Help! I’ve been SWAM’d on LinkedIn!

Help! I’ve been SWAM’d on LinkedIn!

November 18, 2013

I had a feeling something was up. I’ve been an avid user of LinkedIn Groups for years and I regularly log in to post, and engage in, discussions. One day, I noticed that my comments were no longer publishing, but that they were instead being submitted for approval. Having run a few of my own LinkedIn Groups, I knew this meant that my permissions had been changed. Throughout the week, I noticed this more and more and began to wonder if I was being punished on a site-wide level – but I quickly wrote this off as ludicrous. After all, I frequently start meaningful and conversational posts in LinkedIn Groups, I was congratulated by LinkedIn for having one of the top 1% most viewed profiles last year and LinkedIn reached out to me a couple of months ago to see if they could use me in their marketing and PR materials as an example of how to properly use LinkedIn… I didn’t think LinkedIn would do something so horrible to me with those kind of credentials.

Now, I know for sure. I’ve been SWAM’d!

What?!

I just learned this 4 letter word last week… while engaging in a LinkedIn Group discussion. It turns out, I had been right in thinking that I was being punished site-wide. SWAM means site wide auto moderation, and it happens when any group moderator manually changes your permissions to “requires moderation” or “block and delete” – even once.

Soon after I ended my pity party, I realized how many people I had inadvertently SWAM’d through my own groups. As a group moderator, I had never heard of this policy (apparently, it was released at the beginning of the year) and I moderate my groups in the following way:

  1. Members of my groups are free to post, after a 3 day waiting period. The 3 days theoretically keeps spammers from joining my groups, posting a bunch of spam, and leaving to add another group and do the same. Non-members of the Group and people with few or no connections are also moderated before their discussions are published (as a default, so no SWAM happens here).
  2. When someone posts irrelevant content in the group, I change their permissions to “requires moderation” – where their content is placed in a queue that I check daily (this is where they get SWAM’d). My goal here is to weed out the spammers from those that just post irrelevant content every once in a while, or post discussions in the incorrect area (i.e. people who post jobs in the main discussion area instead of the job discussions area).
  3. I “block and delete” anyone who just posts spam – an example would be people who post weight loss ads in a group that’s dedicated to social recruitment. For offenders that post mostly great content and a few irrelevant articles here and there, I send them an InMail to ask that they be a little more thoughtful about what they post, and I continue to moderate their posts to keep the group discussions on topic – and to keep other members happy.

My goal here is to keep all discussions in my group on-topic – which is something most moderators don’t do. So, to cut down on spam across all groups, a single group moderator now has the power to control whether or not their group members can post in any group. That’s a lot of power for one person and, apparently, it’s final. Once you are placed in the SWAM category, there’s no going back. Your only solution is to contact each of your group’s moderators on an individual basis and ask them to manually change your permissions in their group – which can be an issue because, as previously mentioned, most groups aren’t actively moderated. So, your discussion posts and comments go into a moderation queue, never to see the light of day, ever again.

I have to say, this was heartbreaking to discover. I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn and, until recently, I reaped the benefits of that time investment: profile views, website visits, invitations to connect, even job offers. This change to cut down on site wide spam has really impacted the ROI I get out of LinkedIn.

So, what’s a girl to do?

Here’s what I did:

First, I went into every single one of my groups to take a look at my activity. To do this, just click “Your Activity,” next to the box where you can post discussions:

I then looked at “Discussions I’ve started” and “Discussions I’ve joined” to see the last time I was able to post a new discussion or engage in an existing discussion in each group:

I found that my last post in several of the groups was “1 month ago” – although I was fairly certain I had engaged with that group more recently. To be sure, I clicked on “Pending Submissions” and often saw that I had discussions and comments waiting to be moderated. I quickly identified these groups as the ones that were not likely to be moderated by anyone, and I reviewed them to determine if the content was good enough to warrant staying in the group – this was actually a great practice that has kept me focused on participating in the best ones.

For the groups that I decided to stay in, I emailed the moderator to explain my situation and ask that they reinstate my permission to post without moderation in their group. I did the same in groups that were moderated, explaining that needing moderation was negatively impacting my conversations in their group (oftentimes, my comment would be published after the conversation had moved on to another topic). Most group moderators, after learning what SWAM meant, happily changed my permissions back to the default settings of their group. Many of the un-moderated Group moderators never returned my InMail (surprise, surprise), so I had no choice but to leave those groups.

Closing Thoughts on LinkedIn SWAM

While this has undoubtedly cut down on the amount of spam in LinkedIn Groups (which really was much needed), I think far too many people were wrongly punished for engaging in social discussions. I’d like to see this as a group setting where, as the Group moderator, I can choose to automatically moderate people who have been manually flagged for moderation in x amount of groups (I’d like to choose the number, because I think 1 is too few).

In the meantime, I’m considering changing my Group settings to moderate all new discussions and simply delete the irrelevant ones, so I’m not SWAMing anyone that doesn’t truly deserve it. This will require much more work than my current method of moderating, but I don’t want to contribute to SWAM until it’s more fair.

What are you thoughts on SWAM? Are you glad LinkedIn implemented this policy? Have you been SWAM’d? How will you moderate your groups differently because of this policy? Let us know with a comment!