What is Link Litter? And How to Avoid It.

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Google+ is a moving target of ideas, communication and sharing. As the platform builds and grows, the active plussers have taken strong moves towards best practices and are creating guidelines with terminology to fit the evolving social mediums.

One new term I learned this week from Shawn Welch via Evo Terra is link litter. I believe that Evo, who manages several Google+ communities, may have coined this phrase.

What is link litterWhat is link litter? 

Dropping a link with no explanation or text. Just the title of the article and the link.

Why is link litter bad?

It doesn't encourage engagement or gather interest. The link is dropped and bam just sits there gathering dust.

From Evo's Digital Publishing Communities guidelines, “No link litter. If you've found an interesting article that you think the community needs to see, please share it! But we want to know why you think it's share worthy. Not all of us have the time or inclination to click through and see if it means anything to us personally. So write a paragraph or two (yes, a paragraph, not sentence) that summarizes why your were intrigued.”

This got me thinking about why it's even necessary to ask people not to do this. I believe it's because on Twitter, you have only 140 characters to communication your message and people make a quick judgment to read or click through. On Google+ and Facebook, you have more characters to make your case: Google+ limit is 100,000 characters per post and Facebook is 64,206 characters. Consider where you are sharing your content before sharing an article. Link litterers are either being lazy or spamming.

More here: Social media post length? Use the proper size for the win.

With a longer post style comes more expectations from your audience. They want to know why they should leave Google+ or Facebook to read the post. This is true of creating interest for all your social media posts, not just in communities. I see many posts with this link litter style with no +1, no comments and certainly no sharing. Sharing style needs to be adjusted for this longer form of communication especially on Google+ where people are in communities to have deeper conversations and learn.

A thought from Mark Traphagen from Google+ about the difference between link litter and spam: “spam is any link posted to a community that is obviously irrelevant to that community and is posted with only some commercial intent. Link dumping is posting a link which may be relevant, but adding nothing to it – either a comment to help us understand its importance or a question to get discussion going.”

Shawn Welch did a wonderful job of bringing this style into the APE Community for writers.  When he has a long post, he writes everything he wants to say, with links and then at the bottom of the post, he adds a TL;DR short summary. TL;DR means too long, didn't read and signals to the people who may not have read the whole post to the main point that he was making in his post.

Using this longer form of post style in communities and on regular posts builds interest as well as reaches the people who want to stay on the platform giving them the option of going to read more at the website linked in the post.

Here's an example of a post that created with the long style post The Self-Publishing Revolution, I opened with the title, an un-shortened link, a brief description, a few points, a quote and some hashtags with a full size photo. This received +27, six shares and four comments.


The bottom line is, if you are taking the time to share something, take the time to post it properly. Don't just drop link litter, it causes people to tune out and ignore your post. It can also get you banned from communities. Think about why you want people to read it and give them a taste of the post. Build interest and create the opportunity for people to discuss your post on it's own.

From Lynette Young on her G+ post sharing this article “Digital communications isn't about dumping content to get hits, it's about presenting content to entice readers to value what you share.”

Provide value with your content and you'll see that people will be interested in talking about it. Give it a try!

Ryan Hanley created a video called How to NOT be a Spammer on Google+ as well.

More tips here: Five Easy Steps to Make the Perfect Google+Post

Article by Peg Fitzpatrick

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  1. Great post and a lot of food for thought for many people.
    I know that sometimes one is tired and writing any thoughts on top of a link share can feel, well tiring. 🙂
    Been there, done that. But I’m ashamed of the practice…
    Will mend my ways, Peg!

    1. @Jaana Nystrom I totally get the tired thing! I think on personal pages people do it occasionally and it’s fine, everyone has their own way of working their social media but in communities, it’s just not as acceptable. I just wanted people to know what it was so they could make good choices and not get booted from a community. Maybe they really meant well and wanted to share but accidentally spammed. I think that does happen.
      Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Just what I said on G+, blame it on Twitter where we are restricted by 140 chars and huge number of followers, we tend to not click the links and just share it. Same extends to other platforms, where we make decisions based on the title (see how many articles encourage you to right better titles) and that’s about it.
    And other side of the coin is, if I give a gist of the post, very few would bother to click the link. While I would love to see a description that adds value to the post and not just ‘taste’ of the post!

    1. @MalharBarai Good titles do make all the difference, agreed!
      There’s a fine balance between giving a little of the post to gather interest for the post and posting so much that people won’t click the link. I can tell you that since I changed the way that I post, with more on the G+ post that my blog traffic from Google+ has really increased.

  3. Awesome post, Peggy, from a master poster!
    This is yet another example of quality over quantity for the win. If you take the time to post the right way, more sharing, more engagement and more general all-around goodness will follow.

    1. @PaulBiedermann Thanks, Paul!
      I ‘m really just loving the way the Plussers step up and form their world, it’s amazing to be a part of this new communication.

      1. @PegFitzpatrick We’ve been doing the same with Twitter and Facebook too and pushing the potential of those platforms further, but somehow G+ seems to be a more professionally assembled space for more collaborative and rationally organized progress in this regard.

        1. @PaulBiedermann Agreed. I do think that Google+ and Facebook are similar in regards to how to post most effectively. I think that G+ is creating the environment they want and I don’t think it’s happened as effectively on Facebook. The Facebook groups are good but people didn’t go crazy for them like Google+ communities.

  4. This is why I am enjoying G+ so much. It is so difficult to get anything out of Twitter these days with people spamming my feed with links and useless retweets. On G+ I feel like I can engage on just about any post from the people I am connected with on there.

    1. @tylerscotthess Exactly! Once you realize that you can interact with all the posts, it’s great. At first, I was worried about hijacking conversations on G+ but that’s the whole point much like blog commenting.

  5. I believe G+ is engaging for a number of reasons, but the groups are the best. I am just now beginning to use and understand them.  I have stopped doing groups on LI because it has lead to spam in the past, but G+ has potential to be really great.  Litter and spam are hard to distinguish from each other.  Great points.

    1. @pammorse1 I completely agree. The communities are what have brought me back as an active, weekly/semi-daily G+ user.

    2. @pammorse1 A great definition of the difference between spam and link litter from Mark Traphagen “spam is any link posted to a community that is obviously irrelevant to that community and is posted with only some commercial intent. Link dumping is posting a link which may be relevant, but adding nothing to it — either a comment to help us understand its importance or a question to get discussion going.”
      Glad you’re liking G+ more now, Pam!

  6. Yikes! I do this. I guess I need to work harder to add something to the conversation!
    Thanks for pointing it out, Martini!

  7. Boy, just the idea of “link litter” seems stupid. Every word in your writing should have relevance. I put in links to other columns of mine all the time, but they relate to the inherent content of the present blog! Hey Peg, how about that year-old 12-most of mine getting such good numbers. That was cool!

    1. @BruceSallan Link litter isn’t adding link to your writing but dropping the link only on Facebook or Google+. 
      And it’s awesome that your 12 Most is getting traffic.

  8. Thought that was worms in the picture – clicked over from a share I saw – I see the chain links now that is it bigger – Link Litter is everywhere – Good Article Peg – I need to look at this more as well!

  9. This is a great article, Peggy!  I love the coined term, “link litter”. Paul put it well:  “If you take the time to post the right way, more sharing, more engagement and more general all-around goodness will follow.”  Thank you for posting this!

  10. This is fantastic! I love the term link litter! It seems rampant especially on Twitter to me. I regularly share links to posts I’ve read that I think have true value to my community but I will add in a few words telling them why. On G+, I’m realizing that there needs to be even more. I think people have gotten sucked into this mindset that they have to constantly be playing the reciprocity game in order to get their content shared. All it’s done is led to meaningless clutter that we all have to sift through. And, I believe it’s making it more difficult for getting the stuff that really does say something seen. I just wrote a post on this and I’m advocating for a social media revolution.

  11. PegFitzpatrick Thanks so much for including my video in your awesome post here… This is a very important topic because many people don’t realize the culture of Google Plus. (just fyi, it’s Hanley, not Handley).
    Ryan H.

  12. Useless post with no solution, only identical problems given everywhere and every one. Shared video also has little or no information.

    I don’t know, how could you say yourself so called expert !

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