no sense at all. We all have seen discussions that started on one topic and all it takes is one person to chime in and introduce a totally new topic, which has nothing to do the discussion.
Sometimes other group members follow the person that went off topic, then it becomes a free for all. Here’s an example (fictitious scenario): Someone starts a discussion to get advice on the best job boards to post their resume, and someone replies with, “I have a great work at home company for you to take a look at, click on this link.” Another person responds, “what you need to do is go to face to face networking meetings.” Okay, what’s wrong with those comments? Well, while the comments might be valid in other discussions, they don’t answer the person’s question in this particular thread. If the people who commented carefully read the discussion, they would realize that the person wants to know what job boards do people recommend for posting resumes.
Why do People Respond off Topic?
No one can really know for sure, except the person who did it. Most people don’t do it on purpose. Perhaps they were confused and did not fully understand what the person was looking for. Perhaps they neglected to ask for clarification before responding or never took the time to read attached articles, which would shed more light on the topic.
In some cases, people are just so eager to share their knowledge on a subject that they throw information in any discussion even if it is unrelated.
What If You Are The Person That Went Off Topic?
Keep in mind, even if your advice is great, if it does not fit the topic of the discussion it is useless to people. If you don’t have a fitting answer, perhaps you should bypass that discussion or start a new discussion of your own.
It is easy for many of us to make a mistake and go off topic. If you catch yourself doing it, apologize and get back on the topic or explain why you thought it was important for you to stray away from the discussion. In very rare cases, sometimes people stray and provide useful information. However, you want to respect the person who originally posted the discussion and let them know that you actually read and understood what they were saying.
What Can You Do When Discussions Stray From the Intended Topic?
Should you get upset or make rude comments when someone goes off topic from a discussion? Not at all.
When someone strays from the topic, you or other people providing feedback can attempt to redirect the discussion to it’s original purpose. You can thank the individual for responding and ask a question to get the discussion back on track. You could reply to the above scenario by saying, “thanks for the link on the work at home job, do you also happen to have a recommendation on job boards where I can post my resume?” To the person that mentioned face to face networking, you could respond,” I often attend face to face networking events, but I am trying to cover all my job search bases. Which job boards have you found to be successful in the past?” Pretty easy, right? It is. However, it is not always that easy when it comes to people who don’t pay attention to details. Your redirect might go right over their head or they might not even respond. No need to worry, someone else might read your comments and provide the information that you are seeking.
If all your attempts to get people back on track fails and you don’t view the discussion as useful, there is nothing wrong with deleting it and starting a new discussion. Make it clear that you are looking for specific information and ask that only people with an answer to your question respond. Of course you would say it in a nice way and not so cut and dry as stated here.
Continue to participate in LinkedIn group discussions and remember to stay on the topic!
Copyright 2010 please do not duplicate without written permission from the author (see author profile Redy2ssist).