If you’ve spent some time with LinkedIn Groups —contributing to discussions, learning, and sharing your subject matter expertise —you know what a good thing Groups are.
By participating in, and just watching, relevant Groups you can uncover new networking opportunities, reconnect with forgotten contacts, connect with people at your target companies, and potentially land your next job or business opportunity.
Unfortunately, as with so many things, someone will always come along and spoil it for the rest of us.
The spoilers on LinkedIn Groups are the self-promotional predators. People who blatantly and continuously push their products, themselves and their services, instead of contributing and joining the conversation.
They’ve decided, or been told, that Groups are a great way to promote themselves. They don’t have the finesse to do it in a gentle way.
They seem to be unaware that their activities are likely damaging their brands. And they miss the point when it comes to networking. As much as they see Groups as an easy way to broadcast the value they offer to their target audience, they’re forgetting the golden rule of networking – “Give to get”. They jump right to the “do me a favor” part – buy my products or services. That comes later in networking, if at all.
I see this self-promotion problem taking its toll with many LinkedIn Groups.
I manage the Personal Branding LinkedIn Group for Job-Hunt.org, and co-manage the main Job-Hunt Group. The latter is a fairly large Group, with plenty of activity. Too many people post inappropriate information in the “Discussions” area, instead of in “Promotions” or “Jobs” or elsewhere, where they belong.
Sometimes a fine line is crossed. I have no problem with bloggers contributing their relevant posts as discussions. Many career and job search professionals are excellent writers, offering free and invaluable advice on their blogs.
But I have a hard time with those professionals whose so-called discussions are actually outright promotional materials. And job seekers who repetitively post their own career marketing materials are pushing it too far.
Some people are sneaky. There are those who post legitimate discussions about 75% of the time, but every week or so, they’ll slip in their self-promotional materials.
I realize that some members, especially new ones, may not know how Groups work yet, but there are plenty of repeat offenders and plenty of people whose posts are set up automatically, to all their Groups.
Of course, Group managers can choose to move these discussions to their appropriate place, or delete them, or reply to these people privately. And we can slide those offenders into the moderation queue, so that none of their discussions are posted without being moderated and okayed. But with a large, ever-growing Group, keeping up with moderating and weeding out the no-goodniks becomes a big job.
As managers, we do the best we can to keep up, knowing that those who slip through may undermine the integrity of the Group. And it all becomes so annoying to members who appreciate the value of Groups and want to see helpful contributions and discussions.
Members are also able to flag a discussion as promotion, job or inappropriate. But I see this as a major problem in itself. Members may have selfish motives for flagging someone else’s discussions. Or their motives may not be aligned with the focus or rules of the Group. I feel the moving option should remain in the hands of Group managers only.
It’s a dilemma and a shame for those of us who appreciate LinkedIn Groups as an opportunity to learn and share.