In late September 2012, Linkedin rolled out Linkedin Endorsements. Think of it as “endorsements light” – with an emphasis on light. In essence, any one of your first-degree connections can “endorse” a specific skill (or skill set) of yours with the click of a button. Endorsements are visible on any first or second-degree Linkedin connection profile. No explanation necessary, and more troubling, no commitment necessary. Nor is there any comment or explanation option available to clarify the endorsement.
A reasonable assumption is that your endorsers have first-hand knowledge of your expertise. The fact of the matter is that many endorsements are from connections who’ve read your presentations, and/or know of your work online, and/or have chatted with you, and then make the leap to endorsing a skill set. It leaves both the person being endorsed, and the person reading a Linkedin profile, in this awkward predicament of asking: are your endorsements real? To what extent does the person endorsing your skills have knowledge of your skill base and expertise? Conversely, how ethical is it for you to accept an endorsement from someone you haven’t worked with professionally, but who knows of your work?
I’m perplexed why Linkedin would water down its brand with endorsements, or why it uses the misnomer “endorsements.”
Many people use Linkedin to create connections, or loosely connect, not only to strengthen connections that a connection is better defined as just that: someone with whom you are connected. There are also the LIONs – Linkedin Open Networkers, who will accept a Linkedin connection request from anyone who asks. A first degree connection doesn’t imply that you know someone’s work or expertise well.
I’ve received a number of Linkedin endorsements. With each endorsement received, I wonder if there is a similar expectation: do I endorse him or her in return? Linkedin encourages this with Linkedin recommendations, in fact; every time I receive an endorsement, Linkedin asks if I want to return the favor by endorsing that person back. The culture of social media encourages sharing unconditionally, sharing good data/connections/photos/etc through a million free channels. The culture of reciprocity is hitting up ethical questions for me in this scenario.
Until Linkedin clarifies what an endorsement means, it means very little. One might have received an endorsement due to social pressure to return an endorsement, or from an acquaintance. It may be, in fact, an actual endorsement of skills from someone who shares knowledge of one’s professional skills in the industry. I don’t have the information to sort through the legitimacy of the endorsement.
There is a difference between Endorsements and Recommendations: every Linkedin profile lists who that person has recommended, along with a short excerpt of the recommendation. Recommendations come with transparency and accountability. Not so with endorsements.
With this move, in my mind, Linkedin has moved from a credible marketplace of skills, resumes, and profiles, to a popularity workplace. I wouldn’t be surprised if Linkedin changes its search algorithms to allow search by number of endorsements. Then I guess you’ll be inundated with endorsement requests.
How will you respond?