LinkedIn logo pen (photo by Sheila Scarborough)LinkedIn Groups could be a lot more valuable to their members if there weren’t so many jerks – or genuinely clueless people – showing up who only drop links to their own blog posts, or promote their own webinars.

Call me crazy, but….

There should be discussions in the Discussions.

What is the answer to this problem?

Clear rules and self-policing, before your Group members leave in disgust.

Make Rules Crystal-Clear

I recently gained Manager access to a Group for a professional organization – the Association for Women in Communications – and these are the Rules (or guidelines or whatever you wish to call them) that I’ve created and posted.  I also sent out a Group Announcement email with them, as well.

They’re in plain English; feel free to tailor them to your own Group as needed.

“This is a professional development and discussion group for the AWC (Association for Women in Communications.) You do not have to be an AWC member, or a woman, to participate.

The rules are: be nice. Bring value to the discussions. Be helpful. Encourage one another. Highlight trends. Share case studies and resources.

If all you do is show up and drop links to your own webinars, blog posts or job info, expect to have your items flagged “Promotion” or “Jobs.” ANY Group member can flag items, and should feel free to do so. Self-policing is the most effective way to keep spammers at bay.

Keep self-promoting, and you’ll get a private warning from the Group Manager (currently the AWC HQ staff in Alexandria, VA and Sheila Scarborough, member of the AWC National Board of Directors.)

Keep doing it after a warning, and we’ll block you from the Group.

Obviously, if you roll in here with abusive, sexist, racist or otherwise obnoxious language, you’ll get blocked as well.

We’re professional communicators from around the world. Let’s make this Group worthy of our abilities. Questions? Email or Sheila at   Thanks.”

Hat tip to Liz Strauss for the “be nice” rule – it’s worked well for years on her Successful Blog.

Anyone can “Flag as Promotion” or “Flag as Job”

In most Groups, anyone – not just the Group Manager – can flag a post as “Promotion,” “Job” (either looking for one or announcing one) or “Inappropriate.”

Make sure you enlist the support of all Group members in moving the above items out of Discussions and to the sections where they belong.

Promotion is fine….in the Promotions section.

Job-hunting is fine….in the Jobs section.

Reaction to the Guidelines

Within 30 minutes of posting clear rules and emailing all Group members about them, this arrived:

“THANK YOU!  I  quickly stopped reading the group and stopped notifications because of all the spam. I did not leave because I hoped it would be redeeming itself in the future.  THANK YOU for putting up guidelines.”

Also, this question:

“What about posting notices of purely social networking events? I’m the president of [redacted professional org, not AWC] and from March to October, we hold “Dutch treat” casual get-togethers for people in the Chicago area. No speakers, no recruitment, no business pitches, just an excuse to go out for drinks and appetizers with others in the profession.”

My response was that such announcements still need to go into Promotions, particularly for a non-AWC organization in a city where we don’t have a chapter (yet.) I told the sender that my number one priority right now is fostering discussions, not announcements, however “nice to know” they might be.

Sometimes, you’ve gotta be the hardass. It’s usually worth it.

(If you like this post, please consider subscribing to the blog via RSS feed or by email – the email signup box is on the right sidebar near the Search box. Thanks!)