Too many eggs, not enough baskets: LinkedIn’s SWAM Edict

LinkedIn Logo and flagSWAM: Your Account is Flagged

Some lessons must be learned the hard way. Many of my readers and most of my clients know that I have long been an advocate of LinkedIn as a content marketing tool. That changed yesterday when my account was flagged. Yesterday, my small business and I fell victim to an acronym – SWAM.  The letters stand for Site Wide Auto Moderation and the consequences are dire, at least for someone like me who heretofore had depended on LinkedIn as the primary social media platform for promoting content. SWAM is like super secret probation. It limits the user’s posting privileges across all LinkedIn groups, placing all posts into moderation. It’s like being sent to social network purgatory.

As I understand it, the change in status can be triggered by a single group moderator. It can happen on purpose or by mistake when a moderator doesn’t understand the consequences. It is common for the first post to a site to go into moderation, in fact this is a setting that LinkedIn group administrators can use to assure that posts to the group are appropriate.  The administrator has the option to accept or delete the post or he can choose to “delete and block.”

That’s where the problem comes in. Delete and block restricts the user’s ability to post without moderation, and not just for that particular group. It is a system-wide restriction that applies to every group on LinkedIn.  Because many groups are essentially unmoderated, that means that posts don’t get published. They just go into the moderation queue and sit there. The only way that the user can post again without restriction is if the moderator of each group resets his permissions. Yesterday, I actually had to reset my own permissions on a group that I moderate.

It’s a heavy handed policy. There is no provision for review and LinkedIn will not provide any information about the alleged infraction. The policy might make some sense if it applied only to the group where a potential problem occurred and if there was a method to resolve the difficulty. As it stands, the restriction is applied across the entire network without recourse. It’s  tantamount to sentencing a defendant without a jury, representation, or even knowledge of the accusation. LinkedIn’s explanations are carefully scripted. Here is the pertinent text from an email that I received from their “Customer Experience” team:

In multiple groups you’re a member of, you’ve had posts flagged, marked as spam, or you’ve been blocked in a group. This is why you’re now seeing the blue message on your groups. These multiple factors contribute to the moderated status in which your posts will go into pending until you’re permissions are changed to “Approved” by another manager in all of your groups, including the ones you own or manage. No single instance of one of these factors has contributed to your moderated status, but multiple instances have.
I understand you’re very concerned about this matter. However, please understand that it is not possible for me to make any changes to your permissions as a matter of protecting the integrity and privacy of each group’s management. We do not have the functionality available to reverse the action and cannot disclose the specific instances which lead to the moderation. Please note that the length of time your posts are submitted for moderation typically lasts a few weeks. This can vary depending on the number of occurrences.

Further correspondence resulted in some polite sympathy, a lot of repetition of the prescribed language, and no solution other than to contact each group admin to request a reset of privileges. That’s a problem.  I’m only really active in about seven groups, but some users who have been SWAMmed post to as many as 50. As I’ve attempted to contact the managers of  the groups where I regularly post, I’ve learned a few things.  Many LinkedIn groups aren’t really managed – the managers don’t check in frequently to clear moderated posts.  Some of the managers restrict contact, requiring an email address to send them a message. Most are unfamiliar with the policy and don’t understand the request for a permissions change.

Trying to figure out what happened

I’m not a spammer. Believe it or not, I actually read the rules of each group before I joined. I corresponded with the owner of one printers’ group before posting, and have not linked to articles there because of concerns about consultants taking over the group.  Those that read my posts will see a short description of services at the bottom of each article, and there’s the obligatory contact form in the sidebar, but there’s not much of a sales message. While every writer is probably more enamoured of his own material than are his readers, my intent has always been to provide information that’s helpful. Occasionally a reader will find something of interest and want to talk further. That’s where my clients come from.

A couple of months ago, I received a request to write and  post to a new small business oriented group.  The first article was held for moderation, then disappeared. I contacted the individual who had issued the invitation and she explained that a mistake had been made. She asked me to repost the article. I complied and it was published. Since then, I’ve only submitted a couple of blog posts to the group. Each has gone into moderation and it’s taken a couple of days for them to appear. Last week, another article disappeared after submission, and I suspect that SWAM was triggered in the process.

eggsinbasketThe Marketing Lesson Learned

Too many eggs in one basket. I realize now that I’ve made the mistake of investing too much time into one social network, and also have advised a couple of clients to do the same thing. Because there are so many established groups, LinkedIn makes sense for B2B marketers. Google+ communities may offer some of the same opportunities, but there isn’t much there (yet) for my two target audiences – printing companies and regional small businesses. For now, I’m stuck with the poor option of trying to unscramble the LinkedIn eggs so I can continue to participate in at least some of the groups where I’ve become established. From this point forward, some energy will be devoted to diversification. I need to start using a couple of new baskets to collect the eggs.

More about SWAM

Prior to this, my experiences with LinkedIn have been mostly positive. After selling my printing business, I briefly enrolled in the paid premium version for job seekers. I didn’t find it worth the investment, but there was nothing that seemed sketchy. I read LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner’s articles from time to time. He’s made some specific comments on LinkedIn’s culture and values that just don’t sync with this recent experience:

So our culture has five dimensions: transformation, integrity, collaboration, humor and results. And there are six values: members first; relationships matter; be open, honest and constructive; demand excellence; take intelligent risks; and act like an owner. And by far the most important one is members first. We as a company are only as valuable as the value we create for our members.

– Source: NY

Frankly, my initial reaction to the authoritarian severity of this policy was disbelief, not just that such a rule was being applied to me, but that it even existed. It does, but I can understand if you are skeptical about what I’ve written here.  For more information, here are a couple of good articles that explain more about the policy.

Surely, some bright star in management at LinkedIn will come up with a less arbitrary means of combating network spam in the near future. Until then, frequent posters should be very careful and may also want to consider moving their efforts to other social media channels.  Careful with the eggs . . . if the basket breaks, you don’t get breakfast!


1 Comment

  1. Gary Ellenbogen

    SWAM support group on LinkedIn

    LinkedIn SWAM (Site Wide Auto Moderation) Support group on Google+