LinkedIn has been experimenting with new social ad formats that tell users when members of their network follow a given advertiser. LinkedIn has given users unprecedented control over whether they're included in these social ads, and has recently made a retreat on how the ads are presented.
The Social Ads
LinkedIn tentatively began experimenting with social ads, but only after giving users copious amounts of information about how to opt out of the program. Beyond providing a simple way to neither see nor have information shared with the new ad format, LinkedIn provided a banner ad that let users know about the experiment so they could make their decisions wisely.
Here's what the ads looked like:
LinkedIn has also been getting user feedback on their ad format, and decided to pull the names and images of users from the social ad format. The new ads look like this:
This sort of respect for privacy and opinions is certainly something that competitors (see: Facebook) haven't done in the past. The question is whether LinkedIn kowtowing to user demands is in the best interest of the community. Are LinkedIn users just wary of change, like so many? Or is it possible that people just aren't comfortable with having their snapshot shown in this professional setting?
And if they're not comfortable with it here, might users be uncomfortable with similar recommendations elsewhere. For example, social search features on both Bing and Google include the use of names and images similar to the initial LinkedIn format.
Is it specific to this social network? Are users fighting change? Or is this a format that Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, and others need to re-evaluate?