LinkedIn Endorsements. Nothing in the history of LinkedIn has created so much “buzz” in the online community as this newest feature. For those who know me, you’ll appreciate my perspective: 1) I don’t tend to waste time voicing a positive or negative opinion of the changes – they are what they are, and this is LinkedIn implementing their own vision that we will all have to adapt to, and 2) I usually like to have some historical perspective before I blog on anything new, similar to how I didn’t blog about the new LinkedIn profile user interface before I had a chance to see my own.
With the advent of the new UI from LinkedIn, one thing is clear: LinkedIn Endorsements are here to stay and are becoming an integral part of our profile – and personal brand. Did you know that since their launch LinkedIn users have made more than 550 million endorsements? Therefore, the purpose of this post is not to question why LinkedIn created Endorsements (or why LinkedIn never created a way of opting-out of Endorsements, although you can now hide them from display), whether you like or dislike them, whether this is merely an attempt by LinkedIn to generate more page visits, whether all of your connections truly have an equal opportunity to assess all of your skills and expertise, or even if it’s true that in the words of one LinkedIn User Endorsements “…have become the modern “how are you” that someone says automatically without thinking and likely without caring either.” On the contrary, this post is all about wanting to help you answer these same questions that I have received from so many of my friends:
What should I do about these Endorsements? Should I endorse back those who endorse me? How do I promote those Skills that I want to be endorsed for?
With a little out-of-the-box thinking, I want to help you best leverage LinkedIn Endorsements, so here are 8 ways to make this newest LinkedIn feature start working for YOU!
LinkedIn Endorsements – The Outbound Approach
Let’s first look at how you can make Endorsements work for you by endorsing the profiles of others in your network. Why would you want to spend a minute or two endorsing others in your network? For many reasons…
1) Endorse Your Connections for Engagement
Similar to how you post status updates to engage with others in your network or “Like” a friend’s post on Facebook, an Endorsement acts in a similar way. That being said, a LinkedIn Endorsement is one of the strongest social signals you could send another professional, the strongest being a LinkedIn Recommendation. It acknowledges that they have a particular skill, and actually will help strengthen their personal branding without them having to do anything. It will also probably prompt LinkedIn to let that user know by email that you have endorsed them – creating a potential spark for further engagement.
2) Help Your Connections with Their Personal Branding
With the advent of LinkedIn Endorsements, others in your network may already be shaping the perception of your personal brand without you knowing it through endorsing you. I’ll cover how you can manage your own Endorsements later in this post, but for now let’s consider that some of your connections might have been endorsed for skills that might not speak best to their professional brand. Your endorsing your network for the skills that would make the strongest contribution to their personal brand is helping to improve the quality of their Endorsements – and, thus, their professional branding.
3) Leave Your Footprint on Your Network’s Profile
Have you ever posted on someone’s Facebook Wall before? It’s a great way to communicate with someone so long as what you are posting is something that their friends would all be interested in your seeing while meeting the approval of your friend’s censor. Facebook Wall posts become a part of someone’s profile – and LinkedIn Endorsements work the same. So if there is someone in your network that you want your own personal brand to be aligned with, wouldn’t you want visitors to that profile to potentially see your Endorsement and click through to view your profile? You should never be endorsing someone for self-promotion, but assuming that your endorsement is genuine, your photo, however small as it might be, might be seen by a lot of people that could help you reach your LinkedIn objective whatever it might be.
4) Pay It Forward
Digging your well before you’re thirsty is all about helping out those in your network before they ask for it. You never know how an endorsement might help them in the future, so why not Pay It Forward and endorse them the next time you visit their profile for whatever reason? It definitely cannot hurt, and it just might help out someone in your network without them – or you – realizing it.
LinkedIn Endorsements – The Inbound Approach
Let’s now take a look at how to make those endorsements that you receive from others work best for you.
1) Control Who’s Endorsement You Show
Some of you may have been taken aback when I recommended you show your own photo in the profile of others in your network. If you are in this camp, you’ll be happy to know that you do have the ability to choose who’s Endorsements you show on a person by person, skill by skill basis. Why would you want to limit the visibility of any precious Endorsements that you might have received? Two potential reasons come to mind here: 1) The faces of the 12 most recent endorsers appear prominently on your profile for each Skill, so wouldn’t you want these to be the most “influential” people that your target audience for your profile would immediately recognize? On the other hand, 2) there are some who, while being in your network, you might not want their face to be part of your profile for whatever reason. Being able to control who’s Endorsement you show can be a potentially powerful feature that you should at least consider based on your own particular situation.
2) Choose Your Skills to Align with Your Personal Brand
Look at the Skills that you have received the most Endorsements for: Do they best represent how you want your brand to be perceived? You have the ability to list up to 50 Skills, so if there is a skill that you are receiving Endorsements for that you don’t feel represent your brand, manage the choice of Skills that others in your network have by deleting out those Skills that you don’t feel best represent you.
3) Take Endorsement Choices as Invaluable Feedback
Big consumer brands have huge budgets for research groups to try understand what people like, or dislike, about their brand. In the same way, think of LinkedIn Endorsements as invaluable feedback from your network as to where they see your value. While it is true that many people might just accept those skills that appear at the top of your profile that you have no control over, there are more than enough of your connections who will carefully choose from those skills listed on your profile to ensure that your brand is accurately reflected in their eyes. Use this information about your brand as invaluable feedback coming from your trusted network.
4) Deepen Your Relationships by Thanking Those Who Endorse You
Reach out to those who endorsed you in a meaningful way, and thank them. Take it one step further and deepen your relationship by asking them: “What can I do to be of help to you?”
Note that there is one piece of advice I specifically left out of this blog post: The quid pro quo Endorsement. Don’t do it. Instead, if you really want to thank those who endorsed you, write them a LinkedIn Recommendation, which as mentioned earlier will still have far greater weight as social currency.
I’ve also intentionally left out the potential that some see of LinkedIn adding Skills and Endorsements to their search results. One should align social media activities with what is reality instead of what might become real. But, obviously, should this happen, Endorsements will have a much bigger meaning for the branding of professionals AND businesses.
I’m not going to end this blog post with asking you what you think of LinkedIn Endorsements, because that is irrelevant. You have the option of not displaying your Endorsements, but after reading the above, do you think that is the right decision to make?
Therefore, the most important question becomes: What other ways do you see yourself using Endorsements to benefit your personal branding and your network?
For six more ways to jumpstart your LinkedIn network, check out this great infographic from Lawyer Meltdown.