To Whom it May Concern,
We have never met but I am an entrepreneur and frequent LinkedIn user. I hope we have the opportunity to meet someday, possibly under different circumstances, but it pains me to write this letter. I, as I assume many others, deeply respect LinkedIn and better like my world with LinkedIn at my side. Yet when I see an injustice it is within me to bring it to light.
Here’s a little background: A few weeks ago I went to my LinkedIn profile and for some unknown reason decided to check my settings. As I accessed the settings page a specific section caught my eye, titled “Manage Social Advertising“. I was curious to find out what actually this was and how it possibly would be set, so I clicked on it. Next, I observed being automatically opted-in for this:
LinkedIn may sometimes pair an advertiser’s message with social content from LinkedIn’s network in order to make the ad more relevant. When LinkedIn members recommend people and services, follow companies, or take other actions, their name/photo may show up in related ads shown to you. Conversely, when you take these actions on LinkedIn, your name/photo may show up in related ads shown to LinkedIn members. By providing social context, we make it easy for our members to learn about products and services that the LinkedIn network is interacting with.
As a consumer this took me back since I (obviously) didn’t choose for my image and actions be used for advertising nor do I remember being notified of such changes to my profile. So I wrote the post FYI – LinkedIn Is Using Your Photo And Your Actions In Social Advertising and posted it July 13th on Business Insider. It got a few hundred views then faded away for the time being, I assume much to the liking of the LinkedIn management.
Interestingly and without explanation, approximately two weeks later it came back with fiery. Someone viewing my other posts must have seen it and tweeted it out because (as of this writing) 17,300 people viewed it within two days, commented, tweeted, and passed it on through LinkedIn and Facebook. The response was quite amazing – most people had no idea this was going on. Let me make it more clear – almost 20,000 people viewed this post without it being posted anywhere on a main media page. All the views came from viral shares. This should tell you something.
And now the cover up: The social advertising issue was really not that big to me, it has been a bridge every social network has had to cross at some time. Most worrisome was the way LinkedIn (you) handled this little forest fire. Ironically, the FYI article was being passed and shared through LinkedIn so often is was “trending” on LinkedIn Today, your news and information source. It is obvious why LinkedIn chooses to highlight total shares for each article, as it is the little nudge we need to click on more articles of interest. It generates more views, more shares, more page views and more engagement.
So why, when viewing on LinkedIn Today, did you remove the shares number ONLY for this specific article? And why, even though it was one of the most shared articles of the day, was it buried deep within the Business Insider area of the IT section? Is there something you are trying to hide? The screenshots below capture your cover up red handed – in fact the incriminating article is the ONLY one without a shares number on it (see for yourself below). It’s as if an engineer was told “whatever you do, make sure that article is not highlighted and take away the shares number so it will fade away as fast as possible.”
Why, when viewing on the iPhone app did it show only 8 shares when in actuality there was more like 700 shares at the time? Eight!Seriously? This is absurd and too convenient to be a “bug”. Yet you have no problem highlighting recent articles about the new job application button feature added on LinkedIn. Those were front and centre on the LinkedIn Today main page with total shares visibly highlighted.
Are you gaming the system behind our backs so any information that passes through on to us is only beneficial to you as a business? Are you trying to control what we see and read? If so, this is a major violation not only of our privacy but our trust. I thought we were way beyond 1984.
Look, I understand you are trying to make a business out of a social network. This is not easy and quite frankly, now as a public company you are doing a great job at it. My aim is to help you make LinkedIn better and more transparent, not bring down the house. I want to continue to use LinkedIn; but I also want to continue to TRUST LinkedIn. These two instances have indeed left a deep bruise. I think something is going on here and tens of thousands of us are due an explanation.
Nick Hughes and All Your Loyal Users