What LinkedIn Endorsements Mean To You

LinkedIn's new Endorsements feature lets people easily recommend each other, but it will be the quality--not the quantity--of kudos that count.

6 Min Read
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"Wayne has endorsed you," read the subject line of a message from LinkedIn in my Gmail inbox. "Oh, how nice," I thought. A long-time colleague took the time to recommend me. Then I saw that Mary had endorsed me, then Fran, and so on, and so on. Now I was suspicious. "Was this some kind of phishing scheme? Did something I wrote go viral? Why all the attention, all at once?" Then I actually opened one of the messages and saw that these endorsements were a new LinkedIn thing. I also saw, when I went to the LinkedIn site, that I could return the favor and endorse my own connections. To be honest, my next thought was, "What fresh social hell is this?"

OK, maybe I got a little dramatic there, but what I was responding to was, one, another surprise update from a social network and, two, what seemed like on its surface another social obligation--in more ways than one. I also worried that LinkedIn was becoming Klout-like, with a single (albeit aggregated) metric determining worth and value. (This is a premise being tested by a University of North Carolina professor who is basing 20% of his Social Media for Reporters students' grades on the number of points their Klout scores rise over the semester.)

So, what is the new LinkedIn Endorsements feature?

In a Sept. 24 blog post, LinkedIn's David Breger explained it this way: "On LinkedIn, you have many smart, talented, and skilled professional connections. Starting today, we are introducing Endorsements, a new feature that makes it easier to recognize them for their skills and expertise. With just one click, you can now endorse your connections for a skill they've listed on their profile or recommend one they haven't added yet. Think your connection is great at programming AND project management? Let them know!"

To endorse a connection, you can click on recommended skills in their profile. Connections can also be endorsed from the new Skills & Expertise section at the bottom of profiles. When you have been endorsed, you receive notification in email and on LinkedIn, and these endorsements will show up in your own Skills & Expertise section.

LinkedIn has launched Endorsements in English across the United States, India, New Zealand, and Australia, and plans to add languages during the next few weeks, according to Breger's post.

What's in it for you?

LinkedIn Endorsements will provide an easy-to-read skills dashboard of sorts--a very streamlined version of your resume. This could be useful for people looking to connect with someone on a particular topic--one of the core functions of social networking for businesses--or for LinkedIn users in the market for a new job or otherwise looking to promote their expertise.

"Having a range of people in your network specify certain skills that they feel you do best provides an interesting data point for recruiters looking at your profile," said Tony Deblauwe, senior HR manager/business partner at Citrix.

LinkedIn Endorsements may also reduce some of the risk associated with bringing a new employee into the company.

"LinkedIn Endorsements might be a useful business tool for customers to review people," said Larry Stybel, president and CEO of career management and leadership development firm Stybel Peabody Lincolnshire, as well as executive in residence at the Sawyer Business School, Suffolk University. "For example, I have a search for a VP and I see two potential candidates rated highly in a skill. But one candidate is rated highly by someone I respect. I will contact that individual for a detailed reference without the candidate's knowledge. In other words, this may be a tool that can reduce risk to 'buyers.'"

So will there be a mad rush as people look to endorse and be endorsed, vying to attain as many endorsements as possible in a particular area? Is this the classic "I have more marbles than you so I win" paradigm? Jeff Browning, networking company F5's senior director of online strategy, wondered whether LinkedIn was counting on that mindset.

"LinkedIn has established itself as a professional social network that has very quickly become an HR platform," said Browning. "It has become very much about hiring and recommendations and career building, so I think the whole approach to endorsements provides a way for users to engage. I ultimately think it will feed into a larger gamification strategy. I think what will happen is it will probably be a concept that LinkedIn will develop and build in other ways, building a credit or scoring system that can be used by people as a global profile piece."

Brown also wondered whether LinkedIn Endorsements could be paving the way for new advertising or marketing models for the platform.

Whatever LinkedIn's business goals, for users, it will be the quality of endorsements--not the quantity--that ultimately matter, according to Stybel: "The key will be the quality of the people endorsing you, not the number. Is someone with 500 links 100% better connected than another person with 250 links? Of course not! Quality counts more than numbers."

That qualitative nature is what sets Endorsements apart from the more quantitative Klout, according to Deblauwe. "Klout is pulling in your exposure and mentions across the Web, including social media, not just skills," he said. "Klout is a very interesting way to draw attention, while LinkedIn is important because the skills endorsements there represent support of specific skills of people you have worked with."

Of course, people can also give props to their colleagues through LinkedIn's Recommendations feature. But, let's face it: With Recommendations, you're expected to be thoughtful, to provide relevant detail about a person's experience, and to actually write sentences. With Endorsements, you simply click a button to give kudos to a colleague. "It's a pretty low bar," said F5's Browning.

Deblauwe sees Endorsements not as a replacement for but a complement to Recommendations, and notes the importance of reciprocity. "I think reciprocation is very important," he said. "Just like Recommendations, if someone takes the time to support your expertise, you should return the favor. Growing your professional credibility is largely based on how well you support and prop up others, not just yourself."

What do you think about LinkedIn Endorsements? Will you take the time to endorse your connections? Will you feel obligated to endorse those who have endorsed you? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.

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