From the time it was founded, LinkedIn has been very consistent in how it has branded itself and what the intention of the site was.
“The leading Social Medium for professional networking”
That isn’t their slogan, that is just my perception of the site. (Along with millions of others)
While by no means has LinkedIn had the buzz around it like its less professional social brethren Twitter and Facebook, it has had something going for it that Facebook recently learned isn’t so easy and that Twitter has yet to figure out.
A business model that works!
Since it went public in 2011, LinkedIn has been a darling on Wall Street while the stock doubled over the past year.
The company has a clear cut business model that didn’t litter their users pages with ads but a more sustainable model that drove strong and steady revenues through a powerful hiring tool and premium subscription services for its users.
Simple, elegant, so perfectly perfect…
But like all good things, this too has passed.
The only real downfall of LinkedIn as a professional Social Network was that it didn’t drive the engagement and interaction of platforms like Facebook. However I always saw that as a good thing. Especially after the Twitter integration was shut down so we weren’t force fed everyone’s tweets on our LinkedIn Updates page.
The in and out visiting to connect, recruit and sell sort of stood for something that LinkedIn stood for; Professionalism. After all, wasting lots of time on Social Media isn’t a great way for busy executives to spend their day.
Well the desire to have its users spend more time on the site which is purely my speculation has driven the company to launch a new concept called “Endorsement.” This new concept is actually an old one in Social Media, however it was new for LinkedIn. Now with a click of a button I can endorse John Smith for Accounting. After I do that he will be notified that I have endorsed him and then he will be able to follow a link and endorse me back. If I’m lucky I’ll get John to endorse me for Team Building or some other wildly broad topic in which I seek to be endorsed.
For those less familiar, this behavior has been rampant throughout Social Media for a long time. First (not very first) it was follow me and I’ll follow you on Twitter, then it was retweet me and I’ll retweet you (lame). On Facebook it was trading likes and the ability to send mass notifications requesting likes. More recently Klout, a site that measures your Social Influence came out with a gamification tactic called “+k” which allowed people to give “+K” in areas that someone influences in the Social Sphere. Then you can tweet that you gave +k and share it on Facebook and the receiver can also tell their network they received it. While the acts of reciprocity and sharing are nice gestures and they always feel good to be on the receiving side, It is really quite horrifying in the professional space where LinkedIn makes its hay.
I’m not sure whether LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner felt that a one click endorsement was a great way to drive more users to the site but what I am sure of is that I don’t see peoples endorsement as a genuine sign of any real competency or capability. Rather I see it as a way for people to pander to others and/or collect a bunch of useless endorsements. Perhaps I’m being cynical but a mouse click is such an effortless thoughtless activity that I find it hard to think the endorsements will be meaningful.
Before the endorsement LinkedIn had the recommendation (which people can still utilize). The recommendation was where someone actually took the time to write a few sentences endorsing you and some specifics as to why. It also included the relationship between the recommended and the endorser. These higher quality recommendations forced some real thought and served as a much more substantiated attempt to show support for someones experience.
This type of recommendation actually meant something, and as a professional I was actually cautious about who I recommended and what I would say in that recommendation. And while the there was more “I for an I” trading of these going on, the context of the recommendation provided useful information for those scanning the profile. Especially if you are a hiring manager.
The good news for LinkedIn is that they are going to be absolutely fine. This new BS way of endorsement should make the site more appealing to the younger users and should drive a few extra clicks on the site each day. People will choose to use it or not to and life will go on.
I’ll probably even use the endorsement feature from time to time when I want to give a shot of goodwill to someone but I’m not really willing to spend the time to write a recommendation. I’ll certainly continue to use it for social recruiting and for managing professional connections.
But buyer beware, that giant sucking sound you are hearing isn’t the ventilation system, it is the sound of LinkedIn endorsements wasting time and turning LinkedIn into just another gamified social media wasteland.
And there is nothing professional about that.