How Companies Use Straw Men to Spam You on LinkedIn

The Power of Groups (on LinkedIn)

Groups are one of the best places on LinkedIn for networking. Groups can be formed around specific industries, geographical areas, or social interests. Group members can sign up for email digests of the activity at the group, which basically means when you post a discussion topic it ends up being delivered via email to most of the members in the group.

Unfortunately, this has led to a lot of the "communications" from groups being self-promotional. (In the spirit of transparency, I'm as guilty as anyone else here.)

Spamming Groups

However, the other day I noticed nearly the identical promotional posts at two very different groups, from two different people. They were promoting free social media webinars, normally a $149 value.

Here's one from Linked 2 Leadership:

Linked 2 Leadership

And the other from Maine Entrepreneurs:

Maine Entrepreneurs

Only a few words keep these posts from being identical. That's not so strange; people often post the same message to multiple groups they belong to. What caught my attention is that they were from two different people. I wondered who these two people were, so I checked out their profiles.

Here's the woman who posted to Linked 2 Leadership:

Ella Campbell

And here's the woman who posted to Maine Entrepreneurs:

Ketia Davenport

Despite being a member of several groups and associations, Keita has no contacts. You'd think that she'd have at least one contact from her company, Digitags Advertising, right?

Well, I believe that has to do with the fact that Digitags Advertising appears to be a made up company. (If you work for Digitags Advertising please let me know. I believe I can help you with your search engine optimization.)

As for Ella Campbell's company, the ironically named American Integrity Services, does appear to exist, but has no Web site and the listed telephone number is not in service.

Social Media Magic

And what of the company that's putting on these Webinars? Following the links took me to Social Media Magic, offering "Turnkey Social Media for Busy Executives." A quick Twitter search brought up a number of people who seemed to enjoy the Webinars.

However, having seemingly imaginary people promote your social media Webinars seemed a little disingenuous to me, if not a bit spammy. That's not to say that the company themselves were behind it. In reading the small print on the site it appears they use affiliates and take a strong stance against spam. I sent an email to support alerting them and asking for a comment for this post, but after a couple of days I still have yet to hear back.

What's LinkedIn to Do?

Unfortunately, it's easy to set up a fake personality on LinkedIn, join a bunch of groups, spam those discussion boards, and thus deliver spam directly to the inboxes of desirable groups of business people you can't reach otherwise.

Perhaps LinkedIn could add some requirements around the number of connections one must have before joining a group, answering questions, or posting to discussion groups. As someone who has set up a number of groups on LinkedIn, I'd love to have the flexibility to require a set number of connections before someone could join my group or post to our discussion forums.

Spam is a Fact of Life

Wherever people gather online, spam is sure to follow. However, with a few administrative changes LinkedIn can make it more difficult and time consuming for spammers to infiltrate the network. After all, if LinkedIn group alerts start delivering more noise than signal most of us will quietly opt out.

Rich Brooks is a real person on LinkedIn.

 

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4 Comments

  • Barney Lehrer

    Actually Social Media Magic is worse than a spammer. If you
    ever cancel they keep charging your credit card. They are constantly changing their
    corporate name. They have convinced the BBB that they no longer exist. 

  • Tami Honesty

    Rich, I just started posting news stories (blogs) to LinkedIn, and posted the same story to different groups. I hope that is appropriate behavior? Each group has different membership, origin and focus but my topics are relevant to both?

    The best line in your story - (If you work for Digitags Advertising please let me know. I believe I can help you with your search engine optimization.)- Funny!

    Thanks for posting.
    http://www.THonestTruth.com
    http://www.linkedin.com/in/tam...

  • Michael Denis

    Rich, my thanks too for exposing these abusers of social networking and media. A couple of the groups I belong to had these hacks making discussions about selling / marketing / leads / etc... which had nothing to do with either the Company group or Industry Professional Group. I also reported these two people and Social Media Magic to abuse@linkedin.com

  • Thom Mitchell

    Rich, thanks for taking the time to do the research on this issue. I have seen these exact offers before, or ones very much like them, and they always looked a little shady to me. Of course the next generation of this scam will be more elaborate with all of the straw man identities inter-connected to each other.
    --
    Thom Mitchell
    http://www.ThomMitchell.com