Review: Yahoo Groups

For whatever reason, business-oriented mailing lists have had traction on Yahoo Groups that MSN Groups and AOL Groups have never matched. Skimming through the groups under the business categories in MSN or AOL will turn up primarily lists with fewer than 10 people. On Yahoo Groups, though, many lists contain several thousand people. Also (and this is very important), Yahoo displays the groups in a category in descending order of number of members, so the most popular groups are displayed first. Hopefully, some day they’ll have it do the same for search results when searching for a group by keyword, rather than browsing group listings by category.

Yes, you have to deal with a lot of ads. Yes, the service level is sometimes inconsistent. But in terms of features for the price, it’s tough to beat. Yahoo Groups continues to be free, in spite of persistent rumors about plans to start charging for the service. And while many groups only use it as a mailing list, it offers much more functionality – chat, file sharing, photo galleries, shared web links, free-form database, polls, and a group calendar.

As far as what lists to get involved in, there are plenty of general business lists in the Business & Finance section, as well as thousands of specialty lists for various industries, professions, etc. There are also over 5,000 Industry Associations, and several thousand Business School Alumni groups. For all you job seekers, there are some 10,000 Job Listing lists, many serving particular niche markets and having much higher success rates than Monster and the other general-purpose job boards (the Software Product Marketing E-Group, which we’ll feature in a future issue, is a great example). So the opportunities for networking are many and varied.

One particularly nice feature of Yahoo Groups is the ability to control your level of inbound communication. You can select to receive individual e-mails, a single daily digest of all the day’s messages, or to participate only on the Web. Use this to keep your e-mail to a manageable volume even if you’re a member of several groups.

By the way, in case you’re wondering if any real business happens in Yahoo Groups, the multi-million-dollar merger between Mongoose Technology and RealCommunities was initiated in a conversation on the Communities of Practice Group. So the answer is a resounding “yes”!