LinkedIn Gets The Message From Its Users

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Surely you've seen the blog post A Box You Want to Uncheck on LinkedIn by now - I think I saw it Tuesday and it quickly went viral.  In essence, LinkedIn is doing social advertising.  Unbeknownst to most users, they had opted in to have their name, photo, etc. appear in ads that their connections might see. 

The backlash was fast and furious.  I saw at least 10 tweets on it in my timeline.  5 of my Facebook friends posted on it.  And some of my LinkedIn connections posted it directly to LinkedIn.  People were furious.  Many people compared LinkedIn to Facebook, who are somewhat notorious for doing things like this.

Sometime yesterday, August 11, LinkedIn's Ryan Roslansky posted Privacy, Advertising, and Putting Members First to the LinkedIn blog.  They saw what was going on, and addressed it.  Roslansky starts with a bit of a defense of what LinkedIn did, and talks about the various ways that they notified members - the blog and a banner notes on the site.  He also talks about how they made it easy to opt out of this.  Finally, Roslansky says:

We could have communicated our intentions - to provide more value and relevancy to our members - more clearly.

He's right.  They could have.  I say LinkedIn made 2 big mistakes here:

  1. They really did the minimum they could to notify members.  I read the LinkedIn blog, but not every post.  I'm on the site almost every day, but not all members are.  How many members never saw it?  And certainly most members wouldn't have clicked on it.
  2. The biggest mistake was deciding to have everyone opt in.  They just should not have done that.  As a friend of mine said "Uncool, LinkedIn.  Uncool."

To LinkedIn's credit, I think they've taken a good first step (other than apologizing):  The ads will appear, but your picture won't appear on the ad.  Instead of having a picture of 3 of your connections who follow a business advertising on LinkedIn, it will just say "3 people in your network follow..." and then the name of the business (see the blog post linked above for an example).  That is a vast improvement. 

I think the perfect response would have been a little less defense and the announcement that they will opt everyone out from these social media ads. 

I unchecked the box as soon as I read the viral blog post on it.  With these changes, I might check it again.  Someday.  Not now.  Still annoyed.



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