Link and Leave: The junk mail of social media

Here's how it goes.

You’ve written a blog post, started a crowdfunding campaign, have a photo or video you’d love to share.... Next you post just the link without an explanation, or write something like: “My latest post.” or “Inspiring.” or “Interesting.”

The same link, with the same nondescript / non-customized blurb, appears in several groups at the same time in the same way.

So what's the problem?

It's bad etiquette. Here's why:

If successful, an online group becomes a community. A place to connect, learn, build, and grow relationships. When new members join, they see robust dialogue and conversation taking place. Members know it is a place to go to get feedback from those who share an interest.

A group that is a bunch of loose links appears to be an unkempt garden overtaken by weeds. We’ve all seen those communities. It looks like the moderator has not done a very good job of keeping the garden of dialogue blossoming. Instead it looks a bit like a graveyard with a bunch of dead links planted in the ground and silence ruling the land.

To avoid this, you can share guidelines addressing this in the description / about sections and also pinned / placed as a lead post every so often as a reminder.

However, even when doing that, the "link and leave" original poster (OP) often ignores the guidelines. Instead, they zoom into the group plant their link and leave. In the 21st century it is not unusual to skip directions, but when the faux paux is pointed out, rather than provide context, the OP can become angry or offended with harsh responses such as:

“Sorry, I obviously mistook this for a group that cared about innovative practices. My mistake.”

“Wow, I recommended this group to some friends, but I had no idea this was such an uptight community.”


Because they had no investment in the group, what happens more often than not, is crickets. They weren’t posting to be a part of the community, but rather to promote their own agenda.

The solution

A group is a community; a good group acts as a personal learning network. There is not much learning going on when posters don’t take the time to dialogue with those in the group but rather come in and bestow ideas to an online community they haven’t taken the time to get to know.

Here are some ideas for doing that:

  1. When you share in a group, let members get to know you.
  2. Don't just initiate original posts, respond to posts others have shared.
  3. If someone comments on your post, let them know you saw it and explain why you appreciate their feedback.
  4. Explain why you care about what you are contributing and that you care enough to understand why they might too.
  5. If you’re interested in a dialogue about what you posted, indicate what you were hoping that might be. If you're not interested in discussing what you posted, think twice about if it is worth posting.

Posting in a large group may push numbers to your blog, dollars to your project, or likes/members to your online space; it may even generate real interest here and there. But online courtesy requires that you hang around, help fertilize discussion, get to know your audience and learn from their responses. Etiquette also requires that you return the favor, contributing to discussions on other group members’ ideas and writings. It’s not that much time out of your day, and the payoff is that great cross-fertilization of ideas that make social media so important.

Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text.

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.

Lisa Nielsen (@InnovativeEdu) has worked as a public-school educator and administrator since 1997. She is a prolific writer best known for her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator. Nielsen is the author of several books and her writing has been featured in media outlets such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Tech & Learning.  

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.