Feb 25, 2013 (04:02 AM EST)
LinkedIn Endorsements: Do's And Don'ts
Read the Original Article at InformationWeek
LinkedIn Endorsements sneaked up on people. Many users found out about them only when notifications that they had been endorsed starting showing up in their email, and there was a great deal of confusion about what exactly Endorsements were.
According to LinkedIn's Help Center, "Skill endorsements are a great way to recognize your 1st-degree connections' skills and expertise with one click. They also let your connections validate the strengths found on your own profile. Skill endorsements are a simple and effective way of building your professional brand and engaging your network."
[ Want more LinkedIn tips? Read 5 Ways To Improve Your New LinkedIn Profile. ]
It's that "one-click" piece that many people have a problem with. They think Endorsements have little to no real meaning, and have even come to be abused by people who are serial-endorsing without really knowing anything about the skills of the people they are endorsing.
A story I wrote at the time Endorsements was first unveiled received many comments along these lines, including this one: "The bigger issue is that since this 'feature' has come on line I've been receiving endorsements from people who I haven't spoken with in years, endorsing me for skills that they either would not have known I had or were secondary to the skills that I was known for and demonstrated when we worked together," wrote tv22. "Just today I received one for a skill that I use now, but not so much before, from a guy I haven't spoken with in at least 10 years. It is already becoming noise."
If anything, the feelings about Endorsements have only grown more negative, as evidenced by the dozens of comments my colleague David Nour received on his recent story, "Why Soliciting LinkedIn Endorsements Is a Bad Idea."
Most experts would agree with David that it is a bad idea to actively solicit LinkedIn Endorsements. Indeed, the "I'll endorse you if you endorse me" environment that has grown up around the feature is what has turned many people off. With all that said, there are ways in which Endorsements can be used to build your brand and promote better communications with your contacts. And, having no endorsements on your profile can look bad. Indeed, said Wayne Breitbarth, a LinkedIn speaker and trainer and author of "The Power Formula for LinkedIn," you have to have them: "Like it or not, LinkedIn is a beauty contest -- if you have only a few Endorsements, you're the frump in the one-piece, and your competitor with hundreds of endorsements is sporting the hottest bikini on the stage."
Brandon Lewin, VP of business development at Image Perspective, believes Endorsements can be used to gauge how others see you -- and your strengths -- professionally.
"I have found that LinkedIn Endorsements is best used for one big purpose: that is, for insight on your personal brand positioning," said Lewin. "How do people see you as a professional? Have the efforts you have put forth to position yourself as a certain specialist paid off? Those are questions you should ask, and those are questions LinkedIn
Endorsements can answer for you. If the answer is no, then you can begin to make a push toward positioning yourself as the expert you want to be seen as."
It's all about the keywords. In today's environment, your "client-server development skills" might not be as desirable as, say, your "social," "mobile" and "cloud" development experience. Being endorsed for these skills looks good to any prospective partners or employers in need of them, but you need to make sure you have highlighted that specific experience in your profile.
"If you're looking to utilize LinkedIn's Endorsements feature, you must first create a concise and direct list of skills," said Heather Huhman, a career and workplace expert, and founder and president of Come Recommended. "Building your skills list will provide your connections with an opportunity to actually endorse you when they come across your page. … It's similar, but less helpful, than a [LinkedIn] recommendation."
But what about the tit-for-tat issue? If someone endorses you, are you breaching any unwritten rules of etiquette by not endorsing him or her back?
"Many users fall into the trap of endorsing others in a way of returning the favor," said Huhman. "While this act isn't necessarily troubling in itself, endorsing individuals whose skill sets you aren't familiar with can lead to problems. As a rule of thumb, you should never endorse anyone for a skill you're not 100% certain about. You'd never write a recommendation letter for someone you didn't know, and the same goes for a skill endorsement -- even if it is on a social platform."
What if you receive an endorsement from someone you barely know or remember? Definitely don't endorse the person back, say experts, but consider it an opportunity to reconnect. You never know where the relationship might lead.
"If you're interested in reconnecting with this person, consider reaching out to them through a message," said Huhman. "LinkedIn Endorsements are a great way to spark a conversation with someone you've previously worked with."
Linda Varrell, president of Broadreach Public Relations, agreed. "If you have lost touch with someone and they recently endorsed you, it is a great way to reconnect." Varrell recommends responding with a short note saying something like, "Thank you so much for the endorsement. I see that you are still with XX. Would love to have a coffee and reconnect."
In the grand scheme of things, say experts, Endorsements can't be ignored, but you shouldn't spend too much time and effort on cultivating or curating them.
"Take Endorsements seriously but not too seriously," said Breitbarth. "I believe most people consider Endorsements to be similar to Likes on Facebook: Everyone knows some people make them thoughtfully and others make them flippantly. Thus, I don't feel it's necessary to spend a lot of time screening them."
What is your experience with Endorsements? Have you been endorsed? Done any endorsing? Please let us know in the comments section below.
Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.
Attend Interop Las Vegas, May 6-10, and attend the most thorough training on Apple Deployment at the NEW Mac & iOS IT Conference. Use Priority Code DIPR02 by March 2 to save up to $500 off the price of Conference Passes. Join us in Las Vegas for access to 125+ workshops and conference classes, 350+ exhibiting companies, and the latest technology. Register for Interop today!