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…

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