Can We All Agree That LinkedIn Endorsements Are Meaningless?

Posted on Monday, December 3rd, 2012 by Print This Post Print This Post

Categories - Featured, Social Media

Congratulations! Your mom has endorsed you for the following skills and expertise:

LinkedIn used to be the one social networking tool that could be depended on for a certain level of professionalism. It made complete sense that a site meant for professionals to network, post their resumes, and discuss their industry-related topics would have a certain level of decorum. Professionals had a place that was so boring, the uncaring and silly users were less likely to show up and make pointless comments.

One of the best features of the site was Recommendations. It was pretty much like References on an analogue resume. Recommendations is where Contacts, unsolicited or not, would go out of their way to write something about a professional and then that professional could then choose to have this appear on their LinkedIn profile or not. While this option still exists, it and LinkedIn with it has been sullied by a new feature on the site (no, not the advertising), Endorsements.

Endorsements are those emails that everyone on LinkedIn gets now: Congratulations! XXXX has endorsed you for the following skills and expertise. While they have certainly made users more aware of LinkedIn and they probably bring more impressions to the ads that LinkedIn are trying to sell, they are excessive and way too easy. Contacts are given a list of Skills and Expertise of their contacts and within a couple clicks, their endorsement can now show up on that contact’s profile. There is no vetting by the profile user other than receiving an email saying that the endorsement has been posted to their profile. There is nothing to stop high school pals from endorsing someone for work that they’ve never seen done.

Endorsements are way too easy to make, professionals should have an easy way to exclude Endorsements from their profiles, either as a whole or for each Endorsement that they’ve received. There also needs to be fewer emails. Quite frankly, more emails from a social networking site do not make that site more attractive. At the same time that LinkedIn is trying to sell more ad space to make themselves more viable and further into the wonderful black, they are also making their site less appealing to professionals that were drawn to the site in the first place.

C’mon LinkedIn, stop being the “cool” Dad and just be you. What do you guys think about Endorsements?

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19 Responses to “Can We All Agree That LinkedIn Endorsements Are Meaningless?”

  1. Eufemia says:

    I wholeheartedly agree. I have also read in various places that LinkedIn will use the number of endorsements as a ranking factor in their search results. (I still consider this a “rumor” at this point). One would think they would rate written recommendations higher than “endorsements” because someone actually took the time to string words together in meaningful sentences about someone, rather than the equivalent of clicking a “like” button on a profile. Perhaps they’re just trying to increase engagement?

    • Dale says:

      hi – yes, I definitely think this is an attempt to drive traffic from the emails that are going out and an attempt to more legitimately target their users. But here’s the thing – I am in online/digital marketing and I have no problem with any of this – my concern is that they are a: sullying their reputation and b: making professional profiles less appealing and honest.

  2. Marcus says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I get these all the time in my inbox and immediately chuckle and press the delete button. It’s kind of like when I get emails from Living Social…

  3. Aryn Kennedy says:

    I hate those emails. I often get them for friends, rather than business associates. Although I’ve seen the movies my friend edited, I don’t think I’m qualified to endorse his skills, as fabulous as they may be. And why would a production company looking to hire him think the endorsement of a search marketer mattered?

  4. David Carrillo says:

    I would agree that the endorsements are useless in that they do not mean a whole lot to the person receiving them, but they are important for marketers.

    As Eufamia pointed out, once they hit a certain threshold of usage they are likely to be used by LinkedIn as a ranking signal. Once this type of voting system is extended to company pages, marketers will be forced to deal with it.

    I think one thing we are failing to consider is why you keep receiving emails about it — because people are using the functionality. If all of our connections weren’t endorsing people, you wouldn’t get emails about it.

    • Dale says:

      Agreed David, I’m an online marketer, I want more data to use. I like having this data, I like being able to target my audience efficiently.

      Yeah, great point, the high number of emails that we are receiving definitely means that people are using the tool – it is essentially the LinkedIn equivalent of a FaceBook “like”. However – are they “sticky” uses/users? I would imagine that other than clicking the endorsement, users are not sticking around that much more.

      • Matt says:

        Did you know that David Carrillo is an expert in counterterrorism and yachting? I was given the option to endorse so once I started typing in. They need to create a filter so it’s not like Google Instant. Endorsements are a joke!

  5. Lynn Bruno says:

    Hi Dale,

    Love your post–I’ve had those same thoughts myself, and I’ve had those same experiences of people endorsing me for skill sets I didn’t know they knew I had. I’m know I’m flattering myself, but I like to think they’re endorsing me in general because they think I’m good at whatever it is I do, even though they’re not quite sure what it’s called :-)

    I agree with everything you said, but am a bit more ambivalent. I’ve used the feature to endorse others who I do have experience with, and find it convenient and a nice way to keep in touch and let them know I’m thinking of them. And, when I get endorsed, I use that as an opportunity to connect and say thank you as well.

    That said, I wonder why anyone would endorse someone whose work they aren’t familiar with, and I do think LinkedIn has devalued itself by setting the bar so low.

    There are those who argue that the written recommendations are nothing more than mutual backscratching, or that they are too often written by the recomendee, and no doubt many are. But, as with Yelp and other review sites, when you have enough recommendations with enough common threads a picture does emerge. As David and Eufamia have remarked, that is probably the effect they are going for.

    • Dale says:

      Thank you Lynn. Glad you liked the post.

      Yep – I agree that the tool is all in how you use it. Seeing the emails does make an good excuse to reach out to people who have endorsed you and saying, “Hi” as a networking opportunity as well as a way just to be friendly.

      I also agree with your point about recommendations having the potential to be mutual backscratching – in the end, as with analogue recommendations, the onus falls on the potentially hiring party to pick up the phone and call the numbers or emailing the recommending party to verify that what they have to say holds up.

  6. LairBob says:

    I understand where you’re coming from, but I think that you’re overlooking the central reason LinkedIn rolled out Endorsements.

    LI’s Recommendations are great, but at the end of the day, they represent a relatively small volume of unstructured information. (“Small”, as in I’d be surprised if there’s an average of more than few recommendations per LI user, overall, and the actual average could easily be a lot less.) Before any single recommendation can exist, an LI user has to reach an emotional commitment to make a public proclamation about someone else, and then invest a few minutes to write it.

    That threshold actually makes the content of each _individual_ recommendation really valuable to anyone who then can read it, but to an algorithm, it’s pretty much a black box. Even if LinkedIn could employ some awesome machine-reading algorithm to extract information from the bodies of recommendations — and I’m sure they’ve tried — most recommendations are information-poor. They’re as much or more about how the writer feels about the other person, as anything else.

    As a result, then, recommendations are really great for _people_, but they’re thin gruel for any kind of algorithm that’s looking for patterns in the data. LI can track harder data points around recommendations, like how many you’ve got, etc., but there’s no reliable way to start extracting semantic insights from them.

    Endorsements, OTOH, are basically semantic M&Ms. Yes, they’re individually a lot less useful, but collectively, they already represent a much, much larger — and conceptually _structured_ — body of meta-data around LI users. Precisely _because_ it only takes a couple of seconds to pick options from a pre-defined list, they’re not only generating huge amounts of machine-readable information about each user, but they’re also (potentially) creating a convergent taxonomy out of LinkedIn’s massive user base.

    None of this is to say that Endorsements are actually good, or bad. At the end of the day, we’re going to have to wait and see how useful LinkedIn makes this new semantic information for _us_. If this new layer of meta-data improves their recommendations, make it even easier to match job-seekers with job opportunities, helps filter out irrelevant news, offer new services, etc., then great. If they use it to violate privacy, serve more ads, and other crappy stuff, then blech. Either way, though, just claiming that Endorsements are “meaningless” ignores a lot of important aspects of what’s really going on.

  7. Dale says:

    Hi LairBob,

    Great points. From a marketing perspective, absolutely, the verdict is still out. It is a matter of time to see what is possible with the data that we will receive and how we can use it.

    For the purposes of this post, I was coming at it from a Social Media/professional user perspective. Has LinkedIn created a new aspect of their product that makes them less viable to other professional users besides myself?

    I suppose that the ultimate question, a combination of both sides becomes, Has LinkedIn done damage to their reputation and caused enough users to be ambivalent or less interested in their overall product and will that impact the amount of traffic coming to the site, the same users that we would be using their data to market to?

  8. Mark F. says:

    I endorse this blog post’s point of view

  9. Sridhar says:

    I am surprised there is another side to this argument too.

    In my opinion, I would rather request someone to endorse me for my skills than Linked-In spamming all my contacts requesting for endorsements.

    Thanks
    Sri

    • Dale says:

      Sri,

      I completely agree – LinkedIn is walking a fine line of muddying their reputation by becoming more aggressive with their push to drive more traffic to their site. Hopefully they can both monetize their site, continuing to drive traffic and keep it professional.

      Thanks for your feedback.

  10. “Can We All Agree That LinkedIn Endorsements Are Meaningless?”

    Yes, we can.

    Unfortunately, owing to the Dunning-Kruger Effect, the people that are the least likely to have the expertise needed to endorse you are the very most likely to do so anyway. I used to wonder who bought all that Viagra and responded to emails from Nigerian Princes. Now, thanks to LinkedIn, I’m more familiar with the demographic in question. Said people mistake that blue box asking them for their opinion of your professional skills for Facebook “Like” buttons.

    If that box were instead entitled “Do you know more about Rachel’s skills that she does herself? Then please go right ahead and edit her CV for her…”, I doubt they’d get as many clicks. Or as many advert impressions caused by irritated users going in to clean up the mess that their more gullible ‘friends’ (goaded by LinkedIn) have made of their profile afterwards.

    I now only have two skills listed on LinkedIn: “Please don’t “endorse” me for skills just because LinkedIn tells you to” and “Unless you actually do know more about my skills than I do”. Anyone that endorses me anyway gets endorsed in return for “Clicking buttons without considering the consequences”. If they still don’t take the hint and do it again, they get deleted. No third chances.

    I can’t see LinkedIn moving away from this spam-your-friends model any time soon. And I suspect there’ll be a neverending stream of elderly relatives that don’t have the first clue about what it is that you do in your professional life that’ll be only too happy to oblige them.

  11. Bose says:

    I strongly agree that Linkedin is really Sullying their reputation trying to drive up ratings. People whom I do not have contacts with are endorsing me. I am getting requests to do the same to others. We all knbow that this happens when we give our email address with pwd to Linked in. I have never done this but somehow they get hold of people I have written only once or may be a long time back. This is a bit annoying.

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