Using LinkedIn

In the first two parts of this blog series, I have illuminated the basic concepts of the new LinkedIn Skills & Expertise Endorsements, drawn contrasts and comparisons to Linkedin recommendations and addressed the reciprocal nature of both features. In this, the final installment of the series, I go inside the numbers to try to get to the core of the meaning of LinkedIn Endorsements and why they might be important to you.

For many, the addition of the LinkedIn Skills & Expertise Endorsement feature has come down too fast and too furious to process. At the time of this posting, the jury is still out on whether this feature truly enhances the user experience or is a superfluous element of the new and improved LinkedIn profile. Whereas many feel that accruing endorsements is reflective of their professional capabilities, others are advancing the argument that they dilute credibility. In the interim, I say, why not take advantage of it? There’s no real downside I can see. LinkedIn allows you a maximum of fifty (50) terms in the Skills & Expertise section. Lock and load, folks!

The wording of your skills can be originated by you or can conform to LinkedIn’s prefab offerings. (You start by typing a skill and the system will suggest word possibilities to complete it.) You may receive an endorsement from a colleague for a skill which you did not declare. I have. These can be created on your LinkedIn profile after the fact. Job titles, such as CFO, EVP Sales or Sustainability Director, although not skills, when endorsed, speak directly to your strengths and can get you found in search. Add skills that contribute to your brand. Delete those that no longer apply, or have stayed at zero.

Beyond the Tally

I’m often asked the question: How many recommendations does one really need? 3? 5? 10? 25? 50? 100? Many of you have been on LinkedIn for several years and amassed a great deal of recommendations. Hey, if people are going to say nice things about you and your company, who are you to stop them? Furthermore, if you are being vetted as a potential vendor, service provider, enterprise partner or new senior executive hire, you best know that every recommendation on your LinkedIn profile will be read. If every recommendation that you receive speaks to your ability, embellishes your professionalism and sells the experience of working with you, then wouldn’t you be inclined to post them all?

On LinkedIn, quality trumps quantity. Endorsements might just be the sole exception to this rule. Quantity does matter. In fact, it’s the quantity of quantities that matter. So how many endorsements does one really need? Well, it depends in part on the percentage of endorsements you receive in specific skill categories. Accruing the “right” endorsements, those hard skills for which you prefer to be endorsed, will skew The Grid of Competency in your favor. High tallies for softer skills (communication, team building, etc.) show behavioral competence and frame you in more human terms. Only your top ten (10) skills will be included in the Grid; the remainder will organize underneath it. 

LinkedIn recommendations are hard to come by these days and take a lot of time to accumulate. Endorsements, on the other hand, can accrue quickly. (See name. Visit profile. Click on a skill. Done, and with no messy clean-up.) Endorsements also paint a completely different picture when it comes to the value behind the tally. As the endorsements you receive distribute within the Grid of Competency, the portrait of your capability emerges. As this has played out in the early going, many people are expressing dismay over not being endorsed for their primary (more desirable) skills. Here is what is happening: When your LinkedIn profile is accessed, visitors see and endorse the skills suggested by LinkedIn in the blue banner above the marquee (culled from stated information), and are not scrolling down to the dedicated content section in the belly of the profile. In many cases, these are not your signature skills and collecting endorsements for them, although nice, can distort your professional value. In such cases, it is acceptable to approach these individuals, thank them for the gesture and request additional endorsements for the desired skills. Numbers do matter.

The tally has a cap and, once you hit 100 endorsements for a particular skill, the system will default to “99+” and display as such to the left of that skill. Clicking on an arrow to the right of the grid will reveal all those who have endorsed you for that particular skill. Although you cannot undo an endorsement left for you, you maintain control over which endorsers will display on your LinkedIn profile or be hidden from view.

A Question of Semantics

As we move closer to understanding how endorsements figure into the LinkedIn equation, there is one aspect that needs to be addressed—namely, how the company will make the distinction between “endorse” and “recommend.” At the time of this writing, if you wish to request a recommendation from a colleague, you simply follow the links provided to the page on which LinkedIn has assigned the following text:

Whereas this template may help you create your (personalized) message, the non-agreement of these terms “endorse” and “recommendation” in adjacent fields is sure to confuse. Previously, many of us, present company included, used the terms interchangeably. (Sometimes I’d throw in “testimonial” for good measure.) It remains to be seen if LinkedIn will provide a dedicated LinkedIn endorsement request form in its new profile platform. Until such time, for purposes of clarity, the language should match and the default subject heading ought to read, “Can you recommend me?”

The LinkedIn Endorsement as a Top of Mind Strategy

To endorse or not to endorse, that is the question. Try as hard as we may, you can never get into the mind of another person. When it comes to social networking, everyone sets their own boundaries and has their reasons for doing what they do. Consider the cognitive sequence involved in the LinkedIn endorsements that you receive. However prompted, an individual has made a conscious choice to visit your LinkedIn profile and sign off on a skill (or skills) that you are known to possess. During this action, short-lived as it may be, you occupy the focus of your endorser. The event is detailed on your home page stream and chronicled in your LinkedIn activity digest. You receive notification via email. This is a perfect storm around which to create a meaningful touch point. But you must strike while the iron is hot. With the proper mindset (and right words), you can turn a quick hit on your LinkedIn profile into an opportunity to dialog. Your simple message of thanks (or reciprocal endorsement) will match the top of mind awareness level and lay the groundwork for a warm conversation.

Parting thoughts: LinkedIn recommendation are not going anywhere. Collectively, they remain arguably the most honest appraisal of one’s performance and potential to deliver on a brand promise, at least within the context and confines of the LinkedIn profile. Although LinkedIn endorsements may border on superficial acknowledgments, they have already revealed their value in sparking interaction. When considered in tandem, endorsements and recommendations become ostensibly the most accurate gauge of one’s professionalism and credibility (at least, in the digital realm).

At the time of this post, it is too soon to tell where the LinkedIn endorsements fit into the master plan. As LinkedIn moves toward a more engagement-driven, activity-based platform, it is clear that what you do on the site is going to drive your outcomes. The giving and receiving of endorsements for skills is now officially part of that mix. As the adoption phase continues, this feature will unquestionably spawn new visibility and engagement strategies.

Have you leveraged the LinkedIn Skills & Expertise Endorsement platform to create new opportunities?