If you've listened to the podcast for any length of time, you know the name Leicester.
If you haven't listened to the podcast...well, you should. But that's beside the point.
I want to tell a story that I haven't fully told until now...but I think it's the right time.
LinkedIn launched back in 2003. I was a member since 2006-ish, before Microsoft got their hands on it. At the time, there was hardly anyone on it and you didn't use it for regular social media; you used it for business networking.
It was the "clean" alternative to Facebook. Which was part of its appeal.
The main use for me was keeping track of all of my technical certifications and making my resume (in "streamlined" form) available for recruiters who needed my services. This actually worked out quite well in 2010 and thereafter; at least three of the opportunities I worked at came through LinkedIn.
All of this changed in June 2022. Prior to this, I'd run ad campaigns on at least two separate occasions, never large scale, never anything more than to drive traffic to a website. No product to sell, no pitch. Never an issue. In July, I ran a similar campaign, same concept, to drive traffic to a website.
I get notified that the campaign is running. Mind you, this exact same campaign was run on Reddit. More on that later.
Within a few minutes I get an alert that the campaign is halted. Figured it was a payment problem. But then I get a message saying the account is restricted. I notice that the name on this alert is not correct - the name on the LinkedIn profile was correct - so somewhere in their internal system, they have an incorrect name. That's Flag #1.
I then get another alert asking to send ID documents, which I do - but of course, they won't match whatever internal data. Okay, so it turns out they have data from when the account was first created and not updated data from current, but they refuse to accept the definitive documentation (their own website reflecting the same name as the documentation). So then I jump through whatever hoops.
A month later they respond saying they've "verified" me, then proceed with what I can only describe as bullying:
|Your account has been restricted due to violations of our Advertising Policies - https://www.linkedin.com/legal/ads-policy. Your recent ads do not meet our Terms and Conditions.
You can appeal this restriction by replying to this email with your explicit consent that you will abide by the LinkedIn User Agreement, Professional Community Policies and LinkedIn Jobs Terms and Conditions.
In other words, LinkedIn wants you to admit guilt even if you've done nothing wrong. Because again, this is the same type of campaign I'd done twice before without incident. The account had never been warned, had never violated anything because it's barely used.
So no, there would be no admission of guilt because there was no such violation of any policy. Because it's the same campaign that had run without issue.
Now, I can't log into the account at all, so I can't view the case status or history nor can I interact with the case ticket directly or upload anything. It's all over email. They don't do phone, either. Because they're cowards.
My response (which still met the standard anyway):
I have ALWAYS agreed to what’s in the LinkedIn User Agreement, Professional Community Policies and LinkedIn Jobs Terms and Conditions since I signed up back before you likely even started working there and continue to do so and have NEVER violated anything in there.
2 days later, they indicate they're "forwarding" the message to "another group" for "additional review". 2 days after that, a reply that they're "experiencing higher than normal case volume". Of course they are - their software arbitrarily takes actions that waste staff time.
3 days later, a response that the case has been "transferred to a different team within LinkedIn for more accurate handling".
Same day, the same generic response about violating terms and the same bullying request. So basically nobody read what I wrote and just pushed a button.
I respond and again repeat my same statement.
A day later, same generic response about "forwarding" to "another group" for "additional review", then another generic "transferred to a different team". So at this point, it's clear (as I work technology) that they're just ping-ponging my issue between teams and at no point is anyone actually reviewing the ad content to confirm that there was no violation, nor are they reading my response which is an acknowledgement to what they want, just not "exactly" how they want it.
3 days later, a repeat of the "transferred to a different team" email.
3 days pass with no response. I reply to the same email ticket (same case #) and again repeat that this needs to get fixed. I get an auto reply that they are "experiencing higher than normal support volumes", then another auto email that says it has been "transferred to a different team".
Over this same day, I get about 6 auto emails repeating the above back and forth: "transferred to a different team", "forwarding" to "another group", "transferred to a different team", etc. back-to-back. That afternoon, another repeat of the "account has been restricted" message. All automated emails.
At this point it's getting silly, so I reply back with the following which directly acknowledges what they're asking (just not "exactly" the way they want):
YES YOU HAVE EXPLICIT CONSENT THAT I WILL ABIDE BY WHAT I HAVE ALWAYS ABIDED BY, INCLUDING THIS SITUATION WHERE I DIDN’T VIOLATE ANYTHING. I WILL NOT ACKNOWLEDGE ANY VIOLATION IN YOUR FAULTY REVIEW, I PROVIDE THIS ACKNOWLEDGEMENT SOLELY UNDER DURESS AND YOUR IMPROPER THREATS.
A few minutes later, I get an email from a different thread that says:
|Thank you for reaching out. In order to assist you I will need you to respond that you agree to these terms of service. I am very sorry the attachment you sent was not recieved (sic)
I already responded with that acknowledgement AND the attachment they're talking about is the ID doc - which was done over a month prior AND reviewed.
SO now, it's clear that two sides of their house aren't talking to each other and one side is making an arbitrary decision without any basis.
I first contact the Better Business Bureau. LinkedIn responded to them saying "we'll contact him" - then sent me a letter repeating the above. As in, LinkedIn refused the mediation process that BBB provides. Unfortunately, when a company pays BBB for their category, BBB will not do what they normally would do, which is to publicly note that a company refused to participate in mediation so that it's clear to anyone looking that the company is at fault. Them "contacting" is sufficient, as far as BBB is concerned.
I then send a letter to the CA Attorney General's office, including the email history as well as the correspondence with BBB.
Their "Legal Policy Enforcement Consultant" (keyword consultant, not employee) "Nicole Howard" lied to the Attorney General saying she was "waiting for acknowledgement" (goes back to bullying, i.e. say exactly what we tell you to say even though you provided copies of emails proving you said what we needed to hear you say).
I send it back to the CA Attorney General and again provide copies of the acknowledgement emails she claims she was waiting for, with dates in the past.
They send a response with her email included saying essentially that she "shows no record of my email". Which is a lie, because I included copies of the email with the Case # included.
That was September. I emailed "Nicole Howard" directly to forward my acknowledgement directly. Heard nothing.
Now, here's the funny part.
Ever since this happened, I was able to sign two clients where, at least during 2020-2021, the LinkedIn account was doing more harm than good, because of an increase in spam with companies reaching out about endeavor opportunities. The quality of outreach improved the moment there was no longer a LinkedIn account for them to search against - all they can go off of is history, and I'm well known around the industry.
The main downside of not having LinkedIn is a loss of access to certain contacts from the past. Which I've accepted not having.
This was a story that needed to be told, and I want to be out there to say one thing: LinkedIn will bully you at their leisure, and it only takes one person who apparently holds the keys. You can't get around them, you can't get above them. That's bad business and makes me not want to do business with them ever again.
I talked earlier about Reddit. Let me contrast with that experience because it happened at around the same time for the same exact campaign.
Reddit paused the ad run and sent me an email with concerns. The concern wasn't valid; they misread the ad. I responded and told them this. At no point did I lose access to my Reddit account.
The same day, I got a reply saying they were looking into it.
The same day, I got another reply stating that there was a violation of TOS, with the specific section, which was around Financial Services, but the recourse was simply to work with a Sales Representative. Now, the ad in question had nothing to do with Financial Services - and that was my reply.
The same day, I got a reply saying they were looking into it.
2 days later, I got a reply saying they reviewed their policy and realized that it was basically poorly worded, rewrote the policy and approved my ad. They thanked me, the ad ran. Never had a problem with them since. They sent me a survey about the experience. I read the change they made; it's much more open-minded and doesn't just attack specific words or terms, it has to basically be specifically around a financial service, which my ad never was. We're a podcast. That's all we are. If I do a podcast episode talking about money, that's not "financial services", it's a podcast. Now, if the ad is telling people there's a way to make money, that's different. That's not what we do and never have.
How Reddit handled the situation is how LinkedIn needed to handle the situation. Actually read the ad and understand that you got it wrong. Your policy is probably screwed up and whichever overpaid "consultant" is being empowered to interpret it wrong, then lie to the Attorney General and the BBB and simply not care about customers.
This blog isn't designed to shame anyone. It's designed to educate folks on how things should go with customer interaction.
- Don't take months to get to an answer. Get it done within a few days.
- When you get it wrong, admit it.
- Fix the problem. Don't assume your policies are perfect.
- Stop relying excessively on automation. Get humans in the mix to actually LOOK at the issue.
I don't need the LinkedIn account. I created (custom code) my own portfolio page and I direct people there that need to get information. It'll do for what I need. I was able to track down and recall all of my various certifications anyway. However...if LinkedIn decides to fire the people involved, issue a mea culpa, and set things back up the way they were with an attest that they'll leave my harmless account alone going forward unless multiple humans review whatever, we can talk about it. Other than that, they can have it, and they can die off like so many others who alienated their customer base.