Are LinkedIn Endorsements Valuable?

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LI Endorsements: Valuable, or a Waste of Time?

By now most everyone who has a LinkedIn profile has seen the LinkedIn Endorsements feature. But I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out the value in them. Sort of reminds me of Barney the purple dinosaur’s song, but this time for the B2B marketplace. For those who have purposely blocked it from their memories (and, yes, I’ve spared you the video that repeated it 15 times), here we go…

Watch “Barney I Love You” on YouTube

When LinkedIn sends you an email that so-and-so has endorsed you, they ask you to endorse this person back. Sing it together, “I endorse you, you endorse me, we are one big family…”

What I find even funnier is the laundry list of mad skills that some people give themselves and for which they solicit endorsements. Actually, it appears that I can add up to 50 skills to my profile. 50! Thinking of adding brain surgery to my list. Think anyone will notice? Heck, I’m sure I’d get somebody accidentally endorsing me for it. I know, I’m evil. But that highlights one of the downsides of the system: lack of oversight. But then that’s a problem all over social media.

To be fair, I can see why adding these skill lists might be valuable to LinkedIn and its users in terms of search results, similar to tags. But would you really make your decision on whether to do business with or hire a person based on how many people clicked a particular skill button?

I’m wondering if this new click-to-endorse system was introduced to overcome the difficulties some users face in getting people to “recommend” them on LinkedIn. It’s not that they aren’t worthy. It’s just sometimes difficult or awkward to get people to take the time to write a recommendation and, like the Endorsements feature, you were always asked to write a recommendation in return. More Barney mutual admiration “I recommend you, you recommend me…”

Let’s be honest, there are really only two “endorsements” that matter: referrals and genuine customer testimonials. The LinkedIn Endorsements can’t compete.

I applaud LinkedIn for continually trying to make the system more valuable. But adding these Facebook-ish type features and functions detracts from their core strength which is being the world’s best database for professionals, particularly those in B2B.

OVER TO YOU!

It’s pretty obvious how I feel about Endorsements. What’s your take? Useful? Useless? Enlighten us in Comments below.

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About Heidi Thorne

Heidi Thorne is a promotional marketing expert, speaker and author of five books. She has over 25 years experience in sales, advertising, marketing and public relations, including a decade in the hospitality and trade show industries. Follow Heidi on Twitter at @heidithorne or her blog on mobile marketing at MessagingMarketing.com.

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10 Comments to “Are LinkedIn Endorsements Valuable?”

  1. Brad Shorr says:

    Heidi, Glad you hit this topic; it’s been on my mind a lot lately. I think there is a certain strength in numbers that could influence people to consider doing business with someone who has scores of endorsements for a particular skill. However, the LI endorsement system, like Klout, invites manipulation. Just because someone is good at wheedling endorsements doesn’t mean he/she is a standout account or sheet metal fabricator. In fact, it would be reasonable for a person to reach the opposite conclusion: someone spending that much time playing on LinkedIn isn’t spending enough time counting beans or cutting metal to be very good at it.

    There’s a tendency for people to get caught up in numbers and rankings and volume in social media. It’s ridiculous, and in the B2B world, I think this is pretty well understood. But then again, maybe that’s wishful thinking on my part.

    • Heidi Thorne says:

      Brad, I so agree about the social media numbers game! The reason people are so intrigued by it is because social media metrics are so soft and often immeasurable. So people cling to what they can measure and understand. Sad, but true.

  2. Angelique says:

    The suggested endorsement categories lead to ineffective endoresements, but I’m not sure whether to blame that on LinkedIn or the endorsers. Let’s say that someone has connected with me because they know me as an editor, and that they are looking at LinkedIn’s endorsement category suggestion. LinkedIn’s bots don’t know why this user knows me, so they suggest a popular endorsement category: marketing. Will my connection take two minutes to go directly to my profile and endorse me for the skill that made us connect, or will they treat the endorsement as a general “like” and hit the button as is? Do they even know they can change the category?

    • Brad Shorr says:

      Great points. I wonder if the system is vague by design … your comment also makes me wonder if endorsements reach a point of diminishing returns. I mean, if a person has 500 endorsements for a particular skill, is that really possible? Could it really be legit? I’m using endorsements, but I try to be selective in which skills I endorse. I notice that my connections are doing the same with me. It’s cutting down on my numbers, but I feel my endorsements are genuine regardless of how they are interpreted by others.

      • Heidi Thorne says:

        The old “quality vs. quantity” rule never fails! I think LinkedIn might be looking for some sort of metrics, too, for their own positioning. Having a pile of numbers to show how people are engaging with the LI network can be compelling, albeit contrived.

    • Heidi Thorne says:

      Angelique, I so agree about the ineffectiveness of these pick-and-click endorsements. I think we can blame Facebook for the problem. The Facebook Like button has become a reflex for so many, that they do it without thinking.

  3. Hello, Heidi. Glad to see a discussion of this element of LinkedIn. Like Brad, I have been very selective about using this feature and have only endorsed when I have direct knowledge about an individual’s skill. It’s a matter of principle for me. A few other points: 1) I’ve received endorsements of skills by people who really don’t have a clue about my capabilities, so I keep in mind that endorsements of anyone need to be viewed with a bit of skepticism — much in the same way I consider reviews on Yelp. (Just saying that Waffle House should not be ranked as a top 5 restaurant in any town unless that town has only 5 restaurants.) 2) If I knew whether or not endorsements played a role in search results on LinkedIn, I might care a bit more. Do they? 3) I do think endorsements might be useful to open the door to rekindle communications with a LinkedIn contact (e.g., Hi xxx. Saw your name pop up on the LinkedIn endorsement tool today and thought about how long it’s been since we talked… blah, blah, blah.).

    • Heidi Thorne says:

      Diane, I’ve had those endorsements, too, from people I don’t know that well. But luckily, most of mine have been from people who are in my recognizable network.

      I think one of my biggest issues is that I’m not sure what to do with these endorsements. Should I post on my website, “___ people have endorsed me for Public Speaking on LinkedIn.” And… (insert “whoop di do” here). And as you note, I take many of those click-to-rate systems such as Yelp with a grain of salt. It’s easy to endorse or trash a person or business with 1 click. Plus, as you also note, the size of the pool in which the person is being rated should also be considered.

      I also question if these endorsements play a role in search, either on LinkedIn or Google. So I did a little experiment. I did a search on LinkedIn for public speaking professionals. So the first ones that come up include the likes of Jeremiah Owyang, Les Brown, Newt Gingrich and Biz Stone… yep, just regular folks in the public speaking trade. Not! These are the top 1% of the industry. But here’s the really interesting part. I checked into the profiles for some of these top tier folks. Some had no endorsements on their profiles. For others, I had as many or more endorsements. What??? Again, what is the purpose here?

      Thanks, Diane, for some insightful comments and for connecting on Twitter, too!

  4. Randy Fernandez says:

    I was intrigued by this and had been thinking much the same. Heidi, the Barney correlation is a good one! Surely, LinkedIn is attempting to increase the usefulness and benefits of their tool. A downside, though, I think, is that unlike the recommendation feature, the user need not accept the endorsement for it to appear on their profile.

    • Heidi Thorne says:

      Hi Randy,

      Glad you like the Barney connection. :) You’ve identified another issue with the system I didn’t address which is the presence (or non-presence) of these endorsements on profiles.

      I agree, LinkedIn is making an attempt to boost their utility. But I have to ask why. The only thing I can figure, as Diane questioned, is that it might be related to search.