As a marketer, I thought the era of putting asterixes behind special offers to your customers was sort of over.

I thought web 2.0, consumer power and customer advocacy kinda put an end to that.

But it seems that Linkedin, a web 2.0 company worth $9 Billion is still in the business of making misleading offers to their own customers.

Today I received an email from Linkedin with a headline saying: ‘Try Linkedin Premium free for 1 month’.

When I opened the mail I saw what you see below: “Give your productivity a boost – for free!”

Finally, the sub headline saying:

Try LinkedIn Premium free for 1 month *

That innocent little asterix made me very alert.

Linkedin misleading offer free premium

The problem I have with it this is:

‘Try for free’ is different to ‘Buy with discount’

I am already a Linkedin customer. I have a ‘Basic’ (free) account. So, if Linkedin offers me to ‘Try Linkedin Premium’ I consider it a test ride. Great. I’ll take her out for a spin. And if I like it, I’ll buy.

But instead of trying for free – what that asterix means is – you are actually offered to ‘Buy Linkedin Premium & then get one month free’. Of course, you have to go all the way to the end of the fine print (see ‘Terms & Conditions’ above) to find out that your trial will automatically roll over in a paid premium account.

So I am buying. Not trying. And it feels misleading.

And it goes on:

InMail: Contact anyone on LinkedIn without an introduction – response guaranteed! **

Two asterixes! What kind of non-sense is that?!

‘Response guaranteed’ is different to ‘Refund if no response’

The Terms & Conditions (see image above) say that “If you don’t get a response to your InMail message within 7 days, LinkedIn will return that InMail credit to your account. Unused InMails will roll over and accumulate for up to 3 months while you are a Premium member.”

Ah. OK. So, you get a refund. But if you don’t use the credits within 3 months, you lose them anyway. Hence the double asterix.

Rapping up the rant

I don’t really like to rant. I don’t do it much.

But some things I am passionate about.

I think the web 2.0 offers marketers a great change to offer propects and customers much more value throughout their marketing communications. That is what inbound marketing is all about. That’s why people come to you, instead of you having to go out and find customers through broadcast & interruption marketing techniques.

So, when people are already your customer, when they already gave you their email address: don’t abuse their Trust. They might just start ranting about you online.

Suggestion to Linkedin: let me try Linkedin Premium for 3 months. If it’s that good, these 90 days is probably enough to get me hooked on it. I would then gladly buy it. You don’t need to push me.

Just have a great quality product, be transparent and honest. And that’s Edelman talking. Not me.

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  • http://marleine.blogspot.com Marleine Daoud

    Thanks for writing this! I have also been annoyed by such misleading headlines especially, as you said, when I am already using their services!

    • Trial

      Hello, I doubted also and therefore I asked -before subsribing – how to stop after that 1 month trial if I don’t need it or don’t want it anymore. Maybe, sending this question was probably yet wrong :-( Wait and see what happens…

      • Distruntled Carol

        This is absolutely scandalous. Has anybody ever received a refund? I received several emails, the last one saying my time was running out and to quickly sign up for my free month. I even read the small print and misinterpreted what it meant, thinking that I was giving my card details, but could cancel within the month.

        It is a disgrace and I am afraid I will be posting my disgust on every available source and will be contacting Watchdog to report them. Surely there must be something that can be done about this!

  • Priyamajestic

    LinkedIn is such a crap and misleading, I end up purchasing a whole bunch of unnecessary package. And dont know how to get the refund or switch the services at least 

    • Bradley Parsons

      Try contacting linkedin support.

  • Alerizwe

    well i had the same problem and i posted a  complain copying your blog link and linkedin refunded me the subscription fee immediately .. so thanks to you for the post !!!

  • http://gorey.com.au/ Michael

    I’ve been tempted by this offer, but can’t figure if the deal involves a paid subscription. Thanks for this post.

  • hr

    I believe the mail is fake.
    The logo points to a weird location:

    while in real linkedin mails, the logo points to a linkedin url.

    Suspicious

    • http://www.michielgaasterland.com/ MichielGaas

      Very unlikely. The mail was sent several times, content is inline with all other Linkedin mailing, as was email address. Also Linkedin should have picked up on it and would have reacted to this posts which had nearly 4.000 pageviews to date with an avarage reading time of more than 4 minutes. Not great promo :-/

  • Lark

    Completely misleading ‘Walmart’ style fake advertising. I expected more from them. 

  • OZY

    Discount applies to the promotional period only. Your card will start being charged when the promotional period has ended.

  • Patrick

    You have really put your finger on it. I am LinkledIn ‘basic user’ from the UK and I hit the ‘free trial upgrade button yesterday’. Sure enough they have charged my Amex card: £442.06p = $705! Mmm which part of the trial is free? Naturally I have cancelled and alerted the disputes team at Amex. In the UK we have laws governing distance or internet selling, like this and I believe LinkedIn will need to return the money.

    I must say that I like the gentle and thoughtful tone of this blog and your words: “So I am buying. Not trying. And it feels misleading!” really hit the spot. It’s a deception, albeit acceptable in some marketing circles.

    • http://www.trajano.net/ Archimedes Trajano

      It should be illegal

  • Andrea Arrogante

    I decided to give their 1 month offer a try.  Clicked on a link that gave me a Business Plus 1 month free trial two days ago.  My colleague, clicked on his link yesterday that gave him a Sales Executive trial yesterday (more InMails, more profiles in search results).  I asked LinkedIn for the trial upgrade since I am planning to sign up for that level.  Their response: NO.  I’d have to pay if I wanted that level.  I was surprised for a few reasons: 1. My colleague got the Sales Exec level for a free trial, so it’s not like that promo doesn’t exist. 2. I just signed up a day before I asked for the upgrade. 3. That is the level I will eventually sign up for. 4. Isn’t the point of the promos to get people to try the product, and for them to like it and eventually pay for it?  

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/BZC55L72RG2IBWGSGMXDPT5O7A Ellie

    Well said:-) 

  • Gaston Bremer

    Same story here. Received (too) many promotional Linkedin offers and I was insecure what the offer was. Try: yes. Buy: rather not before trying. You’re analysis convinced me in NOT buying. And as a professional marketeer don’t hassle my customers with misleading offers like this. 

  • Premium Spam

    I am too bewildered with LinkedIN and this offer, which they seem to be sending me twice weekly, cluttering up my email?

    If the premium service works then people will purchase, SO:  Allow people to have premium for free and then a week before expiry, give the user a special offer to purchase a subscription.  No need for asterixes and guess what, if the premium service is great, people will buy in droves!

    Currently I am one of the annoyed and I have not sampled the premium service because of the misleading marketing, constant emails and barrier to entry.

    (Old school business lot making the decisions at LinkedIN I reckon..?)

  • Katie F

    Thanks for doing the digging and getting the whole story! Guess I won’t be signing up for that “trial.”

  • http://twitter.com/creativemf benir ب نير ☪

    one year l8er – still true! good job sir

  • Sara

    Buddy. They give you a month free. Then you can cancel if you’re not stupid. I think that’s fair. Chill out.

    • http://www.michielgaasterland.com/ MichielGaas

      Hi Anonymous Sara,

      ‘Try free’ is different to ‘Buy first then try free’.

      I don’t chill out when it comes to providing websites with my credit card data for monthly subscriptions.

      Do you?

      Best,
      Michiel

    • CrazyPpl

      Sara did you subscribe to their free trial? If so, was your card charged prior to the expiration of the “free” thirty day trial?

      This is what they call a FREE trial. You subscribe to premium, which is twelve months at X amount per month. Your charge card or debit card is charged for eleven months. So you get one month out of 11 free. Yes you get one month free, but you have to pay for 11 to get that one month. Do you honestly not see the deception or do you work for linkedin?

      ” LinkedIn Premium services are sold on a subscription basis and are automatically charged to your credit card at the beginning of each subscription period. Discount applies to the first month of a LinkedIn Premium account subscription. After this period, you will be charged the standard rate on your renewal date unless or until you cancel your LinkedIn Premium account.”

  • Nizamsahead9u

    thanks for using free trial in linkedin

  • nitin

    Well,

    I did not pay anything to get my free subscription, so I don’t think it is ‘buy first then try free’. Only thing I needed to do was register for this service. I believe registering is different to buying.
    Of course if you register and buy 12 months subscription, LinkedIn will charge you for 11 months.

    Also, the transparency is a subjective issue. As long as I have access to the terms and conditions, I believe it is transparent. While registering on most of the websites or promotions, we are asked to agree to terms and conditions. If we agree to these terms and conditions without reading, it is our carelessness. We should not blame others for it. But, this is my opinion which is equally subjective.

    Nitin

  • Trevor8885

    Very true. They are actually cheating the users.

  • Troy

    Thanks for your rant, I couldnt agree more with your views on this topic. I was suspicious right away this would be typical hook tactic,that is very difficult to unhook when it automatically starts billing you every month. So I decided to see anyone felt misled before trying it. This is even worse! They charge you in advance before the free period even elapses! Thats $479 for the cheapest account if you select the %25 less annual rate! For many of us this would mean overdraft fees for sure, this is not honest at all.

    Not to mentions this is an extremely high price just to be able to see who

    looked at your profile and send a few inmails!!! If I had that kind of money for non crucial expenses I woudnt be on Linkedin!! How many of us will even log on

    for weeks at a time once we do find a position we are happy with?

    If it were really a free offer they woudnt even ask you, they would tell you when you subscribed that new subscribers will only enjoy specified premium features for one month, and after that your account will automatically downgrade until you upgrade.

    In response to Sara, if its a month free with an option to upgrade, why are you paying FIRST for the whole year in advance if you select the cheaper annual rate account?

    Nitin, your free basic account they didnt charge you for is not the free trial they claim to be offering you, so your not on the same subject with this comment. As far as agreeing to terms, you are right its careless to do so before reading them, but sometimes lawyers have written them so long they know very well 90% dont even read them, and 50% of those that try would need a day of research to for sure understand it accurately. If they do that like many do, you know its not fully upright, but leaving them a loophole to give them a hidden advantage over you somewhere. Even members of congress passed a 2400 page care bill BEFORE reading it, Your right, careless to the max, but even more careless is those who re-elected them.

  • http://twitter.com/vineet66 Vineet Aggarwal

    Thanks for your post. Like you I was also suspicious. No such WARNING appears on the first screen, where you are asked your credit card information.

  • Ted

    I also feel cheated by LinkedIn by these sorts of tactics, but it was something else that got me. It was this message:

    LinkedIn: “Profile summaries for members outside your network are available only to premium account holders. Upgrade your account”

    So I upgraded and then went back to this same profile. What I got for my money was absolutely NO MORE INFORMATION – just this new message:

    LinkedIn: “Full profiles for members outside your network are available only in LinkedIn Recruiter. Learn More (and upgrade your account)”

    At this point I really just wanted to punch LinkedIn in the face!

    • sai kumar Ganji

      So, is it possible to cancel the subscription before the end of 30th day ?

  • kimsmith999

    I made the mistake of clicking and they immediately charged my card $487.40. Tried to cancel and it says you will no longer have service but will not recieve a refund. Emailed twice and have been blown off. Incredibly deceptive. This has to be illegal in some way.

  • Aby

    Well o well I was just about to subscribe to the service and thought of checking its credibility before the final leap. thank god i found this link and i am sure Michiel Gaasterland has saved many of us from getting cheated for free*

    * Hope u read this blog before u subcribed

    • Pete

      Me too. Thanks trail blazers.

  • Sami Susu

    Glad I read this blog.

  • http://www.facebook.com/teralee.bird Teralee Sampson

    I noticed this too – if something is good, you don’t need to steal it. Be honest up front, screw these little asterisks and crosses and knife symbols indicating either fine print, or what they appear to offer is not what they actually offer.

  • Ajama

    Here’s why they don’t. People (like, perhaps yours truly, currently an MBA student) would abuse the free month. They would message the people they wanted to message for that month, accomplish what they wanted to accomplish, then not renew, and end up paying nothing, but reaping all the premium benefits.

    That said, the marketing is frustratingly deceptive.

  • http://twitter.com/meseznik Yuri Meseznik

    I Just got the same email, started the process of claiming this “special offer that ends soon”, when something was fishy and so google has brought me here.

    This scammy campaign is pathetic. Some guy at LinkedIn should to go home.

  • Loïc

    Thanks for this article.

    Here is a funny one :

    I got caught, “tried” the free trial (without using any premium fonctionnalities), and got robbed 88.50€.

    “Okay. You got me this one time Linkedin, i’ll get over it”. So I unsubscribed straight away.

    And since then, here’s what’s mentioned on top of my internet page while surfing on LinkedIn pages (see screenshot):
    From french : “*warning sign* Your linkedin account has expired. In order to keep all of these advantages, subscribe again.”

    So on the one hand “Free” trials are not programmed to “expire” by the end of the promotional offer,
    And on the other hand : the system is such that when you willingly unsubscribe, Linkedin tells you there’s something wrong (i’d say this has something to do with the fact that it can’t debit €/$ from your account anymore) and spams you asking you to renew your subscription.

    How delicate.

    To be added to LinkedIn FAQS : “the term “expiration” refers to the loss of one of our customers due to the trickyness of our marketing campaigns. If you happen to see this message please subscribe again.”

    • http://www.michielgaasterland.com/ MichielGaas

      Ugh, that’s nasty!
      Thanks for your comment.

  • Vinny

    I would call it a great company if them make me signup premium for $1 and then show its worth and benefits of premium membership around the year and force me to buy the membership at the end of the year. Their tactics surely tells that premium membership is not worth it..

  • Jyoti H

    Thanks for the article, I keep wondering if I should ‘try’ the package, but you made me realise that I would be’Buying’ and not ‘trying’! so Thanks.

  • pavan

    @MichielGaas:disqus Michiel thanks for enlightening everyone about it. I had a hunch that something like this would surely happen as it was asking credit card details even before going into the trial offer.

    I have a query here, if one is really interested in contacting recruiters on linkedin, would it be wise to go ahead with paid plans…say upgrade for one month?. Do you think its worth the shot.

    Your response really does count :) .

    Thanks again.
    Pavan.

    • http://www.michielgaasterland.com/ MichielGaas

      Hi Pavan,

      Thanks for your comment. If contacting recruiters is really what one wants, then yes. You can contact 10 of them for about 36 Euros.

      But it really depends on what your objective is. I think it is even more important to have recruiters find you, based on CV, experience, great value proposition, personal branding and of course profile optimisation & a well written summary. Also, you can contact recruiters by just searching and finding them on Google. These guys are usually easy to contact! They would also have alerts set up for specific profile & function names.

      So, my advice: go inbound!

      All the best,

      Michiel

  • Earl

    I couldn’t believe that that poor company make any gift. Your eyes opening article tells the truth. Thank you. A company that tries to bluff me is not my partner. I will cancel my account.

  • http://twitter.com/Mimi_Hrahsel Mimi Hrahsel

    I absolutely agree! I applied for a 1 month membership but didn’t read the fine print and my membership was automatically renewed the second month

    • CrazyPpl

      I really have no problem with the auto renew if you do not cancel. It is the billing your card prior to the expiration of the thirty days is what is so deceptive.

  • http://www.facebook.com/georgia.brycefanizza.1 Georgia Bryce Fanizza

    Very useful thank you! better explained that the fine prints,
    it was exactly the answer I was looking for!!!

  • Adrian

    Thanks for sharing this. I have been a member of LinkedIn for a few years now and was just in the process of considering trying the free trial period for the premium service. However, you have confirmed my suspicions. I have at least two invites to trial the premium service in the last two weeks alone. If the service is that good, which I am not saying its not, let people have a decent free trial period and if it’s that good, they will stay.

  • JD

    Of guys, thanks, I’m glad I had a pick here before I go for it myself, too! :)

  • bhargav

    I was about to enter my card details for 1 month “free” trial. Thank god i read this blog..Now i will not.

  • Philophenia

    just got the same mail. thanks for sharing your experiences! So I won’t upgrade my basic membership.

  • Alex P

    Michael,

    Thanks for the useful tips. I just avoided paying for Linkedin’s annual executive subscription cost, a whopping $1099.95/year! I had a suspicion about the promotion’s terms. So I googled the promotion and this article cleared everything up for me.

    One additional thing that should be mentioned so people don’t get frustrated.
    –>LinkedIn traditionally offers both annual and monthly based subscriptions. However, if you follow their website link from the promotional “free month premium” email, they have purposely disabled monthly subscriptions.
    Good business strategy, let’s trick people into buying annual subscriptions! The hell with monthly subscriptions, annual subscriptions will raise revenue. I ask in polite terms, what kind of doggy doodoo dirt is this?! The answer is…smelly and gooey doggy doodoo dirt.

    This reminds me of practices similar to investors business daily, that chooses to not include a link to unsubscribe from their website. This forces a customer to go through hoops just to unsubscribe. As a paying customer, one should have the freedom to unsubscribe without inconveniences.

    Michael, thanks for getting everyone’s back.
    Linkedin, could you please repeatedly kiss my posterior?

    Sincerely yours,
    Alex P.

    • http://www.michielgaasterland.com/ MichielGaas

      Sheer poetry ;)

      It’s crazy to see such a respectable network as LinkedIn deploy these trickery black hat tactics.

      Thanks for your passionate reaction, Alex.

      Take care,
      Michiel

  • kim masters

    Hi Michiel, thanks so much for writing this blog. I have been considering trying the *Free Premium Upgrade* but was suspicious having been caught before with these kind of schemes. I WILL NOT be upgrading, and am so grateful that you are writing blogs like this, so that people like me don’t make the mistake.
    Kim

  • Antti O. Vikstedt

    this was really helpful, for i was about to sign up! Thanks!

  • GazaboGirl

    Thanks! I was just about to sign in for the free trial. You saved my day ! :)

  • Jedders

    I think you hit the nail on the head here. I am a free customer and have just recieved the e-mail offering me one month free. I thought it was to good to be true and have decided not to enter my bank details thanks to your article. I am not naive to this kind of thing but I really thought those days were gone. Thankyou for the heads up.

  • Ash

    Lol, You guys should know,nothing is free! I sign up all the time I simply use a prepaid credit card (from the UK – you can buy prime cards from most paypoint retailers), top it up with £5, and Linkedin normally take £1.00 just to authorise! Simples – I also sign up to lots of free trials ie: email marketing companies, etc, etc.

  • Tom

    thanks Michiel, I was caught too, after you post this two more years later, LinkedIn still do the same, what a company!

  • Jonas

    I am not sure, if they have changed theterms, but I was about to complete my order. Details:
    Executive Subscription (Monthly)

    From January 23, 2014 to February 23, 2014

    100%-off Promotion

    (CHF 85.95)

    1 of 1 billing cycles

    Total purchases

    CHF 85.95

    Discounts/Credits

    (CHF 85.95)

    VAT (0.00%)

    CHF 0.00

    Total

    CHF 0.00

    Looks like it would be true, but I have not yet confirmed my payment. Have their policies changed?

  • Jonas

    Executive Subscription (Monthly)
    From January 23, 2014 to February 23, 2014
    ……………………………….CHF 85.95

    100%-off Promotion … (CHF 85.95)
    1 of 1 billing cycles
    —————————————————
    Total purchases ……….. CHF 85.95
    Discounts/Credits ……. (CHF 85.95)
    VAT (0.00%) …………….. CHF 0.00
    Total ……………………….. CHF 0.00

    Looks like it would be true, but I have not yet confirmed my payment. Have their policies changed?

  • Jim L

    LinkedIn has a nice new trick to inconvenience you. If you aren’t buying premium service they put this nice pop up in your way to block you from seeing the profile. Stays in your way for a few seconds then you can TRY to close it. But they have it nicely set to have the “X” blocked by a dropdown from top of screen so you have to move around for a few seconds or so to get it exposed to close the annoying pop up. BOO LinkedIn. Can you find more ways to ruin your product?