What’s New on LinkedIn, Part 1: Endorsements

“Thumbs up!” by krissen on Flickr

One of the main benefits of being on LinkedIn is the ability to promote your talents and expertise. What we say about ourselves, however, is not nearly as powerful as what others say about us. Testimonials from our peers are what the audience really values: they expect we’d say good things about ourselves, but they may not believe those things unless they’re reinforced by others’ opinions.

LinkedIn has always given professionals the chance to say good things about their peers, and have others say good things about them, through the Recommendations feature. Recently, however, LinkedIn provided us with another testimonial tool: Endorsements.

What’s the difference between Endorsements and Recommendations, and what are the strengths and weaknesses of each? Here are a few thoughts:

  • Endorsements are easy; Recommendations are more substantive. You can endorse someone with just a click, confirming that you believe the person you’re endorsing truly has one of the skills he has claimed on his profile, or that another LinkedIn user has suggested. Recommendations take a little more time and effort (here’s an overview of how to give and request a Recommendation), but…
  • Recommendations will likely have a greater impact than Endorsements. This is speculative, but my thinking is that Recommendations will have much more weight than Endorsements, simply because of the thought that must go into a Recommendation and the detail that must be provided by the person making the Recommendation. If you remember the writing teacher who told you to “show, not tell,” you probably already understand another difference between Recommendations and Endorsements. Recommendations are showing; Endorsements are telling–and showing tends to have a greater impact, as your writing teacher likely told you.
  • You’ll likely have to ask for Recommendations; Endorsements tend to be somewhat unsolicited.  It’s always a pleasant surprise when you receive a Recommendation unsolicited, but for the most part, you’ll have to request one in order to get one. The reason for this is simple: people are busy, and even your biggest supporters might need to be asked before putting your Recommendation on their to-do list. Endorsements are different: unlike Recommendations there is not (at least not currently) a process for requesting them. Unless you email your contacts and specifically ask them to endorse you (which I would NOT advise), you’ll have to depend upon your connections’ good will for Endorsements.
  • Endorsements are better integrated with LinkedIn’s current infrastructure. In February, LinkedIn introduced the Skills & Expertise section, which allows you to select specific things for which you want to be known. Now, that section has a lot more power since users not only can search for other professionals with certain skills, but also see “featured professionals” whose skills have been verified through Endorsements. This seems to make it easier for us to be discovered by those outside our network, since we can be found based on a skill instead of an existing relationship. That’s different than Recommendations, which cannot be searched for. In other words, in order for someone can see your Endorsements by doing nothing more than searching for a specific skill. Conversely, they will only see your Recommendations if they are connected to you and your recommendation appears in their news feed or if they seek out your profile.

What’s the upshot of this change? My belief is that the coexistence of Recommendations and Endorsements may devalue both. Connections may feel as if they don’t need to make a recommendation if they’ve endorsed a connection, and Endorsements may be “out of sight, out of mind”: since they need to be given (again, at least for now) unsolicited. To put it plainly, I think Endorsements are a step backward, since they compete against Recommendations. It seems as if LinkedIn is putting ease of use–allowing users to Endorse others at a click–over the value that comes with a substantive Recommendation.

I’m interested in hearing your opinion: do you think Recommendations and Endorsements can coexist in a way that benefits LinkedIn members? Is anyone a fan of the new Endorsements feature, or do you prefer Recommendations? How have you used them, and have you encountered any issues? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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2 Responses to What’s New on LinkedIn, Part 1: Endorsements

  1. Andy Welfle says:

    I think you’re right about how they may compete against each other and devalue one another — especially how if someone, say, endorses you for “social media”, they may think they don’t need to write a substantive recommendation. If only we could tie an endorsement to a recommendation, such that an endorsement is almost a Facebook-like “Like” for a particular recommendation. That way, someone who you have done work for or with can “agree” with recommendations, though your relationship may not be such that you would ask them to provide one themselves.

    At this point, endorsements make LinkedIn more like Klout — and I can endorse, er, give people +K for almost anything on Klout. At one point, for example, I was an expert on time travel.

    • ajjuliano says:

      Thanks, Andy. I like the analogy to “likes.” To take it one step further, Endorsements are like RTs on Twitter, too–a quick way to signify agreement. It seems like in social media, as in everywhere else, we’re gravitating toward quick, easy ways to participate, but we seem to be giving up a lot in the way of substance as a result.

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