I recently lamented the decreasing quality of my LinkedIn experience, which has since been accelerated by the explosion of questionable “experts” offering webinars via LinkedIn groups.  But although my own experience is more spam than signal, I also realize that there are ways to use LinkedIn effectively, and it would be hypocritical not to shed some light on those who are “doing it right.”

Signal-to-Spam Ratio

To me, the differentiating characteristic between a valuable LinkedIn group one that I can live without is the ratio of useful information to self-promotional spam from other group members.

One such example of a group gone wrong is the Online Marketing, Web Analytics, and E-Commerce group.  In their case, 2 of the 5 most recent discussions posted to the group are solicitations for “get rich from home” businesses.  The group’s broad focus may be part of the reason it’s being dragged down by spammers, but it’s also becoming increasingly difficult to find serious conversations about “online marketing” without stumbling into a den of Multi-Level Marketers who monopolize the conversation (and the search results).

On the other hand, two groups that still provide more signal than spam are Social Media Marketing and Social Media Today — neither of which have quite so many solicitations in their recent discussions.  Not that they’re immune to such infection, but they do a better job of inoculating themselves against it.

So what’s the difference?

Since spammers will always sneak through the door that’s open widest, the continued value of these groups is due primarily to the anti-spam vigilance of their group moderators.  In fact, SMM’s Michael Crosson recently trotted out a 9-month old discussion called “COMMERCIAL OVER-POSTING IS PROHIBITED, PERIOD!” which serves as a warning to group members that they can expect to be banned if their posts are obviously too self-promotional or spammy in nature.

Not that the hijacking of groups by spammers happens without a fight.  Case in point, OMWAEC’s Lars Johansson just posted a call for volunteer moderators to help mitigate the spam that’s threatening to render his group valueless.  But, as he mentions, such moderation requires the time and effort of volunteers who are interested in maintaining the quality of a group in their spare time.  Which is difficult because spambots don’t need sleep.

Nonetheless, anything worth having is also worth fighting for.  So if you do enjoy your LinkedIn experience, consider volunteering to moderate the forums and groups you find beneficial, because expecting someone else to guard the door is a strategy that’s destined to fail.