I always say that LinkedIn Groups are the biggest public forums for professionals on the Internet, because they are! Where else can you find more than one million groups, with the largest one “Job Openings, Job Leads, and Job Connections!” having more than 900,000 members! The potential for professional networking – and developing business – is unique when compared to other social media sites.
Why LinkedIn Groups Require Moderation
It didn’t take long for Internet Marketers, Affiliate Marketers, and others to figure this out, and over the past year many a LinkedIn Group has been bombarded by a combination of irrelevant blog postings, links which lead to landing pages asking you to fill out your contact information, events, or other LinkedIn Groups.
When I talk to companies about LinkedIn Groups, their biggest worries are 1) not having enough time to manage them and 2) fear that their group will be a ghost town with little engagement. Just like anything else in social media, it requires a minimal investment of time to make it a successful venture, and unless you build a community and stay committed to make it an engaging and valuable atmosphere for all, it will become a ghost town.
Once companies get over the hump and invest in a LinkedIn Group, they are generally timid about aggressively moderating it. Unfortunately, in order to provide a beneficial environment to their members, they will be forced to make some tough decision as fake LinkedIn profiles with zero or very few connections try to join their group or someone posts a link to something that is irrelevant to your members.
Too many groups have fallen prey to the spam.
LinkedIn Group Managers: It’s time to make a stand!
My Personal Experience of LinkedIn Group Moderation
I have created a few LinkedIn Groups of my own, and experience dictates that the larger your group, the more fake profiles and spam it attracts. So let’s take a look at how I moderate my largest group, The Social Media Strategies for Business Group, which currently has 3,700 members.
1.) Take advantage of the Request to Join feature.
The beauty of enabling this functionality is that it will “flag” those with few or no connections. While there could be a valid reason why someone with LinkedIn connections might want to join your group, chances are they are Internet Marketers trying to join your group to spam your members.
2.) Require moderation for newbies.
While you always want to attract new members to your group, you also want to make sure that they respect the group by listening before participating. This setting, in essence, forces them to do so. Same goes for people that are new to LinkedIn or have few connections: Good probability they are fake profiles.
3.) Allow only community members to post.
If you’re building a community, why would you allow those from outside the community a chance to participate? Wouldn’t you want them to first become a member of your community? I would!
4.) Moderate new postings of all members.
This is the key setting, because here you have the option to decide exactly what should be submitted for approval. Discussions is the main tab that everyone sees and thus is the one most targeted by spammers. I am laissez-faire on the other types of submissions, but I manually approve 100% of all discussions as this is where the majority of the spam will enter your group.
5.) Moderate new postings with your community in mind – and don’t be shy!
Here is where it gets tricky: How do you moderate the new discussions in your Group on a daily basis? Here’s what I do, and suggest you consider as well:
- I approve posts that I feel would be relevant and valuable to the community,
- I delete posts that are clearly off-topic or borderline self-promotional and do not have the community in mind
- I will delete and blog participants who are clearly trying to lead community members to other groups, landing pages, for-fee events, or other social media profiles – they are trying to exploit the community as target customers and not engaging with the community!
This is where many Group Moderators fail. Off-topic postings are off-topic, so why should you allow them to be posted? On the other hand, postings which are trying lead to your members to other communities are similarly not only off-topic, but they are almost a slap in the face! Any posting with a landing page for more information or a page offering a for-fee service is trying to monetize your community! You could try to contact each individual poster, or because they showed you little respect with their irrelevant posting, you can simply delete their postings – and block those that are trying to “sell to” your community without your prior approval.
Believe it or not, following the above instructions over the past years, I have actually had to delete and block a few hundred people from the Group. But guess what? Only one of those people ever wrote back and asked why! This is because most marketers and spammers will post to all of the maximum 50 LinkedIn groups at once, so once they are kicked out of one group they will merely join another.
LinkedIn Group Moderation Case Study: Harvard Business Review
You can imaging how refreshing it was for me to see the Harvard Business Review LinkedIn Group finally take a stand against the rampant spam that was occurring in their group and begin moderating similarly to how I outlines above. A new discussion was started outlining the following changes in response to “…hearing from a number of group members who wish to improve the quality of our group’s discussions:”
- “…only allow discussion posts that we first approve to go up on the group page, rather than allowing all posts to go up and taking down offending posts after the fact.”
- “We are also going to be tightening our criteria for what makes an appropriate post.”
Perhaps the Harvard Business Review was unsure as to how their members would react – and perhaps you are as well. The result? In one day the announcement has garnered 99 comments, with members saying things like:
I appreciate your efforts to keep the discussion relevant.
I applaud this decision. Over the last few months, I have briefly accessed this group only to leave because it was hard to find the true content. I think you will be providing a truly engaging forum that allows intellectual dialogue.
I to am in favour of this change and am very much in support of it “to improve the practice of management in our changing world”. Better a group of ten really listening to each other then a group of hundred thousand screaming and no one being heard.
Hallelujah! It is always disappointing to see a great group discussion page devolve into a platform for those who are more interested in promoting jobs for left-handed widget-makers or other self-promotions. Thank you for taking steps to apply a little more rigor to this LI group!
The above came from the first few comments, and although there was one comment that said, “You’re going to kill your community that way…Most popular groups/blogs/forums on the web are the ones that are the most accommodating of a wide range of posts,” the overwhelming majority were in passionate support of HBR’s decision.
Conclusion: LinkedIn Groups Require Active Moderation to be Successful!
How have you managed your LinkedIn Group? Do you agree or disagree with how the Harvard Business Review decided to take a stand? Do you agree with how I suggest you manage your LinkedIn Group? Let’s have our own discussion about LinkedIn Group moderation here to benefit all!
Image Credits: By Filippo Smaldone (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons