Ideas are sticky. Share them!Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook12Share on LinkedIn26Share on Google+0

LinkedIn Groups: Cans of Spam

LinkedIn has a problem with their groups. They have communities brimming with potential, but most are choking on spam.

It’s heartbreaking. Of all the major social networks, the LinkedIn Groups have a structure that is perfectly designed for business conversations and engagement. The structure is reminiscent of the old Internet discussion boards, but with the power of the largest business network in the world.

The potential is obvious, but the groups are being crushed by a culture of promotion.

Dumping and running is spamming

There are three types of spam that hit LinkedIn Groups:

  1. Obvious spam: offers for cheap Ugg Boots, get rich quick schemes and other promotions.
  2. Jobs: both people and robots bombarding groups with their job ads.
  3. Content Dumpers: people posting links to their content in as many groups as they can reach.

The first two forms of spam are relatively easy to manage. LinkedIn offers a feature to block these users, and prevent their garbage from reaching the groups.

The Content Dumpers on the other hand are a major problem. These are people that are trying to post links to their blog in as many groups as possible.

The Content Dumpers share “technically relevant” articles for the group, but their goal is click-throughs to their websites versus engagement with group members. The disconnect in goals makes Content Dumpers spammers.

Fight the culture of promotion

Dumping and running is not a marketing strategy. It’s social media litter. When you see users treating LinkedIn Groups as an extension of their Twitter feeds, check them on it. Call them out, and tell them they’re being inconsiderate. Flag their content, and move it to Promotions.

It’s time for LinkedIn users to get mad, and fight the culture of self-promotion that is rampant in the social network.

If one of your Personal Connection spams you with a promotional email, drop them. Don’t even think about it. If they’re behavior is that inconsiderate, they’re not even worth knowing.

If a LinkedIn Group you enjoy is starting to get overrun with Content Dumpers, ask the Group Owner if you can help moderate. I’m sure they’ll appreciate the feedback and support.

As users, we have to take responsibility for our networks and our communities. The best way to stop the Content Dumpers is to push them out.

Great groups have effective moderation

Unfortunately there’s only so much users can do to change the culture of LinkedIn Groups. The responsibility ultimately rests with the Group Owners and Group Moderators.

There are several LinkedIn Groups that are lively places with valuable discussions, but they’re often hard to spot from the outside. What makes them unique is their moderation policies.

Group Owners have to set the tone and structure for the group to thrive. Without their leadership and management the groups quickly get overrun with spammers and Content Dumpers.

Conversations trump content

In the Sticky Branding group, we’ve taken drastic measures to stop the Content Dumpers. We’ve recently instituted a new rule:

Do not post links to articles or content without a relevant question. The point of the group is to have conversations about branding, sales and marketing. Posts that do not have a relevant question or discussion topic will be moved to the Promotions tab or deleted.

My philosophy is a group is about discussions, not link sharing. If a blogger or marketer can’t take the time to engage the group in a relevant conversation, then their content isn’t welcome.

What’s your take?

What steps do you think need to be taken to make LinkedIn relevant, useful and engaging?

  • Michelle Mann

    YES!! I was just thinking this the other day too. I have already removed myself from all the groups.

  • Sticky Branding

    Michelle Mann, but you’ll stay in the Sticky Branding Group right? We’re tyrannical spam killers :)

  • Michelle Mann

    You sold me ;)

  • Sticky Branding

    Time for a *Happy Jig*

  • Paul Copcutt

    Great post, totally agree. Although in my “naive LinkedIn’ past may have inadvertently done something like this.  Do you consider sending a blog post (in full) via LinkedIn personal messaging spamming?

    • @Paul Copcutt Thanks Paul. I’m sure we’ve all made mistakes. A big part of my post was to spark both awareness and conversation so we can come to best practices.
      In terms of sending your blog through LinkedIn messaging, I would find it spammy but you should ask your connections. You may find some of the users would prefer receiving your content that way, and you could send the post to them directly.
      There’s a lot of grey areas when engaging your audience, and one rule doesn’t necessarily apply to all. I find asking your audience for input is always the best approach.

  • Richard Brunelle

    You know I have a problem with this as the whole purpose of LinkedIn was for the exchange of information between business people in effort to promote and grow their business. And initially LinkedIn did just that. The number one fraud of the Internet is Google. Google is not nor never has been concerned with being a Search Engine and indexing the Internet. Google is only concerned with “marketing” the Internet, of which they do a fine damn job. But, they are making rules for everyone without asking. They are forcing small business to give up and quit so they can continue to grow and nobody seems too concerned about it. Google I streamlining their marketing model at our  expense, and we like sheep allow them to do so. Along comes the pros at LinkedIn. LinkedIn Groups used to share ideas, comment and guide others, and generally business was supporting business. Now, it’s damn near as bogus as Google. Nobody does any guidance to anyone. Nobody suggests anything helpful to anybody. It appears to me as though LinkedIn has become their own marketing tool and they set the rules, and we like sheep again follow. Well, I am not going down without a fight.
    If LinkedIn Groups are experiencing a Spam problem, it is because LinkedIn users are not offering guidance or support to other users, but spending their time telling each other how wonderful they are. If for instance, I was one of the users posting information to a group, it would be because I was seeking something in return. Why else would I write the damn thing and post it here? But, does anybody from these “wonderful groups” say anything or respond to the writers of such content relative to what they should be doing? Does anyone give a point in the right direction? Does anybody even bother to comment to the writer at all? And, I watch it happen daily. I see new users posting information looking for someone to guide them and get absolutely nothing in return, except from those that want to sell the person something they do not need.
    What good is your group if all you are doing is sucking up to Google’s idea of how they are going to configure the Internet at your expense, instead of reading the questions presented and giving useful input to the user instead of sending out Threats to Spammers to everyone in the group. How the hell is the user supposed to know he is posting what you may consider spam, if you never address him or tell him what he is doing wrong?
    LinkedIn has got to be a major disappointment to a lot of people that came here looking for advice and guidance to further their business, because I do not see too much of that going on. Maybe I just rolled out of the sack on the wrong side this Monday morning and this whole spam issue rubbed me wrong. But, I am tired of people making rules that effect the many without asking anybody how the feel about it. People have been writing informational content to the Internet as a method of creating linkage since before you or Google. Google does not go after the spammers that cause the issues relative to this linkage, but finds a way for Google to take advantage of the problem and use it to market more efficiently. Ask your self why authors that would like to be credited with the works they have written now get to do so, as long as it is through Google. And, Google is the creator of all spam. There is nobody out there trying to spam LinkedIn Groups to get high rankings on my site, they are doing it to get ranked in Google, by manipulating Google’s set of rules. So why is everybody else being affected by this? It’s Google’s problem, let them fix it. As far as LinkedIn Groups with a spam problem, step down from your high horse and offer the guidance or input the user is asking you for, and quit spamming every member of the group by sending out threats to spammers.

  • Raleigh Leslie

    Great post Jeremy. It’s a shame this issue is still running rampant. I just finished a blog post about it myself and linked to this article you wrote at the end as a resource. Check it out and I’d be interested in your comments:

  • Raleigh Leslie  Thanks for sharing Raleigh. I have found with clear guidelines and strict moderation the spam issue can be managed. We have significantly curbed the Sticky Branding group’s spam problem since I wrote this article. Yes, the group still receives a lot of blog submissions, but they’re all filtered into the promotions tab. The engaged users have noticed the change, and adhere to the policy. Other users have modified their behavior, and the problem users get whittled out of the group. I’m largely of the opinion that the LinkedIn Spam issues fall to the group owners. It’s their choice whether it’s going to be a problem or not.

  • Raleigh Leslie

    StickyBranding That’s really great to hear after some time Jeremy. In the video in my blog post I also point out a group that was recently moderated heavily and has been restored that I am a part of. Good to know there is hope.

  • Brisebear

    Jeremy, this is a good article, but it also creates a quandary.  LinkedIn itself, through its Pulse section, presents valuable articles written by other professionals that are worthy of sharing with other groups, and I admit I do this often.  However, I don’t link it to any personal website, Twitter link or blog.  I simply share an idea or two that I believe the specific group members may also see value in.
    I try to also add my own comments or thoughts on the articles as part of my posting, hoping to generate active discussions and dialogue about the article.
    I have noted with some groups that if this isn’t done, there are no postings or discussions that generate ongoing sharing of thoughts or concepts.  Other groups tend to focus on the thoughts of the group owner who perceives themselves as a guru of sorts and that their blogs are all that is required to entertain their group members.  With those groups I have found that pretty much all of my postings are blocked, so I assume their ego prevents them from having other ideas shared with the group, unless it is something they have instigated.
    So, whilst I agree with the premise of the article (and I will share it to other groups), it moves through grey territory in terms of what is deemed Spam and what is actually just passing on the thoughts of others.
    Feel free to discuss.

  • Brisebear

    If I share this article, am I creating more Spam that directs the readers to your website, which in essence are your blogs and is selling your company because of what you have written?

    This is that fine line that I mentioned when I presented my previous response to your article.

  • Brisebear  Brian, you raise 2 very good points. First, LinkedIn actually encourages content sharing over engagement. Their logic is sound, because they’re trying to create as many hooks as possible to keep users active in their site. For the Sticky Branding Group we have over 30,000 members. When we didn’t moderate the link sharing the group became overwhelmed in content, and discussions plummeted. Link sharing may make sense for small groups with less than 5,000 members, because they have yet achieved a large enough critical mass to sustain conversations. For larger groups, the blatant “dump and run” behavior is obnoxious. Your second point, re: group owners capitalizing on the group, is another story. They’re not creating communities, they’re advertising. A strong group is not about the owner, it’s about everyone else.

  • Brisebear  I encourage you to spam my stuff. I’m special :)

  • I couldn’t disagree more with #3. Maybe in your perfect world people aren’t supposed to promote their businesses but links to blog posts very often have value if it’s relevant to the group topic.

    • When the Sticky Branding group was under 10,000 members the shared content was useful. It was interspersed with the conversations, and if well curated the content added value. I didn’t appreciate the content dumpers, but I accepted that good content is good content.

      As the group grew the content sharing became a burden. Today the group is approaching 40,000 members, and we receive dozens (sometimes hundreds) of posted articles a day. I am looking at the moderation queue for the group right now and there are 27 articles awaiting review. This has come in within the last 12 hours.

      All the shared content may be on topic, but if I release it all the discussions will be buried and the member engagement will plummet. I will then see the impact of declining conversations in member attrition, and the group will actually begin to shrink.

      Here is my question / challenge: How do I fairly moderate 50-100 pieces of shared content per day within 20 minutes? All within the expectation that the content has to meaningfully serve the community and spark conversation.

      • Good question and reasons why I’m glad I’m not a moderator. I used to moderate forums years ago — nothing but headaches. So, a couple of suggestions: First I’m not sure I agree with the premise that volumes of posts limits engagement. I don’t acept that statement as fact, nothing personal. And if it does and the group shrinks because of it, maybe that’s market forces at work and maybe the group is simply too big after all! I mean what’s your goal? To grow the biggest group you can? I know you’re not getting paid to run it so maybe adjust your expectations. Moderating 50 – 100 pieces a day! Ouch. Other suggestion: get some help moderating. Some groups have multiple moderators to share the load. Just another viewpoint from a long-time LinkedIn user.

        • Good suggestions. Thank you. The neat thing with communities is each one is unique. What works in one doesn’t always translate well to others. I regularly review our moderation practices and consider new ways to spark engagement and participation in the group. This is essential, because the rules of success are changing so rapidly in LinkedIn.

          Thank you for challenging me. This is what I strive for in the Sticky Branding group. When we talk with each other we learn from each other :)

  • Andrew Seipp

    I really don’t understand why Linkedin doesn’t add a “Auto-moderate posts with links” to the moderator function. It would make things easier and would solve a lot of problems. It’s gotten to the point where many groups are only made up of content dumpers and there is no discussion happening at all.

    • Great idea Andrew. It would definitely make my life easier if we had better admin controls. I’ve got my process pretty nailed down with the Sticky Branding group, and I’m satisfied with the content stream. But it’s still manual. Adding some automation would be amazing!