Thursday, August 11, 2011

LinkedIn Using Your Name and Face for Advertising?

At Marketing Pilgrim, Frank Reed discusses LinkedIn's plan to use members' names and photographs to boost ad performance:
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.
Reed provides instructions on how to opt out - and you have to opt out as by default you're opted in. Reed comments,
Honestly, I am disappointed in LinkedIn doing this. I get what they are trying to do but to stoop to Facebook’s privacy practices level is not cool.
I think LinkedIn presently has more of an incentive than Facebook to play fast and loose with your privacy, or to try to imply your endorsement of advertiser products and services. In both cases it's about boosting revenue so that the companies can justify their absurd valuations. But Facebook can still withhold a lot of information, while LinkedIn is now publicly traded and must file annual reports and answer to shareholders.  LinkedIn got a huge boost from the publicity associated with its going public, but... have you used LinkedIn? Do you do so on a regular basis?

I've been signed up for years, but by far the most significant use I get of my membership is seeing a more detailed profile than is available to me without logging in. Most of the profiles I see haven't been updated for years. I expect that in some industries the networking opportunities offered by LinkedIn, and the ability to avoid having family and social content spill over into your professional profile, makes it more valuable. But if you're not in one of those industries, why bother? I heard from a guy who, prior to the announcement of LinkedIn's IPO, had forgotten that he had signed up and thought the periodic emails he received from LinkedIn were spam. Pay for additional features? You must be joking, right?

Since the IPO, LinkedIn seems a lot more like Facebook, across the board. The new layout seems more like Facebook. The proliferation of ads, leo more like Facebook. And using your profile information to try to advertise products to your network? Unquestionably like Facebook. Whether you consider the Facebook / LinkedIn "cool" or not depends, I suppose, on how much stock you own, but the fact remains that these companies have to do something to justify their absurd valuations - either that or face what I think is the inevitable realization that those valuations are unsustainable.

If I were a LinkedIn insider I would be thinking about how I could sell as much of my stock as possible without causing other investors to recognize what I was doing, just as some Facebook insiders attempted to sell significant amounts of their stock through the failed private investor program that valued the company at $50 billion. If I were with either company I would look at Google Plus and worry - not that it's going to become quickly dominant, but that Google can use Google Plus as a loss leader and won't have to engage in the tricks, gimmicks, avalanche of ads and disrespect of privacy that appear to be a significant part of the business model for stand-alone social networks. People only have so much attention to spread around, and we can already see a litany of dead and dying social networks displaced by Facebook.

<strong>Update</strong>: LinkedIn has modified its policies in the face of the negative publicity, <a href="">but to Reed</a> there's no reason to trust them in the future.

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