Come on, I don’t really want you to write me one, but there has been unprecedented chatter about LinkedIn recommendations in blogging circles these days. And I want to put everything in perspective to confirm whether or not LinkedIn recommendations really have value.
It was Jeremiah Owyang who started the debate. Jeremiah is a renowned web strategist, but he is also one of the early adopters and biggest fans of LinkedIn. If you check out the archives of his blog, you will see some gems of articles about utilizing LinkedIn for social networking and tips for job hunting. I consider Jeremiah a thought leader and thus his blog is on my blogroll. Needless to say, if I was going to request someone to write a preface for a book on LinkedIn, he’d be the first person I contact ;-)
On July 17th, Jeremiah posted an entry to his blog titled “Requested Recommendations on Social Networks: Why I Won’t Do It.” And he makes the important point that LinkedIn Recommendations can never be 100% objective. He goes out of his way not to knock LinkedIn or references in general, but states that, because LinkedIn is a public platform, people in general are not going to write negative recommendations. Plus, the person receiving the recommendation can make requests to edit those recommendations as well as not even display them in the first place. It is this process that Jeremiah is lamenting.
I actually wrote about the same subject more than three months ago in my post “Are LinkedIn Recommendations for Real?” And I specifically mentioned that you need to apply filters when reading them: who wrote them (i.e. what is the qualityof that person), what was their relationship, and what specific qualities were mentioned that mesh with that person’s profile. I also made the important point that recommendations, versus looking at a profile without one, can and should make a person look more “real,” a point I echoed in my post “Is Your LinkedIn Profile More Accurate Than Your Resume?” So, because this is Web 2.0, I agree wholeheartedly with some of the points that Jeremiah makes in the need to filter these recommendations, but even with their inherent limitations in objectivity, I still think they play an important role on LinkedIn.
Russ Somers made an interesting point in a blog post entitled “Evaluating LinkedIn Recommendations” that he did the same day as Jeremiah’s: wouldn’t the recommendations mean more if there was an element of scarcity involved, if you were limited to how many LinkedIn recommendations you can give? To that I say, sure, but doesn’t LinkedIn already have enough restrictions? And how can you put a limit on how many recommendations a college graduate has versus a CEO of a Fortune 500 company who has worked for a few different companies over his 30+ year career and has thousands of people that he knows? I do not believe that this is the answer.
And I think more people feel that there is value in LinkedIn Recommendations. Shortly thereafter Jacob Share, the job search expert, appeared on Dan Schawbel‘s excellent personal branding blog with the post “Why LinkedIn Recommendations Really Are Valuable.” Now, Jacob is looking at this from the perspective of the job seeker, but he makes some excellent points: 1) the job search is a sales process and thus you’re just putting on your profile the references that you would already be receiving, 2) the relationship of the recommender is most important, and 3) LinkedIn is a reliable platform where it is difficult to post fake recommendations. I agree with all points!
I think the most brilliant blog post to come out of reaction to Jeremiah’s is the one on the official LinkedIn Blog entitled “Recommendations and the Reputation Economy” and written by LinkedIn’s own Product Director Adam Nash. He went further to talk about how transparency is the new objectivity and that not only are recommendations often mutual, but that requesting recommendations is absolutely normal. In fact, he ends his post asking you to write three recommendations for people unsolicited. Exactly! That line could have been taken out of my upcoming book!
Look, no one is saying that you have to believe LinkedIn Recommendations that you see word-for-word. But as the above conversation notes, there are still plenty of positive aspects of recommendations if you put them in the correct perspective. I hope that you all agree that there is value in them and will continue to utilize them. And you never have to write a LinkedIn recommendation if you don’t want to.
That is why I won’t be asking you to write me one, but I’m glad that the title caught your eye and you read to the end! Thank you!