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.