Linkedin Skill Endorsements Gone Awry? Initial Review & Recommendations!

As many of the active LinkedIn users are aware, LinkedIn’s latest feature – social endorsement of “Skills & Expertise” – is in later stage of its beta release and growing like rapid fire in the past few weeks. What’s interesting is LinkedIn brought social validation by your network to this feature they started testing since Feb of 2012 – a social proof for your skills and expertise.

After studying this feature for a few days, I decided to do few social experiments & surveys and my past few weeks of results have been nothing short of eye openers – with respect to user behaviors. While my data set is only limited to my own network, I am quite certain these results would be very akin to majority of LinkedIn users.

While most people endorse as a social convention – “you scratch my back and I scratch your back” – very much similar to how most of us used LinkedIn Recommendations, unlike LinkedIn “Recommendations”, skill endorsements can be removed any time you want after you endorse.

Similar to tweenage kids, I am already seeing immature behavior – where people endorse skills and delete the endorsements if you don’t endorse them back or if you don’t endorse them as many as they endorsed you.

Also, from a sheer value standpoint, an individual’s recommendation for you will always be more valuable than that individual’s endorsement, even though in the long run, # of credible endorsements speak a lot about you than recommendations.

Here are some of my thoughts and conclusions around this social experiment -

  • Reciprocity seems like an unspoken rule – This seems to be an overwhelming expectation – with my own direct experience as well as with people I spoke with regarding endorsements. Times when people solicit you to endorse them in return for their endorsements and other times they straight up harras you. This is very much akin to some of the spammers in the world of Twitter – You follow me and I will follow you.
  • When it comes to Endorsements, huge egos are at play – I have purposely ignored to see what would happen if I didn’t “endorse back” someone who deserves some endorsements. To my surprise, their original endorsements have been removed after few days! This is a big shocker for me.
  • Mutual friends & partiality in endorsements don’t get along – When you rate two peers inconsistently on skills they both pride themselves (like endorse Product manager to only one even though both of them are equally good and skilled at Product management), you start a pissing contest – most of the time without any straight confrontation.
  • That’s not a skill I am proud off – re-endorse me! – Thanks to LinkedIn’s auto recommendation of skills based on your profile, most of the people I spoke to were unhappy about some of the skills that were automatically chosen for them. I heard one person contemplating to contact all the people who endorsed him on a particular skill to re-endorse for some other more relevant skill. Another wished he could change the skill text without losing the endorsements for that skill.
So, how can LinkedIn make these endorsements more credible and experience less controversial/painful? While it is too soon to conclude where the crowd sourced endorsements could go for LinkedIn, here are some recommendations -
  • Endorsements are not same as Follow! – People should not be endorsing others and then remove them the next day. If they are not sure about endorsing someone, they should not endorse to begin with.
  • If you insist on leaving “undo” feature, then at least insist on getting rational feedback on why someone wants to undo their endorsement just a few days after they endorsed that person.
  • For Credibility, lets focus on Quality than Quantity- LinkedIn can make these endorsements more credibility by offering rich data around individual endorsements and individual motives behind endorsements. Such as  -
    • Displaying # of endorsements given vs # of endorsements got will give you some understanding of the value of endorsements.
    • Publish like an Endorsement Gradient that is calculated based on – # of endorsements given by those who did not get an endorsement vs # of endorsements given by those who got an endorsement.
    • Maybe an infographic about who (as in relationship – professional or personal) actually endorsed to learn why they endorsed – if all your endorsements are coming from your family members or close friends who never worked with you, then we know how valuable your endorsements are. 
    • Percentile the endorsements by skill or overall – When you crowd source people to endorse, some kind of percentile for individual skill endorsements or total endorsements – based on industry, education qualification, # of years of experience, etc – would be very useful.
  • Educate your users that endorsements are not social convention! – This is very important. When someone on the street says hello to you, you say hello back to them – that is social convention. Endorsements should not be social convention. Period! Educate your users with proper “coach marks” and alerts.
As per LinkedIn users, to create more credibility for your endorsements, stick to following principles -
  • Tell your endorsors to only endorse if they feel strongly about it. You do the same.
  • Tell your endorsors that you will not be reciprocating them back. Reiterate that endorsements should not fit social convention. If they try to obligate you, be polite and say that you don’t know enough about them on that particular skill to endorse.

As per endorsing me, take a wild guess!

@Vsistla

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  • JR

    I’m endorsing you – great job.