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.)
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:
And the other from 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:
And here's the woman who posted to Maine Entrepreneurs:
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.