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