LinkedIn have recently made a very smart and strategic move towards making the LinkedIn platform more relevant, engaging and “sticky”. The LinkedIn Endorsement, is the flagship feature of a strategy that has already proven to be highly effective. With many SNS (Social Networking Service) providers all competing for your fleeting and finite online attention – LinkedIn have won a decisive battle in a never-ending war.
February 3, 2011 – LinkedIn Introduces Skills “To succeed in the talent economy, it is crucial to showcase your skills and build a rich network of connections who have the expertise you need to get the job done.” September 5, 2012 – LinkedIn introduces Notifications “Which will keep you notified in real-time when someone likes what you’ve shared on LinkedIn, views your profile, accepts your invitation, and much more.” September 24, 2012 – LinkedIn introduces Endorsements “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.” November 1, 2012 – 3rd Quarter Earnings Call. LinkedIn indicates that there were already 200 million Endorsements made at the end of the 3rd Quarter. Notifications are driving Homepage traffic up by 60%.
What Are They? Endorsements are a quick way to rate your 1st Degree Connections and allow you to endorse someone you know for a specific skill. LinkedIn is currently promoting the Endorsement option as it is relatively new and its success depends on widespread adoption/participation. This means that when you browse someone in your immediate network you will see a large Pop-up window at the top of their Profile which looks like this:
The LinkedIn User Reaction to Endorsements Has Been Mixed.
PROs “I love the one-click endorsements. They take less time and are easy for those who have not asked for an actual recommendation. ” “Maybe endorsements will simply serve as a more weighted form of keyword optimization?” “It’s beneficial because someone can endorse your skills without being a co-worker or having worked with you in a professional capacity.” “It’s good to be able to see if someones has a certain skill-set”. “This feature will be popular. Endorsing skills is much less intimidating than writing a recommendation.” “It’s great for individuals who do not have recommendation. ” “They give a stamp of approval to the skills we list on our profiles.”
CONs “Because the box simply pops up, people are clicking because it’s there, which makes the endorsements meaningless.” “At what point does this become less signal and more noise?” “These new ‘endorsements’ require no thought, and no actual experience working with me.” “While the endorsers may be well-intentioned, a better value would be gained from a thoughtfully written recommendation.” “Klout has been allowing people to give influence points for a good while now and it has been abused.” “I think the skills section is overdue for some kind of validation feature, but endorsements ain’t it.” “It’s kind of like having a lot of followers on Twitter — which only proves you have a lot of followers on Twitter.”
Why What You Think About Endorsements Doesn’t Matter. I don’t mean to be dismissive here but it’s a fact: your opinion on Endorsements doesn’t matter. Why? Because the people have already voted (over 200 million Endorsements since their introduction at the end of September) and it’s been decided. Endorsements, regardless of what you think of them are here to stay. Given the facts, you are now forced to make a decision between playing the Endorsement Game or sitting it out on the sidelines. By all means take a ‘stand’ on your principles but you will be ‘sitting’ on the sidelines, while everyone else plays this imperfect but maddeningly popular game.
Pure Genius! Endorsements are genius on a number of different levels.
Here are the obvious ones:
- Quick – Endorsements are the quickest way to indicate you rate someone for a skill.
- Mass – You can endorse 30 people in 30 seconds. Batch skill likes.
- Visual – The result is a simple yet powerful visualization of a person’s varied skill set.
The less obvious ones:
- SEO – Endorsements will be factored into search to improve LinkedIn SEO accuracy.
- Game – 99+ for ‘Project Management’, becomes a badge to be earned. I want more badges.
- Habit – We check in more often and we become compulsive about Notifications & Endorsements.
- Data – More user generated data to sell to LinkedIn clients, incl. recruiters who need to spot talent quickly.
Recommendations v Endorsements. Long time readers of this blog will know my opinion on Recommendations. I’m not a fan. To be clear: if you have great Recommendations that are truly insightful and written by impressive supporters then good for you, make ’em your most visible 2 (the New Profile only shows 2 Recommendations, the rest are hidden in a roll-down) but I fear the vast majority of Recommendations on LinkedIn are of the “Susan would be a great addition to anyone’s team” type and therefore taking up a lot of useful space, almost never read. Endorsements are a different animal, though they are just as prone to reciprocity as Recommendations and will be solicited like crazy (also like Recommendations) there’s no ambiguity here, (unlike Recommendations) they are universally taken on face value – I like this person for this skill. Will I be called on my Endorsement? Unlikely. But guess what? 99+ other people felt the same way, so I guess that means something? Right?
SEO. Search Engine Optimization is how people are discovered on websites. Not people, exactly, but certain words. We are defined by words online and we need to plan accordingly, we need to define our brand and help other people to find us before they find the other guy. Endorsements are going to be a key factor in those words that define us. LinkedIn will find a way to incorporate our talent patchwork quilt of Endorsements into LinkedIn’s own search algorithm and results. We will be indexed, our words will become numbers, numbers are the fuel for search engines.
Engagement. Notifications are addictive. They’re personal – someone on LinkedIn has liked your Discussion, viewed your Profile, endorsed you (your, you, you) – how can YOU resist clicking on Notifications? You can’t, it’s human nature to be curious and there is a strong urge to discover what people are saying about us and LinkedIn has us hooked. Notifications have increased Homepage traffic by 60%. Game-changer.
Gamification. Taking advantage of humans’ psychological predisposition to engage in gaming applied to non-game applications and processes (Wikipedia). More badges, 99+ yes! I just won, I’m not sure what I won but the main thing is.. I feel like a winner. Endorsements are a perfect example of gamification. Well played, LinkedIn.
Habit, Curation & Data. Nir Eyal wrote a great piece in TechCruch in February. He wrote about “Commitment Businesses” & “The Curated Web Will Run On Habits” – LinkedIn are executing both of these concepts with Endorsements.
“Companies, which successfully create user habits, even without viral growth, can build huge enterprises. I call these companies “commitment businesses” because users become increasingly tied to the service the more they use it. Evernote’s famous smile graph provides the clearest visualization of how a commitment business establishes a user habit. Though originally rebuffed by investors who could not see past the company’s slow growth, Evernote succeeded by betting on habit formation and patiently waited for its users to prove the company right. Other successful slow-growth commitment businesses have similar stories, including Pandora and Amazon.”
Endorsements are the new habit. Notifications is the pusher, literally.
“The Curated Web Will Run On Habits. Increasingly, companies will become experts at designing user habits. Curated Web companies already rely on these methods. This new breed of company, defined by the ability to help users find only the content they care about, includes such white-hot companies as Pinterest and Tumblr. These companies have habit formation embedded in their DNA. This is because data collection is at the heart of any Curated Web business and to succeed, they must predict what users will think is most personally relevant. Curated Web companies can only improve if users tell their systems what they want to see more of. If users use the service sparingly, it is less valuable than if they use it habitually. The more the user engages with a Curated Web company, the more data the company has to tailor and improve the user’s experience. This self-improving feedback loop has the potential to be more useful – and more addictive — than anything we’ve seen before.”
The more we engage (by Notifications, Discussions, Following, Endorsements etc.) the more we provide data which is curated. We are making it easier for LinkedIn to predict what we want more of. Clever of us, technically.
My Advice On Endorsements:
(1) Take the initiative – ask all of your trusted connections to endorse you NOW. By messaging them (see the suggested text below) and make it convenient for them with a link to your Profile. (2) Be specific – ask Bill to endorse your for X and carefully build your ‘Endorsement patchwork quilt’ to ensure you have weight where you want/need it. (3) When you get that big ‘Endorse 5’ Pop-up – go ahead and endorse everyone you want to (but try not to endorse those you don’t know). Leads to reciprocal Endorsements, don’t ya know. (4) Edit your reputation – if you don’t think the Endorsement is warranted, just hide it and sleep easy. People who don’t know you will endorse you, no harm, no foul. (5) Control is built-in – some Skills are user-generated, essentially people can make stuff up. If you don’t want to be rated for the Bobsleigh, chill (!) you can delete any/all skills in the Edit view of your Profile.
You may have noticed a new LinkedIn feature called Endorsements. Would you mind endorsing me for X? This would be a great help to me professionally and will literally only take a few seconds of your time. Here’s a link to my Profile: http://linkedin.ted101 Sincerely, Ted”
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By Andy Foote