How to Avoid LinkedIn's Site Wide Automatic Moderation (SWAM)

Mark Lerner
Mark Lerner Director of Marketing, Oktopost

Posted on January 16th 2014

How to Avoid LinkedIn's Site Wide Automatic Moderation (SWAM)

As of January 2013, LinkedIn implemented a policy that has since taken on the acronym SWAM (Site Wide Automatic Moderation). The name SWAM was not officially given by LinkedIn – it was coined by the platform’s users, and has since stuck. The basic tenets of SWAM are that if a member of a LinkedIn Discussion Group is blocked and deleted in one group, he or she will automatically be marked for moderation in all other groups they belong to.

Often times, moderators of these other groups are not even aware that members of their group have been SWAM’d. SWAM has caused significant uproar in the LinkedIn community, angering both members and moderators of LinkedIn Discussion Groups.

The acronym “SWAM” was invented by social media strategist Mark Vang. According to Vang, “LinkedIn didn’t name this new feature and I found that describing it as… ‘that thing where a member gets his posts sent to moderation in all groups when he’s blocked in one group…’ is rather cumbersome”

Other than checking whether the majority of your posts actually went through to various Discussion Groups, there is no way of realizing if you’ve been “SWAM’d.” Additionally, it’s impossible to find out which Discussion Group moderator blocked and deleted you, or why.

The below message was sent to Discussion Group owners and moderators by the LinkedIn Group Product team.

Subject: New quality-control rules will start routing more contributors through Submissions Queue

Excerpt of Message: “Now whenever someone is blocked and deleted in one group, they are put on “Requires Moderation” in all of their existing groups so that their contributions will be routed to the Submissions Queue for review before displaying in their groups. Any group manager can of course flip such a person back to Free to Post within her own specific group if desired.”

Oktopost was created as a tool for distributing quality content. It is up to the user to leverage Oktopost in a way that provides value to the Discussion Groups they belong to. When distributing content – especially content that originates from your company’s blog or website, it is preferable for said content not to be overtly promotional. Content marketing, by definition, is focused on providing useful information to a potential customer – while avoiding a direct sales pitch.

When utilizing channels such as LinkedIn Discussion Groups for blatant promotional activities, you are putting your company’s reputation at risk.

On the whole, Oktopost users have fortunately been able to avoid this issue [by abiding to the group’s policies and regulations]. However, there are a few steps that everyone can follow to help protect your company’s LinkedIn profiles from being “SWAM’d.”

Follow the guidelines below to help maintain your company’s image in the LinkedIn community:

1. Be a Good Neighbor

Discussion Groups are about discussion. While they are generally the most effective channels for converting leads, it is important to establish yourself as a valued member of the Group. This can be achieved by asking, and responding to, conversations that are taking place in the Group.

One strategy to increase your standing in the community is to initiate discussions that are focused purely on engagement – without including links to any other sites. By creating an “Engagement Campaign” in Oktopost you can help establish yourself as a valued member of the group, while spurring useful engagement with potential leads. The Oktopost Social Inbox provides a perfect conduit for this type of engagement by enabling you to respond to any comment from one convenient location.

2. Stay Away from Overt Promotion

As mentioned earlier, Oktopost is solely the technology that enables the distribution of content across social media. It is up to you to check that your content provides value, and is not simply a hard sales pitch.

In terms of B2B marketing, particularly when it comes to leveraging social media, content marketing is the most effective strategy. Content marketing is meant to establish thought-leadership by providing potential customers with valuable information. Generating content that is strictly focused on sales pitches not only detracts from the full power of your content marketing, it can also put your company at risk for SWAM.

3. Before Joining, Read the Group Rules

Most LinkedIn Discussion Groups provide a list of rules, either in the “Group Rules” section, or within the overall description of the group. It is important to read these rules carefully. If, for example, the Group Rules state that comments should not include links, you should respect this to avoid potentially being “SWAM’d”.

4. Post the Right Content in the Right Group

Similar to reading the Group Rules, you should also read the Group’s description before deciding to post in it. Make sure the group relates to the content you are distributing. By posting content that is irrelevant to a certain Group, it is quite likely that you will be blocked and deleted.

The reasons for getting SWAM’d are varied; numerous blog posts and threads have been published on the topic. “How do I know if I have been SWAM’d?” you might ask. Well, LinkedIn provides no warning or indication of this – One way is to check whether the majority of your Discussion Group posts have been marked as “waiting for moderation.” If so, chances are you have been SWAM’d. If this happens, do not fret – you are not alone. There are many long-time LinkedIn users that have been flagged.

Strategies for Pushing Posts through to LinkedIn Discussion Groups

1. Contact the Owner or Moderator

Discussion Group moderators generally have “real life” jobs meaning they don’t have the time or resources to constantly check Groups and approve posts. As a best practice, it is advised to contact each Discussion Group manager and personally request that they can change your status to “Approved to Post.” This will essentially remove you from the moderation list for that Group. Please note that this will not affect any of your other Groups. More than likely you will get quite a few moderators responding positively indicating they have “Approved” you to post, however some will not answer or will give you a negative response.

2. Offer to Moderate the Group

You can take advantage of communicating with a Group Moderator by offering to help moderate. Chances are, moderators are unable to review all Group posts on a day-to-day basis. By becoming a Group manager, you can serve as the gate-keeper to all discussions, and ultimately boost your thought-leadership status.

3. Leave Existing Groups and Join New Ones

Getting blocked and deleted in one Group puts you in SWAM for all of your Groups. However, you will not be automatically marked for moderation in Groups that you joined after being SWAM’d. As a result, a good idea is to leave existing Groups, join new ones, and follow the tips above so that you won’t be SWAM’d again.

4. Create your Own Discussion Groups

Similar to requesting to moderate other groups, creating your own groups will enable you to be the gatekeeper. Beyond the promotional benefits this provides, it will also put you in direct contact with influential leaders in your field. With this, it’s important to note that managing your own group can be a lot of work. Chances are, you will end up having to deal with the SWAM issue from the other end, and need to go into the Group and “approve” members to post.

5. Put Out More Relevant Content that will Get Approved

This should be obvious, but even if you are SWAM’d, putting out quality content makes it more likely that moderators will approve your individual posts.

All things considered, LinkedIn still remains the number one tool for distribution and lead generation for B2B. What is important when using this powerful tool is that you stay mindful of the rules of the groups you are posting in. Most importantly, that the content you are distributing is of high quality, and relevant to the audience you are targeting.

Based on our experience and research, the development team here at Oktopost has come up with a few suggestions that we believe LinkedIn should take to heart:

  1. Give moderators the ability to remove posts, not just block/delete
  2. Have a “3 strikes system and you're out” system
  3. Warning sent to poster in group
  4. API allows for posting to jobs and promotions
  5. API allow for “listening” of groups, so members using API can be more active in discussions
  6. Create an appeals process wherein those LinkedIn users that have been SWAM’d can plead their case, and when appropriate, have their SWAM status removed.

Mark Lerner

Mark Lerner

Director of Marketing, Oktopost

At Oktopost, Mark has helped the B2B social media marketing platform establish itself as the go-to platform for B2B marketers to generate leads and measure ROI. Mark is a marketing expert with years of experience in the world of startups and social media. He has a BA in Psychology from Boston University and an MBA from Florida Atlantic University. 

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Comments

Mark - nice article. The meat of the actions you present are nicely described. SWAM is old news and most reputable owners and managers have moved way past these alarmist articles. I say alarmist, because if it makes any LinkedIn member sit up and realize what they are doing by posting, 'sharing', and otherwise taking up cyberspace with crap, good!

I also realize that such articles sell magazines, cause people to click through to articles, and otherwise build traffic. That's perfectly fine.

Hi Steve,

 

Thank you for your feedback. 

Unfortunately, many people I have spoken to (including moderators) seem to have never heard of SWAM. I feel that LinkedIn has done a very poor job of making it known. My intention wasn't to be alarmist, but rather let people know that SWAM exists and best-practices on how to avoid it. 

I honestly was somewhat surpised when I did some research on SWAM as, quite frankly, until recently I had never heard much about it. 

Do you agree that LinkedIn should do a better job at educating users about this policy?

Mark:

 

When changes are made at LinkedIn, it does seem like if the change isn't responsible for generating new members and revenue streams, they act and are very slow to react to the results of those actions.

I manage and moderate the largest HR professional group on LinkedIn. I used to send weekly lists of spammers that used fake pictures, names, and other things to slam many groups, especially Open groups, very poorly moderated groups, and groups where owners put them on Auto pilot and take the punitive actions of blocking and deleteing members - out of sight, out of mind. When LinkedIn reacted to a group of owners and managers in one of their own groups, SWAM was initiated over a year ago.

For those of us that are on top of our groups, SWAM is old news, and I can see when your look at the number of groups (well over 2 million), and apply the 90-9-1% rule to that group total, you ARE doing a service to the large numbers of people who have been affected by SWAM.

If you have been SWAM'd, and you can identify which group may have deleted you, get out of that group, and in the groups you really care about, contact the management of that group to let them know what you're story is. Since SWAM began about  a year ago, I've only had ONE group member of the 1 million collectively of the groups I help operate. I can easily change their permissions and will always do so when a jerk owner or manager SWAMs them. Most reputable group owners and managers will do this because they are using groups in the intended way that LinkedIn wants, and not a badge to boast about.

 

 

The system is absolutely horrendous, it places a huge burden on group admins and an even bigger burden on people who are "good neighbors", who participate, and follow all the rules. It only takes one error on the part of one person who isn't even paying attention or bothering to read exactly what someone has posted. This happened to me, I was a participant in many, many groups for years! I only post "information only" (military/veterans health) posts and/or comments or answers because people who are interested in doing business with you will go look at your profile, so you don't need to self-promote to groups. I joined a professional group (of the professional organization, of which I'm a member), ... my very first post in that group was a REPLY to a question which I had the answer to and posted it. Nothing at ALL concerning promotion or anything remotely close. Well, for whatever reason, the group admin  flagged it (she said, after I confronted her ... in private, of course, that she "had made a mistake and she was very sorry ..." Well, two years later .... it is absolutely absurd! Yes, group leaders can fix your settings, but some of them don't know how to, OR in very large groups, you can't get a hold of the group admin, and so on. If you join a group with subgroups, for EACH of those subgroups, the admin has to set the permissions. It's very unfair to group admins that the actions of ONE person can effect what happens in all the groups across the board. I've begged and pleaded with LinkedIn ....even sending them the type of info I post ....nope, won't help at all, "can't do anything"... which is garbage because they could if they wanted to. If LinkedIn wasn't as beneficial as it has been for me...I would have been out of there a long time ago. Meanwhile ...the real scammers and men looking for brides, etc. are still around. Somehow, they haven't landed in the "Swam" pool. Sorry is so long but I wanted to share a story I know others have. Message to group admins (which I am one of) be VERY careful about flaging! 

Hi Karen,

This is a story I have heard many times when researching SWAM. While good intentioned, it really only takes one group moderator (often times it can be a direct competitor in your industry) to basically ruin your ability to engage on LinkedIn, even if you are a well respected member of the community. 

I hope these tips help! 

Hi Mark,

Thank you! Yes, your tips are excellent although ultimately, the onus is on LinkedIn changing their idiotic policy (I should call it "lazy" policy, that's what it is!)

Hopefully, as more people read this (I've already shared), it will force LinkedIn to make very simple changes to this idiotic policy. I have a good friend who has a PAID account, she told me her experiences with customer support have been just as bad! 

..... and you hit the nail on the head re: last point in your message ;-) People/Group admins who abuse this policy should have their groups closed down if they don't replace themselves with people who behave professionally. 

Thanks again!

Karen

Hi Mark,

I have a question with regard to SWAM. Is it necessary for a person to be blocked and deleted from a group for him to be SWAM'd? I was SWAM'd but afterwards when I reviewed my list of groups I did not find myself deleted from any. If a discussion/comment had been flagged or my permissions changed to "requires moderation" would that result in me being SWAM'd as well?

Best,

Murtaza

Hi Murtaza,

This is a good questions, as I have read in some articles on this topic that those who are marked for moderation in a group will be SWAM'd, however according to the official announcement (as seen in my post), it only states that you must be blocked and deleted from a group. 

I think this confusion goes to the heart of the issue, which is the lack of transparancy. 

Hi Mark,

Couldn't agreee with you more! This is an unfortunate situation. Hopefully, the traction gained through this article and others like this will serve as a wake up call for LinkedIn and help get a revision of policy or atleast shed a little more light on the current policy in place.

Thanks,

Murtaza 

I was SWAMmed by Linkedin almost a year ago.  Supposedly I was deleted and banned from 3 groups. However, at the time that I was SWAMmed, I was a member of the maximum 50 groups, so I attempted to join a new group and was unable to do so -- because I was a member of the maximum 50 groups.  

Given this circumstance, it would seem that a mistake was made in my case.  But when I pointed out this fact to LinkedIn, I was put off. The "helpful" advice I received was to write to 47 other group owners for permission to post (I own 3 groups and can post freely in all of them.)  As I have neither the time nor inclination to write to 47 other group owners, I made a unilateral decision not to comment on any group discussion boards except for those for the three groups that I own.

After the announcement of the policy change in January, I attempted to post a comment on a group discussion board, but discovered that I was still SWAMmed.  I sent a ticket to the Help Desk and was informed that since I was SWAMmed under the old policy, that the new policy did not apply to me.  I was again advised to write to 47 other group owners to request permission to post, something which I have no intention of doing.  So my policy of posting only to my own groups stands.

I have discovered that there are benefits to being SWAMmed. As it turns out, being a lurker is less time consuming than attempting to maintain active group membership. And since I have a free LinkedIn account,the benefits still outweigh the annoyances -- at least for the time being.  But I have read reports of people with premium accounts who have been SWAMmed as well, and who have maintained their premium accounts -- which I find astonishing. I would *N-E-V-E-R* contract with LinkedIn for a paid account as long as this asinine, oh-so-vulnerable-to-abuse policy remains in place.

Hi Aubrey,

 

The good news is that, in the last few weeks, it seems LinkedIn has changed the SWAM policy to no longer be indefinite. When you are swamd you will see a blue notification on the side of your screen when you are in a group tell you that you have been put in moderation in all your groups for a period of time. It seems that this period is about 1-2 weeks, and then you are back to normal. 

More of a slap on the wrist than before. 

This change in policy on SWAM is of no benefit to me.  I was informed by LinkedIn earlier this month that since I was SWAMmed under the old policy, that I will remain SWAMmed indefinitely.  Therefore, as I stated in my original comment, I will only post on the discussion boards for the three groups that I own. 

I should add that I am considering leaving LinkedIn altogether.  Doing so would, among other consequences, necessitate shutting down my three groups, one of which has nearly 9,000 members, another of which has nearly 5,000 members. I hate doing that, but it is something that it is a descision that I am very close to making.

Interesting, I haven't heard of that happening. As far as I know, the new policy goes for everyone, even those SWAMmed previously. I might be wrong though, have you tried posting to your groups recently?