Why social media need to treat their “products” better
I recently received an email offering me a 1-month access to the LinkedIn Premium services free of charge, as an act of gratitude for my long-lasting loyalty to the platform. Having accepted the gift, I filled in all the necessary information, and then I was asked to provide the site with credit card details. At that particular moment, I was sure there was a catch somewhere, although no matter how hard I tried, I didn’t manage to find it. I searched my account thoroughly, checked every setting available and reviewed my credit card’s details but still, there was nothing suspicious to be found.
Fast forward a month and I’m shocked to discover that my credit card, that particular one I had used for LinkedIn, had been charged with an amount of approximately 12 euros. I quickly checked my emails and yes, there it was: the confirmation from the part of LinkedIn that the money for the next month of my subscription in their Premium program had been successfully extracted from my account. Yes, thank you for letting me know! I quickly checked the email and it didn’t take me long to discover the opt out button. Of course I got myself unsubscribed from the service but the transaction had already been completed; the damage was done.
I felt both stupid and betrayed. If I, a computer literate and tech savvy individual, was not able to locate this hidden charge (although at least I figured out that that there was actually a catch – someone else might not even have noticed the extracted amount), how on earth could somebody less accustomed to the digital culture ever find out until after having paid for the first month of a service he never asked for? At the same time, I was given a reality check: for me, LinkedIn was the most reliable and mature social platform, and yet it let me down. I don’t want to play down LinkedIn Premium; it is a really interesting services package but it is not applicable to every user and certainly not me, since I am not even actively looking for a job at the moment.
My distress grew even bigger when I read the service’s FAQ where it was clearly stated that reimbursing was not an option. Of course I made haste contacting LinkedIn, explaining what the situation was and making it clear that I was going to share this regretful experience on the various social media platforms I am active on. Their response was pretty fast: within a few hours I was reimbursed the amount and received an apology email from the service. All’s well that ends well then? Unfortunately not for me. Why did this charge have to be made in the first place? Why should my faith in the LinkedIn service be wavered in such a way? Why, for the sake of just 12 euros, LinkedIn decided to turn me from a loyal member to a disappointed customer?
LinkedIn is available for free and while this is regarded in a rather positive way, it perplexes things in terms of product identification a bit. If you’re not paying for it, then you become the product and the product LinkedIn has to offer are its users. We are not the customers, we are the products and the company needs to treat us better. Because a company without customers is in trouble, but a company without anything to sell is doomed.