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To endorse or not to endorse, that is LinkedIn's question; here's my answer

 

If you're like me, every time you've logged on to the popular business social networking site LinkedIn over the last several weeks, you've been prompted to "endorse" people you know (and maybe some you don't) for particular skills they may or may not have. 

LinkedIn

I spend considerable time on LinkedIn and I'm not really sure what prompted LinkedIn to make this change. Scanning the blogs and writings ofLinkedIn experts I trust, it seems I'm hardly the only one who's confused. Sometimes, despite the fact they are in the business of communication, social media sites can be incredibly obtuse (or even silent) in explaining feature changes. 

Some folks think LinkedIn has Facebook "like" envy and was looking to add a similar feature. Others speculate that LinkedIn is developing a deeper feature that will include the "endorse" idea. Others fear LinkedIn's valuable Recommendations feature will be replaced with the one-click Endorsement button. Honestly, no one is really sure (and LinkedIn isn't explaining much). 

From my perspective, the endorse button is an inauthentic application of what makes LinkedIn authentic. LinkedIn, as a social media channel, shares many characteristics of other social media channels. In one significant way it has always been different, and that is in its commitment to creating a considered, professional social media environment. 

What do I mean by considered? The Recommendations feature is a great example. First, you have to ask someone to recommend you. And they can accept or decline your request. Then, even when the recommendation is written, you get to review it. And finally, even if you are proud of what a client/friend/mentor/parent wrote about you, it's up to you whether that recommendation is shared publicly. As you can see, this is a several step process that provides the opportunity for thoughtful consideration throughout. 

The Endorse button seems more akin to the flavor of the month feature you might find on other social media networks -easy to use without much thought, so therefore (in at least some cases for sure) worth exactly the level of consideration it was given before someone clicked the button: None. 

And here's the deeper problem with the endorse concept: Theoretically, when folks are prompted to endorse you, LinkedIn is somehow providing suggestions from up to 50 skills you are able to enter into your profile. So now people have the opportunity to endorse someone on LinkedIn without much thought, for skills that the person may or may not possess but which they have diligently entered into their profile. As well, if you have built a substantial career and have accumulated a number of skills over the years, your endorsements may not reflect what you are doing today, but they will probably reflect who is in your network, when you met them, and which of your skills they were aware of at the time you first interacted. 

Using my own profile as an example, since I am old(er) and have had about three or four careers, I've got an interesting collection of endorsements, which may or may not reflect the current nature of my work. 

This sort of confusion is unnecessary on LinkedIn, which, while it's almost never the first social media channel to add a particular feature, nearly always seems to add features that make sense. This one has me (and a lot of other people) puzzled. 

In contrast, when I ask for a recommendation, it's a considered action with a professional purpose in mind. I'm not trying to collect one-button clicks as if I were asking people to "like" the brand page for my energy drink on Facebook. I'm trying to establish professional credentials that give people who may want to get to know me or work with me an authentic picture of who I am as a professional. 

To endorse or not to endorse? That's the question LinkedIn is asking all of us when we log in these days. My answer is usually going to be no - not because I don't believe a particular connection has a particular skill, but because I would rather that my endorsements/recommendations for professionals I trust be a bit more considered and authentic than what you get when you click a button. 

Want to know more about getting the most out of LinkedIn? Download our 7 Step Program for Generating Leads with LinkedIn.

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Paul Furiga is president and CEO of WordWrite CommunicationsPaul FurigaYou can find him on Twitter @paulfuriga.

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Comments

I agree with your standpoint entirely. It's nice to be able to demonstrate some of the skills one may have but it's possible not everyone will be honest. Also, I've been receiving endorsements from connections I have never actually met. How do they know what I'm good at if they have never had me work with them?
Posted @ Thursday, December 20, 2012 9:10 AM by Gabrielle
Gabrielle, thanks for your comment. LinkedIn, as a professional social network, is in large measure about showcasing skills of individuals (and organizations via company pages). But how can someone endorse you for a skill that they've never seen you practice?
Posted @ Thursday, December 20, 2012 9:21 AM by Paul Furiga
I've been flooded with "endorsements" this week...which leads me to conclude that LinkedIn is fraudulently making these endorsements and passing them off as coming from my contacts. 
 
Too many of these endorsements are from people I've not been in touch with often enough for them to have me top-of-mind...there's no way they're seeking out my profile in particular and endorsing me for specific skills, and in some cases the specific endorsement does not make any sense. 
 
One example: in a previous job (1990-1996) I worked closely with a local public official on some media relations matters. Recently, we have become LinkedIn contacts, and he has "endorsed" me for "photography," NOT "media relations." He knows nothing about my photography work. 
 
In addition, a few of these supposed endorsers are people I know are not very tech savvy, and barely know how to log in, let alone find me and endorse me.
Posted @ Thursday, December 20, 2012 10:35 AM by Roger Baumgarten
Endorsements are the lazy man's way of offering a recommendation. I hate the fact that LinkedIn ASKS you if you want to endorse several people. Friends have complained that they're getting endorsements for skills they don't have. Linked in: Please get rid of Endorsements and bring back the valuable Events feature. Eliminating it was a dumb move.
Posted @ Thursday, December 20, 2012 12:49 PM by Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound
Joan, thanks for your comment. I also miss the Events feature, that is a great point -- there doesn't seem to be much guidance from LinkedIn about the loss of that feature either!
Posted @ Thursday, December 20, 2012 1:27 PM by Paul Furiga
Hi Paul, I responded to your comment on my blog (http://socialstrand.com/2012/10/15/new-linkedin-endorsements-with-one-click/#comment-3778). I like your angle, but i’m not sure I totally agree with your blog. I for one, actually look at the people and the skill that LinkedIn is recommending I endorse for and if I disagree, I just don’t endorse. I would also like to think that because LinkedIn is a more mature and more professional social network that people are more thoughtful about who they endorse and recommend. I actually think the endorsements are a good thing. And I also think that there is nothing wrong with being endorsed for something that you used to do – especially if you were good at it. It rounds out your experience. And at the end of the day, a person who is more rounded usually has more to contribute to a job rather than a person who has built a more vertical resume.
Posted @ Thursday, December 20, 2012 10:18 PM by Tracy Sestili
Tracy...valid points all--IF your comment captures the entire picture. As I noted above, the identities of my endorsers, coupled with the subject/expertise areas they're endorsing, strongly suggest to me that these people cannot be affirmatively searching for and endorsing me. Many are people I haven't been in touch with directly for years, and they're endorsing me for skills completely divorced from our professional interactions--bottom line is that too many of the "endorsements" make absolutely no sense. My conclusion is that LinkedIn must be fraudulently creating these endorsements--there's no other way for me to explain the disconnect between endorsers and the skills endorsed. That said, LinkedIn's "recommendations" feature is one of my favorites.
Posted @ Thursday, December 20, 2012 10:26 PM by Roger Baumgarten
Hi Tracy! Thanks for your response on your blog and for posting your comment here. I agree that endorsements have the potential to be a good feature. The problem is not you or your ethos in endorsing. It’s that the endorsements feature has not been explained to people by LinkedIn and it’s promoted in a way that people who really have no basis for an endorsement are endorsing people. I have had three or four careers (depending on how you would count politics/government) so I’ve had the opportunity to gather (and put on my LI profile) plenty of skills. The problem is not being well-rounded, it’s that people who have no professional basis to judge a particular skill are continually prompted to endorse people for those skills and they do so, without thinking, because LI makes it so convenient (and is so relentlessly persistent about it). For an endorsement to have meaning, it should come from someone who has experience of you demonstrating mastery of that skill. I am seeing and hearing from clients and colleagues whose perspectives I respect that this is far too often NOT the case. I do hope that like so many social media concepts, LinkedIn figures out a way to make this truly valuable. 
Posted @ Thursday, December 20, 2012 10:58 PM by Paul Furiga
Thanks for your thoughtful comments on LinkedIn's "endorse" feature. I quoted you in my article on the topic. Here's a link to the article 
 
http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs180/1101256861010/archive/1112072328137.html#LETTER.BLOCK13
Posted @ Monday, January 14, 2013 3:12 PM by Susanna Opper
Susanna, thanks for your comment and for referencing my concerns in your article!
Posted @ Monday, January 14, 2013 4:02 PM by Paul Furiga
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