LinkedIn endorsements trivialize the value of a very useful site.
Today, I received LinkedIn endorsements of my skills from five people I’ve never met.
There’s no way these people have any context for my ability to deliver the skills and expertise they endorsed. Don’t get me wrong. LinkedIn is still an invaluable tool for my business and I’ve written about it before. But I’m worried about these endorsements, which feel an awful lot like a popularity contest.
One of the features I’ve always loved about LinkedIn are the recommendations. They’re like mini letters of recommendation, only they’re posted online for everyone to see. When I write a recommendation for someone, I can write whatever I want in whatever voice I want. Personally, I’m very selective about giving recommendations. I won't write one unless I worked with the person directly or have first-hand experience to cite.
So what’s an endorsement? LinkedIn automatically pulls keywords from your profile and suggests several skill areas that others can endorse with a handy one-click, accept-all option. Now when you sign into LinkedIn, you might be greeted with a suggestion like this: “You know Kevin. Is he an expert in Business Development? If so, endorse him.”
Since endorsements involve a single mouse-click, I can endorse 60 people in 10 minutes and not break a sweat. Click, click. Then the network marketing effect takes hold. The person you just endorsed will receive an email that you’ve done so and suggesting that, perhaps, he or she would want to return the favor. Why not? Above your profile LinkedIn lists a few of your connections and their many skills and specialties. And off you go: Click, click, click. “Look at me, being nice.”
Then what’s the difference between LinkedIn endorsements and hitting the “like” button on your cousin’s Facebook status update about taking Rover to the dog groomer? In my opinion there isn’t any. Depending on the endorser, it’s become either a nice little hello from a friend or an awkward form of self-promotion.
Not surprisingly, I’m far from alone on questioning the value of endorsements. Check out the comments on this LinkedIn forum.
I’ll go so far as to make this prediction: By the end of this calendar year, LinkedIn will drop endorsements from its site and everyone will realize all those little blue rectangles filled with words like “Cloud Computing,” “Writing,” “Product Marketing,” etc. are worth as much as the effort it took to award them to somebody: Nothing.
LinkedIn is still the one and only service of its kind and I believe it’s as valuable as it ever was. I just hope LinkedIn decides to focus on its real value so I can still “like” it.
RENE SHIMADA SIEGEL is founder and president of High Tech Connect, a unique consulting partner for expert marketing and communications. After a successful career in Silicon Valley, she founded her company 15 years ago while juggling three kids under the age of five. @renesiegel