I really like LinkedIn. I find that I now use the site daily. When someone calls me or I’m about to call them, I look them up on LinkedIn. I find it helpful to know more about who I’m talking to, and it usually helps me understand more quickly what their company does.
One of the great things about LinkedIn is the ability to join groups and ask questions or follow along with an interesting discussion. It takes some of that valuable discussion that happens at industry events and documents it, drawing people from all over the world and with different backgrounds together to have intelligent conversations.
I’m part of a LinkedIn group for an association I belong to called ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership. Recently, a gentleman by the name of Ed Rigsbee shared an interesting discussion from another group called Social Media for Nonprofit Organizations about people hijacking LinkedIn discussions to sell their products.
In his intro, Rigsbee wrote, “There is nothing dishonest about earning a living and selling products and services; just dishonest approaches.” Agreed.
Group member Jon Hardie goes on to explain a common tactic:
Bait and Switch (creating a fake discussion question - to promote your stuff)
A person wants to put: their take, their podcast, their slide share, their "free" printed book (which turns out to be a pdf of the abstract), their video, their blog ... "their stuff" out there. Fair enough - no harm no foul.
The problem arises when folks fabricate a rhetorical question, and pose it as a legit discussion question (which coincidentally /nudge/nudge/ is addressed by their stuff) ... and then /surprise/surprise/ (just click on the tiny URL) and they have supplied their stuff as the /amazing/ perfect answer to their rhetorical question. Discussion? What discussion?
It's not being straight, it's manipulative. And if that is what they think social media is all about - no wonder social media gets a bad name ... and they don't get any customers. Would they be telling their clients that that was the way to build trust and loyalty ... not likely!
I think folks genuinely are trying to build traffic to their work product. So they join groups and create faux discussion questions to get click through's. The problem lies with intent.
The Digital Screenmedia Association has two LinkedIn Groups: one for digital signage and another for self-service kiosks. The digital signage group has more than 1,200 members, and the self-service kiosk group has more than 800. Both of these groups are quite active with discussions, comments and other postings happening daily.
While I find most of the discussions interesting and valuable, occasionally people use it for the wrong purpose. Someone might start a “discussion” to announce a new product. Others are more subtle – or should I say sneaky – about their discussion starters, which are a veiled attempt at plugging their product.
As moderator of the groups, I have the ability to delete comments, block users or move posts to more appropriate places – such as “jobs” or the new section called “promotions.” I actively moderate, but find that I delete posts or block users sparingly. Sometimes discussions get promotional, and sometimes they get heated, but I reserve the deletion and block tools for only the strongest offenders.
It’s a fine line, and as moderator, I find I have to play Solomon. But this is where you and the community come in. Within discussions, LinkedIn now offers you the ability to:
• Flag as Promotion
• Flag as Job
• Flag as Inappropriate
This tool helps alert moderators so they can decide what to do with flagged items. If more than one person flags a post as promotional or inappropriate, it certainly makes my job as moderator easier.
Social media is about conversations and sharing … let’s keep it that way.