If you have logged in to your LinkedIn account lately, you should have noticed a new screen popping up asking you to endorse your connections. As the call to action states, “… endorse your connections for their skills with just one click.” You are then provided with snapshots of four of your connections and asked to endorse them for their stated skills, most of which are defined by one or two keywords such as “Digital Media,” “Social Media,” “Fashion” or “Writer.”
These endorsements are then displayed on profiles under the “Skills” section, where photos of the connections that endorsed you appear next to the skills you claim to have.
Before I start throwing darts at this new feature, I want to say that I am a huge fan of LinkedIn. I have been a member for over 6 years. I have a premium membership, I chair a group for LinkedMinnesota, I spend at least 4 hours per week on the site, and I have found tremendous value in it for both me personally as well as for my clients.
That being said, this new feature has me scratching my head. What does it mean when you endorse someone using a one or two word descriptor? When I endorse a connection for “Fashion,” what exactly does that mean? The connection that presented this “skill” to me is a patternmaker, so in the context of her professional skills, this person knows fashion from a technical perspective. She creates fashion patterns. However, I am confident that clothing designers, fashion editors, models and the like will all make the same “Fashion” claims on their LinkedIn profiles. If we endorse them, what specifically are we endorsing?
This new feature reminds me of the early days of the web, when grabbing generic domain names was all the rage. There was a gold rush on one and two word domains that could capture a broad audience on a popular search term and pretty much guarantee a lot of traffic.
Let’s take, for example, ski.com. When it launched back in May of 1998, it claimed to be “THE HOTTEST SNOWSPORT SITE IN THE WORLD… If it involves sliding down a mountain in any way, shape, or form, you will find out about it here.” By 2003 it provided information on ski resorts, snow reports, skier forums, ski travel, ski shopping and real estate. By 2006, the site had become “The Inside Track on Mountain Vacations.”
What happened? While I don’t have first hand knowledge, it’s not hard to figure out that a website can’t be all things to all people. As competitors arose, the site had to become more targeted in what it offered to people searching for “ski.” What is the intent when someone searches on the term “ski?” Do they want a place to ski, to learn to ski, to buy a ski? Who knows? As web users gradually learned to be more descriptive in their search terms, and define their intent by using longer search phrases, the value of these simple domains diminished.
LinkedIn Endorsements vs. Recommendations
So, back to my LinkedIn connection, the patternmaker who knows “Fashion.” If I endorse her for that term, and someone finds her on LinkedIn for that term, what does my endorsement say? Why is this one word endorsement a better solution to the “Recommendations” that LinkedIn has been supporting for years? With recommendations, you have the opportunity to endorse a connection where not only is the relationship defined by the companies you both work for and what the relationship is, but the person providing the recommendation can identify a person’s top qualities as well as explain why they are making the recommendation.
There are more than a few issues with the implementation of this new “Endorsement” feature;
- From within one’s own profile, users are force fed the connections to endorse,
- Users are fed the same connections over and over and over again until their connection’s list of “skills” is exhausted,
- Users can only view and endorse four connections at a time from their profile, and
- If endorsing directly from a connection’s profile, users have a tendency to simply click on the skill at the top; the one with the most endorsements.
I am seeing people endorse me for skills they have never seen me use. Yes, I have skills in email marketing. As a chief marketing technologist, is that my primary skill? I certainly hope not. However, according to LinkedIn Endorsements, it’s at the top of the list.
So, before LinkedIn goes on to fix these issues, I have to ask, is there really any value in this new feature? I would love to hear what others have to say.
Oh, and as a case in point, if you go to Fashion.com, you will see that the domain is available for sale.