Oh No: LinkedIn Just Went Klout On Us

linkedin endorsementsIf you’ve viewed a LinkedIn profile in the last couple days, chances are you have seen a new box at the top of the page prompting you to endorse an individual’s skills — and even if you haven’t yet seen the new feature, you may have received email notifications alerting you that your connections have endorsed your various skills and expertise.

Here is a screenshot of the endorse box on one of my connection’s profile pages:

With one click, I can endorse Lauren’s skills in these five areas simply because we are connected. But wait, there’s more! Scroll down the page and there is a prominent call, again, to endorse Lauren!

Is this really a good idea?

Comparing LinkedIn To Klout

The process to give someone +K on Klout is very similar to LinkedIn endorsements. +K-ers are public and topics are ranked by the number of +Ks received.

Like the new LinkedIn Endorsements, Klout’s +K is a one-click endorsement of someone’s influence on a topic. Unlike a written recommendation, you cannot differentiate between meaningful endorsements and throwaways.

There is no difference between a brand new coworker or sales contact and a client that has worked closely with me and has first-hand knowledge of my B2B marketing experience and skill set endorsing me. How do you judge the value of an endorsement without this context?

The short answer is, you don’t.

A Gamified LinkedIn?

Because you cannot judge the quality of individual endorsements, you are left to judge the quantity of endorsements an individual has received.

LinkedIn has been free of most direct gamification for years. Once a profile has more than 500 connections, the number of connections are not even displayed. With endorsements, LinkedIn just embraced gaming their network.

As people collect endorsements, the value of LinkedIn as a business network and as an advertising property will decrease. Here are a few of the changes we should expect:

  1. The value of endorsements will decrease. People will collect endorsements and in order to increase the number of endorsements (which are publicly displayed), they will also collect connections.
  2. The value of connections will decrease. When connections no longer represent a strong connection, the value of connections and introductions on LinkedIn will also decrease.
  3. LinkedIn traffic will increase. Giving endorsements and the endorsement notifications LinkedIn sends will increase total traffic and available advertising inventory. However, as LinkedIn use moves towards more social or gamified activity and away from business networking, the value of their advertising will decrease.
  4. Spam will increase. Spam is already increasing on LinkedIn; endorsement requests, connection requests and endorsement notifications on the LinkedIn homepage will add to the spam and clutter LinkedIn has been collecting recently.

At the end of this road is a very different LinkedIn, one that has lost much of the potential professional value it offers today.

Your Turn

I hope I am wrong and I would love it if you give me hope and point out the positive in this change. Please share how endorsements will increase the value of LinkedIn without introducing additional spam and clutter into the environment. The comments are yours.

Eric Wittlake is a B2B and digital marketer. You can find Eric on Twitter @wittlake or on his blog, B2B Digital Marketing, when he isn’t working with B2B clients on media and integrated marketing programs at Babcock & Jenkins.

Lead image via Inigral Insights

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  • nosliwtrauts

    Hmmm. I picked up my first endorsement the other day. My initial reaction was ‘Wow, how lovely’. The person who gave it to me is an old colleague and I was (and still am) genuinely humbled that they chose to endorse me. Up until that point, I hadn’t heard about the new LinkedIn Endorsement feature…I made a mental note to check it out. Before I had time to act, two more endorsements popped into my Inbox.

    What was going on? I read up about Endorsements and the penny dropped. And I must admit I do not have a good feeling about it. I rather agree with the other comments here that this new system could degrade the value of your LinkedIn profile. I have been left in a quandary as I feel obliged to do a ‘backatcha’ with the endorsement…it’s a bit like a virtual pat on the back with a knowing wink from the ‘giver’ that their little favour will be returned….but I don’t want to feel obliged to endorse people. I have been asked for recommendations and have been happy to do so on the basis that I can write a short piece about my opinion of the person and my view of their expertise. This can be tailored to the individual and feels ‘real’. An electronic endorsement feels somewhat cheaper, fake even.

    I have a few cherished LinkedIn recommendations from people I genuinely respect and have had the great fortune to work with over the years. At this rate, I could have a couple of dozen ‘endorsements’ within the next couple of weeks or so and it doesn’t give me a good feeling. I wish it was possible to say a polite ‘thanks, but no thanks’.

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  • lizisaacs

    Very valid concerns. Still a little premature. Remember what LinkedIn was designed to do from its inception as business (not social) network. Sure, I am getting used to all of the beta schmeta stuff like the rest of you. From my recent dealings with LI customer service they are working on many of the kinks as well as being aware of the possible confusion of doing a “skills endorsement” vs a “recommendation endorsement”. I have noticed with some of my colleagues that I am connected to. I do think it is more accurate than Klout since it is based on the opinion of your connected and not some bogus unit of measurement. Plus if you have any meaningful interactions with your connects whether directly in-person, phone, actual work or convos via other platforms etc., a fair assessment can be made with no expectation in return.

  • ShellyKramer

    I see your point, Liz, but I still don’t think it’s a valid metric. I’m being endorsed by people who are friends, but who have no real idea of the quality of my work or abilities – they just like me. And based on the fact that LinkedIn has a pop up the minute you go to the site, suggesting you endorse people and giving you suggested people to endorse, they’re very “invested” in it. I’m not a fan.

  • lizisaacs

    I think it is a more valid metric than Klout, I do see your point. I was talking in general not about the blue-grey pop, the sticky note suggestion or comments in the general LI feed. Not all that those legitimate endorses have either pop up. It’s okay if your not a fan. I am not a fan of Klout or many other of the platforms. There was another point I was going to make that no one has mentioned and it completely slipped my mind. Will post when I think of it again.

  • lizisaacs

    No one has mentioned how accurate the skills endorsement are related to the keyword searches. If positive/green or negative/red.
    Blogging 24.0% y/y
    Change Management
    -1.0% y/y
    -1%

  • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

    :-) No, it isn’t LinkedIn’s fault. However, when many people use it that way, it undermines the value for everyone, IMO.

  • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

    Liz, I’ve noticed the keyword trends as well, I’m not certain what to make of them yet but its definitely interesting.

    I definitely agree it has the potential to be more valuable than Klout, but because of the business nature of LinkedIn, I think there is often more incentive to game it. And the current implementation is even easier to game than Klout.

    Time will tell, I’m hoping they make changes that will make limit gaming and make the feature valuable. Time will tell. Thanks for taking the time to comment and respond!

  • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

    Well said, thanks for sharing!

  • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

    I’m bemoaning the loss of their identity as well. However, I have to wonder, what would happen if they didn’t make changes? I’m not a big fan of many of the social moves LinkedIn has made, but as the way we communicate in business takes on more elements from social networking, LinkedIn has to make changes as well.

    I think they got this one wrong (if that isn’t already obvious from my post!) but I certainly hope they make the right moves that keep the site relevant as well. I don’t want to see them go the way of business card scanners. Time will tell, thanks for commenting!

  • lizisaacs

    @wittlake:disqus: Eric, I agree it will be interesting to see how the keyword trends make out in the end. I do know I have had an increase in both views and appearance in searches since changing the keywords from updating my profile highlighting my Life Coaching prior to other means when focusing on my Writing/Marketing Communications and other Writing.

    The potential is definitely there more than Klout.

    True about time and how they play it out. Thank you for commenting too.

  • http://kozub.in.ua Maksym Kozub

    The secondary downside of Recommendations is that they are solicited.
    Thus, they are often written out of a sense of obligation. Due to this I
    often read Recommendations with the knowledge that like ‘personal job
    references’ they are often only stellar.

    The situation with LinkedIn recommendations is not much different from any other recommendation. It depends on who writes it, and what they write. When a line manager’s colleague simply says “John is very professional and a pleasure to work with”, it may be either true or just “written out of a sense of obligation”. When the guy who used to be Head of Global Strategy at Visa International says I have “good knowledge of banking”, or the guy who has held senior-level positions in companies like Cisco says he has used my services several times within IT projects and specifically recommends me “in IT related situations”, I think it tells something, and I proudly show those recommendations on my profile page. (Sorry for using my own profile as an example. I do not do it for self-promotion; I just believe it is a valid example in this discussion.)

    The same applies to Endorsements. Those, however, are much easier to make, so I tend to agree that they are of much lesser value, and there is a danger of diluting the value of LinkedIn as a source of professional/business information.

  • http://kozub.in.ua Maksym Kozub

    People will collect endorsements and in order to increase the number
    of endorsements (which are publicly displayed), they will also collect
    connections.

    The value of connections will decrease. When
    connections no longer represent a strong connection, the value of
    connections and introductions on LinkedIn will also decrease.

    Regarding connections, I am not sure that endorsements are to change the situation that much. Even before this latest move, I already had all sorts of situations. E.g. I receive an invitation from somebody I do not know, I see we both have John and Jim as connections. I ask John (whom I do know) “Who is that XYZ”, and he answers “I added him recently, but I don’t know him personally”. I ask Jim (whom I also know quite well), and he says he does not know XYZ either, but “My policy is to accept invitations from anybody, because this social network is purely B2B”. (It probably means that Jim would treat it differently if connections would be meant to be “personal friends” etc.)
    Another time, I received an invitation from some translator, and I saw that she is a connection of an experienced colleague whom I met at a professional conference. I asked him whether he had ever met that lady. I wrote that “I do not remember anything about her. I only accept invitations from people I know at least _somehow_ (i.e. people with whom we either met before, or had some discussions in professional forums, etc.)”. As you can see, I am not snobbishly selective, but I have to have _some_ idea of the person as a professional, and I do have it about everybody on my list, be they students or VPs of multinational corporations. However, the colleague I asked, an experienced professional and a very nice person, who definitely does not collect invitations, said this: “I got an invitation from the same colleague almost on the same day. I do not know her, though, but unlike you I tend to accept invitations by fellow interpreters or translators, as a matter of principle”. Well, now all I know is that even professional and ethical people have different networking principles :) .

  • http://kozub.in.ua Maksym Kozub

    However, I have to
    wonder, what would happen if they didn’t make changes? I’m not a big fan
    of many of the social moves LinkedIn has made, but as the way we
    communicate in business takes on more elements from social networking,
    LinkedIn has to make changes as well.

    I think you are right, Eric. I would not like to sound like “Our generation was better” etc.; I would say, however, that nowadays many people and companies care too much about soft skills at the expense of hard skills, about social networking rather than proper operations at a very basic level, etc. With those developments around, LinkedIn is forced to adapt to this “great new world”…

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