The Busy PR Exec's Guide to LinkedIn Endorsements
It started about a month ago. I would see emails that told me certain individuals endorsed some skill or other that I had listed in my LinkedIn profile. "That's nice," I thought to myself as I scanned the hundreds of other emails I get every day (in my business and personal email boxes) for items I absolutely need to attend to right away. And I let it go at that. Then I saw a few more -- some from current work colleagues. LinkedIn has been more and more aggressive lately when I visit, prompting me to add skills or other personal information, check out people I may know, etc. Sometimes it takes me a while to get to the reason I actually logged in -- to communicate with someone connected to me about something I need to deal with right away. And then this morning, a trusted marketing colleague of mine sent me an email about this new LinkedIn feature with these questions:
"Doesn't it feel like you're supposed to endorse someone back when they endorse you? And doesn't it undermine your credibility when your father endorses you? "
The gist of the message was frustration with what seems like another obligation for busy executives that requires a step further than a Facebook like, which is a simple point in time reaction. An endorsement is something you need to consider. And can you give a blanket evergreen endorsement to most people regarding a particular skill? And more importantly, should you? I even think long and hard about recommendations on LinkedIn. It's very difficult not to agree to write a recommendation if someone asks you, but at least you are asked and you are in total control of what you say and how much you say. With an endorsement, it's like a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval forever for someone's skills. Like my friend with the questions above, I think there should be some guidelines for this.
Kristin Burnham had some good recommendations for IT professionals in CIO Magazine to take advantage of these endorsements and make sure the right ones are being endorsed. That's one way to look at this new option and make the most of it. David Wolinsky's post on NBC Chicago's online site had a similar left-handed compliment about LinkedIn's endorsements with a great title for his posting -- "Why LinkedIn's endorsements are awful, but you should use them anyway." After complaining about it, he concluded:
"So why should you use it? Because it’s LinkedIn’s attempt to “gamify” its site, and it lets you better assess someone’s skill set. If a master at “magazines” thinks you’re great at “magazines,” then that can only be a good thing, or at least better than Eli Whatshisname appreciating your skill. It’s a shaky first step towards further enhancing LinkedIn, but it needs a little more time in the oven."
Here are my recommendations for busy people like my colleague about how to deal with this new obligation:
Be All In or All Out.
I've decided, for now, to be "All Out." So please don't be offended if you've endorsed me in some way on LinkedIn. I'm watching this one, as I have watched other social media sites like Google+ and am not playing just yet. I won't be reciprocating. Frankly, I only accept LinkedIn invitations from people that I want connected to me. It's a built in endorsement that this is a connection I welcome. Do I need to go beyond that?
Think carefully before you dive in and make your first endorsement.
Remember the very natural "what about me?" reaction everyone else in your connection list may have -- who by now has been sent your endorsement of the other connection. Unless you fully intend to go through your extensive list of connections and endorse everyone in some way or other, you may offend someone by accident.
Determine your yardstick for making an endorsement in advance.
What merits an endorsement of someone's skill? Is it personal knowledge -- someone you have worked with and seen first-hand their expertise? Is it a reciprocation -- if they endorse you, you endorse them? Set some clear guidelines, much as you probably did to determine who you will link into and follow on Twitter. And stick to them. It will make life easier in the long run.
Measure the value of endorsements quarterly or at least semi-annually.
To determine whether the time you'll spend endorsing and getting others to endorse you is worthwhile, set some yardsticks you review from time to time. Did it help you attract some valuable new connections or perhaps engage in a deeper way with a few great contacts? Did it draw some great offer you would not have received otherwise? Make sure you have a way to assess this so you can continue or suspend the activity.
Don't endorse a family member.
I still don't "friend" my two children who are on Facebook. They liked their privacy and I get that. And I am LinkedIn to one of them, at her invitation. But if a mother endorses her child on LinkedIn, does that really help them? My personal view is "no," so I don't do it and don't plan to.
If all else fails, consider hiring an "Endorsement Assistant."
This is facetious, of course, but it may actually get to the point that we all need people who can help us stay connected and engaged in all of the many varied connection and social media resources available to us.
Do you endorse this blog post? Just kidding.
Do you think my friend and I are over-thinking this? Do share.