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I’ve coined a new term to describe LinkedIn Endorsements: “ShowGrooming”.
I equate LinkedIn Endorsements with apes making a highly visible show of grooming one another, status may be involved but it’s an activity which is practical and done for show that brings the troop together. So next time you click on that Endorsement button, try getting that particular visual out of your memory! Hey Fred! You missed a bit, “Blogging”.

 

3 Classes of LinkedIn user
The New LinkedIn Endorsement feature has effectively divided the LinkedIn userbase into 3 classes. The haves, have-nots and the on-the-fencers. How and indeed whether you play the “Endorsement Game” reveals a few things about you.

 

  • Haves: you quickly recognized the advantages of Skills as badges and entered the competition.
  • Have-nots: you think Endorsements are pointless, meaningless and you won’t play this game.
  • On-the-fencers: the jury is still out, let’s see where it goes, you’ll make your mind up later.

 

Everything you do online is being scrutinized. Would it be incorrect to categorize the “Haves” as early-adopters and the “Have-nots” as old-school? Or to label “On-the-fencers” as behind the curve or just pragmatic? The point I’m trying to make here is that people online make assumptions and when other people are defining you, you’ve lost control of your brand. A simple way to take back control when it comes to LinkedIn Endorsements is to clarify your position for everyone to see and you can do this by making a statement in your Summary.

 

The “Haves” can probably let their Endorsements speak for themselves. Or they can post a call to action:

 

1st Degree Connections: Please Endorse me for X,Y & Z if you rate my expertise in these areas, thanks“.

 

The “Have-nots” may want to say something along the following lines:

 

Please note that I do not consider LinkedIn Endorsements to be a good assessment tool and I would direct you to my Recommendations instead. The Endorsements I have received are currently hidden on my Profile“.

 

The “On-the-fencers” need to make their minds up on this matter. While everyone else is galloping to the finish line, they’re being left in the dust. Either start soliciting Endorsements for your top 10 Skills from trusted 1st degree Connections or hide your Skills & Experience section. Being undecided on Endorsements can make for an Endorsement-lite profile.  As I pointed out in my previous post on Endorsements, what you think of them is not relevant – Endorsements are here to stay, 200 million clicked and bestowed since their introduction in late September. It’s likely that Endorsements will factor into LinkedIn’s search engine somehow, so choosing not to play the game now may put you at a disadvantage later. Are you prepared to take that risk?

 

When “Hide” Means DELETE
Confusingly, you can “Hide” individual Endorsements by clicking on the triangle on the right of the Skill row or you can delete Skills by editing ‘Skills & Experience’  and clicking on the small ‘x’ but note that ‘hiding’ is currently non-reversible: all Endorsements that are hidden can’t be un-hidden, so they are lost forever. Interestingly Skills which have been deleted don’t lose the associated Endorsements if you subsequently decide to re-add those Skills. So for accuracy sake those LinkedIn terms ought to be reversed: Endorsements will be DELETED (permanent). Skills can be HIDDEN (temporary). Please test this for yourselves.

 

Etiquette
Since this is a brand new area, the rules on Endorsements are still being written. Should you thank someone who Endorses you? Even if you think the Endorsement is unwarranted? Should you endorse them back? Even if you don’t know how to rate them? What if you Endorse someone and you don’t get anything back? No even an acknowledgement? Are these grounds for divorce (disconnection)? My advice would be to relax. It all depends on the circumstances. Personally, I would thank everyone who Endorses me period. Not only is this just good manners but it’s also taking full advantage of the Notification system, it lets me check in with my network in a very positive way. I would rate them back on the same day I received their Endorsement and if I didn’t know them well, I would choose a Skill which either I can judge quickly (i.e Blogging – look at their blog) or a generic Skill that is implied to be a given for the role that person has (i.e New Business Development – for someone in Sales). And relax – not everyone knows or understands how to play the Endorsement Game, yet. And of course, some people don’t want to.

 

OLD LinkedIn Profile = 99 Endorsements / NEW Profile = Unlimited?
In an older version of this post I wrote:

If you do the math, you would need 4,950 1st degree Connections to get all 50 (the Skill Maximum) 99+ badges. Clearly the Endorsement Game is heavily geared to folks with large networks. Those LinkedIn members who are maxed out at 30,000 connections (the LinkedIn 1st degree Connections limit) will obviously have no trouble garnering those stamps of approval.

 

Since writing this piece I’ve observed that LinkedIn users with the New LinkedIn Profile can indeed show Endorsements into the triple digits. It’s not currently known whether there is a cap on the number of Endorsements shown. LinkedIn do currently limit the number of Connections you can show on your profile to 500. They did this to deter folks from boasting about their thousands of Connections and it didn’t really work since the boasters simply found other ways to boast about the size of their network (by highlighting it in their Updates, Job Title and in their Summary). Whether LinkedIn seeks to implement a ‘visibility cap’ on Endorsements, remains to be seen. If they do, you can bet that boasters will find a way to crow about their assumed abilities. My earlier finding on size of network is still true however – Endorsements benefit primarily those LinkedIn users with larger networks since you can only currently be endorsed by 1s Degree Connections. When it comes to Endorsements, size (of network) matters. [UPDATE Feb 2 2013] LinkedIn have just reverted to the 99+ badge for Endorsements, the ‘visibility cap’ is now back, see my latest post for more information and analysis.

 

5 Things You Can Do With Endorsements
You can do multiple things with Endorsements and LinkedIn, to their credit have put you in the driving seat. You can do all of the following:

 

(1) Re-order your Endorsements – fill the top 10 with your Key Skills. What are you best at?
(2) Accept/decline Endorsements – decline (‘Skip’) Endorsements or accept then hide them later.
(3) Hide the entire Endorsement Section on your Profile – by temporarily deleting all Skills in the edit view.
(4) Move the Endorsement Section up or down on your Profile – you decide what people see first/last.
(5) Create Brand New Skills – and why not? anyone on LinkedIn can list/invent a new Skill (i.e Bobsleigh).* But they won’t link to a field/sector.

*http://www.linkedin.com/skills/directory

 

The Endorsement Pick 5
When you visit the Profile of a 1st Degree Connection you have not yet Endorsed, LinkedIn try to make it fast and convenient for you. They present you with a batch of 5 Skills you can Endorse with 1 click. How are these 5 Skills determined? 4 are randomly picked from the Connection’s top 10 Skills (the Skills that are always displayed in full on your Profile), 1 is picked at random from the hidden or roll-down 50 Skills (or however many Skills you have chosen for yourself). So the smart thing to do is to ensure that your key Skills (the core Skills that define your current role) are listed in your top 10. Batch suggestions by LinkedIn will ensure that those top 10 will get you to 99+ faster than the hidden Skills. Also if you’re not using your full ration of 50 Skills, you’re limiting your chances of eventually being indexed by LinkedIn’s SEO algorithm and therefore of being found, so find 50 Skills that define you and your professional abilities NOW.

 

 

Soliciting Endorsements
I took my own advice and solicited half of my Connections 2 days ago. The result: my Endorsements increased by 85%. The take-way? Your 1st Degree network will gladly recognize your skill-set, IF you ask them. See my suggested request template here.

 

 

Skills & Fields
Skills are being linked to fields which seem arbitrary. For example: Negotiation is associated with Real Estate. My take on this is that there are so many Skills that could fit into various Fields/Sectors and it became necessary to choose 1 field for efficacy. People will be looking primarily at your top 10 Skills, not the associated field that LinkedIn has chosen to index it with. LinkedIn have attached the ‘beta’ tag to Skills and we should keep in mind that it also encompasses “Experience”.

 

 

User-generated “Skills”
New Skills are being listed almost as fast as Endorsements are being granted. Terrorism, is a Skill, would you believe? Ok, not so fast, if we think of it in terms of “Experience” it becomes more logical (glad to see the year on year going down though, right?).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My practical advice to those of you who wish to list a brand new Skill on your Profile is to be concise. You need to work within the confines of the LinkedIn button. So for example, my own New Skill “Advanced LinkedIn Strategy” fails the brevity test. It’s too long and does not benefit by being linked to any field/sector. So do keep this in mind when you’re creating New Skills.

 

 

Endorsement Pruning
So many likes for all your Skills. But how do you make the most of it? I advise you to systematically go through your entire Endorser list for each Skill and hide the ones you don’t want others to see. Only show the Endorsements you’ve received from industry heavy-hitters. By pruning your Skills in this way, you ensure both quality AND quantity.

 

Endorsement Gaming

I’ve noticed that after you have given an Endorsement, you then have the option to “Undo”. I guess this is because you may have clicked the wrong Skill or you’ve simply changed your mind. Well the downside of this flexibility granted by LinkedIn is that it opens to door to abuse by the LinkedIn manipulator gamers. I’ll explain. Every time someone clicks on a Skill, the person Endorsed gets a Notification. Each time someone hits “Undo”, they get a fresh chance to Endorse for that Skill. The result is that anyone can Endorse another person on an unlimited basis for the same Skill! I’ve demonstrated this scenario here:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s similar to what manipulator gamers are doing with “Like” when they like their own Discussion/Comment for increased visibility in LinkedIn Groups. Self-likes are a practice that needs to be tackled by LinkedIn but probably never will be since it has been going on for years. Just be aware of this trick in relation to Endorsement re-dos.

 

Endorsements Are Not Appropriate For Everyone
Endorsements put Financial Advisors in a tricky situation as they are expressly prohibited by SEC and FINRA regulations.  See an excellent explanation and some good practical advice by Brad Friedman in his blog here.

 

And Finally

LinkedIn’s CEO, Jeff Weiner recently (yesterday) made an interesting statement: “LinkedIn currently has more than 187 million members and is adding 2 per second. There are 3.3 billion professionals in the world, and LinkedIn wants to be the professional digital identity for all of them. LinkedIn also wants every company in the world to maintain a profile on LinkedIn, and use the service to hire, market and sell. Linked in will eventually become an “economic graph” that maps the global underpinnings of the global economy.”

To me, the idea of Endorsements spreading to Company Profiles suddenly became a possibility. What better way to “graph” not just success/ability at a Company level but by Sector and Country? LinkedIn has set its sights far beyond matching talent with employers – it’s looking to become the world’s biggest trading platform.

 

LINKEDIN CONSULTING
If you liked this article, you’ll love my customized consulting service. I’ve helped many professionals to achieve their full potential on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is not somewhere you paste your resumé, sit back and wait for things to happen. It’s a complicated and nuanced website portal that requires action, insight, branding strategy and marketing know-how. What you don’t know – could hurt you. Whether it’s getting more traffic on your Profile, engaging with a stunningly good Summary or refreshing your LinkedIn presence and brand – share your goals with me and I’ll help you to achieve all of them via LinkedIn.

Contact me now: linkedinsights@gmail.com / 773.469.6600 to get started.

That’s all from me for this week. Please take a few moments to share this article with your network. I read and respond to all comments.

By Andy Foote