LinkedIn Skill Endorsements – Are You Providing Value or Gaming The System?

Some time ago LinkedIn added “Skill Endorsements” to their profiles. This is a way for others to validate you for your skills. Or perhaps it can be taken as a vote of confidence. I think this is a great idea. However if you were waiting for it, here comes the “but.”

It seems with every system people find ways to try and game it. With SEO there was keyword stuffing. This was the practice of repeating keywords on a page, normally in a way that they were not visible to visitors, in order to gain better search rankings. This is now widely known and penalized by search engines. There is also link trading and link farms. These practices have been slammed by the panda and penguin updates.

linkedin skill endorsementsOn Facebook people and companies trade “Likes” in order to increase their numbers. This is unfortunately not openly punished by Facebook. The practice is typically accomplished by posting in a forum or social group, “Like my page and I’ll like you back.”

Twitter also has social collectors. They are usually the ones that say, “I follow everyone back” or “Follow me and I’ll follow you back.”

Now let’s look at LinkedIn Endorsements. I recently received a connect request from a marketing professional with which I have had no contact prior to the request. I decided to accept because I believe it is good to connect with like minded people and social media is an opportunity to meet people I may not ever meet in everyday life.

After the accepting the connection I received and email where he talked about his business. That was a good thing. It’s always disappointing when you connect with someone and never hear from them again. But here’s where I have a problem. He ended his message with following:

“P.S. – I just did a Skill Endorsement on your Profile to show you the value of my network. If you would like 10 Skill Endorsements, please visit my profile and endorse my Skills & Expertise”

The endorsement was for SEO Skills. For me this raises several questions.

  1. I just connected with this guy and we’ve never done business together. As flattering as it is, how does he know that I’m any good at SEO?
  2. To show you the value of my network.” Again refer to number 1. How does this show the value of his network.
  3. This one is the kicker.  “If you would like 10 Skill Endorsements, please visit my profile and endorse my Skills & Expertise.” What? The first one is free but have to pay after that? Also, again we go back to #1. How do you know I have 10 other skills for which you, or people in “your network” can endorse me?

This guy is trading endorsements.

Here’s why all of these practices are inherently bad for the system and devalue the value of an endorsement, like, follower, etc.

The purpose of social networking is not to be a collector. Social networking is about engaging and providing value. When someone endorses someone else solely for the purpose of receiving an endorsement in return, what is the value? (The same goes for followers, likes, connection, etc.) Here’s a scenario:

If need someone that is good at web development and John Smith has 50 endorsements from people he doesn’t know because he trading endorsements and since he has web development in his profile these strangers endorsed him for it. Does this mean he’s good at web development?

Now let’s say Jane Doe has 20 endorsements for web development from her clients. They have done business together and received the endorsements based on her merits not because of trading.

Hands down I would rather hire Jane than John, but the bad thing is I may spend my time spinning my wheels talking with or even worse hiring someone like John, who turns out to be really bad at web development.

The bottom line is the value of social media is about building relationships. It’s not about being a collector…

How To Use LinkedIn to Connect Like a Pro

It happens quite often that I receive connect requests through LinkedIn from people I don’t know, where the sender only sends the standard message:

I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

Bad LinkedIn Request

Don’t get me wrong I appreciate that someone found me interesting enough to send that request. However I wonder about the value of the connection if they don’t feel the need to introduce themselves in anyway.

This is similar to going to a networking mixer and handing people your business card and saying, “Here’s my number. Call me.” Ok, I admit may have heard that in a song. It sounds pretty strange though, right?

If you really want to have success with LinkedIn and build a useful network of connections, it’s simple. Personalize your messages! I guarantee you’ll get more responses if you do.

Here are a couple of simple introductions you could use.

Hey Paul,
We have several contacts in common so I thought I’d introduce myself. I run an interactive marketing company and one of our core products is SEO. I’d love to connect and hear more about you.

Scott,
I noticed we are both in the Social Media Marketing group on LinkedIn, so I thought I’d connect with you personally too. It’s always good to know others in the industry.

How long would it take to type one of these? Plus you might learn something about the connections.

After all LinkedIn is for networking and building relationships, not collecting numbers.

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The Internet in 60 Seconds

60 seconds may not seem like much time at all, but look at what happens online every 60 seconds.

the internet in 60 seconds

I’d Like to Add You to My Professional Network — Um Why?

LinkedIn is a great tool for networking. It’s also a great tool for meeting new people that you would like to connect with. You can connect to people through your current connections,  groups, as well as many other ways. I’m also a big advocate of using the network to help promote yourself and your business. But don’t be lazy.

I often receive connection requests from people I don’t already know, and many of them I accept. There are also a lot that I don’t accept and the biggest reason is because the person that made the request is, well lazy.

When you click on that “connect” button an invite opens. LinkedIn actually helps you out with the standard message “I’d like to add you to my professional network.”

This is great, they’ve given you a starting point, but… Pretty much the only time I’ll accept an invite that only includes the standard comment, or the rare times I send them out like this, is if I already know this person.

Look at it this way. What would you think if you were walking down the street and someone walked up to you and said, “I want to add you to my friends.” I bet you would probably give them a puzzled look and keep walking while muttering something like, “That guy is crazy.”

If someone sends me a standard invite here are few things that go through my mind.

  1. This person was too lazy to write one or two sentences to personalize the invite.
  2. This person is only interested in gaining connections. Are they sending out so many invites that they don’t have time to write anything other than the standard invite?
  3. It looks like spam. Again it looks like someone just out to get more connections.

Ok, so what should you do.

  1. A network is only as good as the people in it. What I mean is, you can have thousands of connections, but are you really interacting with all of these connections? Do you really have a relationship with them? I highly doubt it. I really believe that a small well knit network is better than an extremely large loosely connected group. Interacting closely with 50 people is much more powerful than having a list of 5,000 people that you never speak with.
  2. Seek out people in which you are genuinely interested, or that you share something in common with. Use that to connect. This will create a bond that you don’t have to force. I find a lot of my business through soccer. This is something that I’m passionate about and helps me connect to others without having to force the issue. It also creates a bond of trust.
  3. Take the time to make it personal.  Just a simple message would be enough: “I found you when I was researching social media professionals.” Or “I was looking for people who understand SEO and I came across you. So, I”d like to add you to my network.”

The bottom line is your invite should make me want to say, “Thanks for contacting me and it is nice to meet you. I see the value in adding you to my network too.”

4 Ways to Use LinkedIn to Network Like a Pro

There is always a lot of talk about Facebook breaking records for sheer numbers of users and now Google+ has come a long and proved to be the fastest growing network of all time, but their cousin LinkedIn is still the networking site for business. LinkedIn has morphed from it’s early days of just being a place to post your resume to a full fledged networking platform. Whether you are looking for a job, looking to promote your business or to network with others in your industry, the opportunities are great.

LinkedIn logo network like a pro
First, don’t take the “Build it and they will come” approach. Just like the good old days when you had to go to networking events to meet people, you have to take a proactive approach with social networking sites. It’s all about engagement. There are many ways to do this.

  1. Like other networks you have the ability to update your status. Do this frequently, but don’t over do it. Plus, no one really cares what you had for breakfast or that little johnny scored an A on his math test. Keep it relevant. Maybe tips and tricks for your industry, news or links to relevant articles you have read as well as other resources.
  2.  One of the great features that LinkedIn proveides is the Q & A section of the site. This is a great place for you to strut your stuff and show off your knowledge. Answer questions from your industry. People often ask questions here because they need an expert to help them solve a problem. Let people know you are the “go to” guy/girl for your industry.
  3. Start hanging out in groups. LinkedIn groups are another way to start meeting new people. Is your target market local? There are groups for that? There are also groups based on industry, topical group and more. If you can’t find a group that fits the target market that you want to hang out with, create your own. Oneword of warning though, make sure if you create your own group you foster open and fair discussion. After all you’re there for engagement not to blast people with your marketing message.
  4. This tip is related to groups and is a bit more under the radar. Using LinkedIn’s people search you can search for specific people by name, or you can search by company and then position. If you are using the free version it is more difficult to directly contact some that is not already a connection. So let’s say you are trying to get in contact with some one at the XYZ Technology company, but none of your connections know this person. So an introduction is not possible. Once you use LinkedIn search to find them, check out their profile and find out what groups they belong to. There’s a good chance you have a group in common. If you don’t already, find a group that they are members of that interests you and join the group. You can then add them as a connection as well as message them, using the “member of a group” option.

 

 

Does Your Company Need a Social Networking Policy?

Social Media in the Workplace

Do You Need a Social Networking Policy
by Jeannine Hohman, HR Strategist, TriStarr Staffing

Today’s employers are faced with many challenges, including managing a multi-generational workforce. Employees come from many backgrounds, cultures and the generations may span between World War II (born before 1940) and Baby Boomer (born 1941 – 1964) through Millennial (born 1980 – 2000). Managing different personalities, work ethics and conflicts may be challenging, but grasping and reigning in social networking for employees may be a necessity.

Some of the most recognized social media websites are Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. What was once just a personal way to communicate and stay in touch with people has now become a mainstay in both personal and professional communications and networking. The line between personal and professional time is becoming increasingly blurred as more employees bring home their laptop, telecommute or have access to the office after hours via remote access.

With regard to social media, an important message to get across to all employees is that what they say, do and post can be a reflection on your organization – that can be either positive or negative. The negative is usually where the trouble begins.

In today’s business environment, it is highly recommended to have a social media policy in place. A policy serves as a communication tool so that all employees are made aware of what is expected and what is not acceptable. In addition, having a clear, well written policy can help to protect the organization from negative activity and the “darker side” of these websites.

Below are some tips on what to consider when putting together a social media policy:

  • Not having a policy is risky – all it takes is one individual posting something negative or cringe worthy to expose the organization to bad publicity or even legal action.
  • Blocking sites may hurt the organization – by cutting access to certain networking sites, organizations may be turning away business. These sites can also be a valuable recruiting tool.
  • The policy should be clear and specific – Employees should understand the ramifications of not using the social networking media correctly. Some questions to consider: Can employees list the company as their workplace? Can they “friend” clients or vendors?
  • Define private – Many individuals are under the false impression that what they do and post on their personal computer remains private. Remind employees that posting on public forums is never private. Bad mouthing the organization or a fellow employee on the Internet is basically the same as putting the message on a billboard.
  • Give employees the tools needed to use social media effectively – training is essential. Again, the workforce contains multi-generations and not all of these generations are as knowledgeable or comfortable with this technology.

 

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Jeannine Hohman is a Human Resource Stategist at TriStarr Staffing.  She is responsible for providing organizations with strategic HR support through such services as employee handbooks, job descriptions, training, FLSA, policies, procedures and employment compliance issues.

 Disclaimer: TriStarr Staffing is one of our clients.

Wondering About the Cost of Social Media? Think: “Time is Money”

Their is a misconception among a lot of businesses and business owners that Social Media is free. When I come across people that believe this, I try to explain to them that even though many of the tools and platforms are free, using the free tools correctly is not. The old adage always comes to mind:  “Time is Money.”  Here’s some data to back up that up.

Social Media Examiner recently published their annual Social Media Marketing Industry Report (<– Get the full report). Some of the most interesting data to come out of the report is the amount of time that marketers spend on Social Media:

A significant 58% of marketers are using social media for 6 hours or more each week and 34% for 11 or more hours weekly. It’s interesting to note that 15% of marketers spend more than 20 hours each week on social media.

Those with more years of social media experience spend more time each week conducting social media activities. For example, 63% of people with 3 or more years of experience spend more than 10 hours a week doing social media activities. Only 41% of those with 1 to 3 years experience spend that much time.

time commitment for social media

I typically estimate that companies need to invest at least 5 hours a week in Social Media in order to see a real benefit. In my opinion this is an absolute minimum! This includes, blogging, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, forums, video, social bookmarking as well as others.

How much time do you spend on your Social Media activities?

Some other useful reading:

Social Media ROI – What’s Your Plan?
How much do you need to budget for Social Media in 2011?

How To: Five Things You Can do With Social Media Marketing

LinkedIn Business Profiles: Add Admins to Your Company’s Profile

Did you know that you can now add admins to your company’s LinkedIn profile?

It used to be once you created a profile for your company only you were able to edit it. Then they added the feature that anyone who has an email from your company domain. Now, you can add people in your network. You still have control of the profile as the creator, but this is great if you’ve hired an outside consultant to manage your social media for you. They can now manage it without needing access to your account.

To use this option go to your company profile on LinkedIn and click on the “Edit” button on the upper right corner. Then under the “Company Pages Admins” section, choose “Designated users only”.  Then type in the name of the person you want to add in the box where it says, “Start typing a name.” That’s it! The image below shows a screen shot from our page.

Add admins to your LinkedIn busines profile

April Fools’ Day – Internet Filled with Spoofs

It seems everyone is getting in on the April Fools’ Day action today. Youtube posted black-and-white videos said to be from 1911. Huffington Post put up a fake pay wall on their site. Hulu published a pixely 1990’s looking redesign. Google played with the “helvetica” font. Even serious sights like LinkedIn was in on the action. Did you play any April Fools’ Day jokes?

Check out the people LinkedIn thinks I might know.
linkedIn April Fools' Day

Hulu’s 1990’s Dial-up age redesign.
Hulu's April Fools' Day redesign

-1 Connections on LinkedIn

So what does it say about you if you have -1 connections on @LinkedIn ???
It can’t be good.

minus 1 connection on LinkedIn