LinkedIn Endorsements Have Become Important. There’s A Lesson Here

wine glassesSometimes what LinkedIn does now doesn’t make sense till later

Way back when Skills and Endorsements were introduced (yes, they were announced in late September, 2012), I did it myself. I wrote about the Facebook-ization of LinkedIn. Endorsements were frivolous. Recommendations were for serious LinkedIn users and Endorsements were just fluff, confetti to be tossed around and easily gamed. I was one of many people that dismissed it as a poorly thought out attempt to increase engagement on the LinkedIn platform.

Fast forward to the present: LinkedIn released the new version of their Recruiter platform in Q1 2016. This is LinkedIn’s flagship product, responsible for more revenue than any other, and maybe more revenue than ALL of LinkedIn’s other products put together. You have to think that the product managers at LinkedIn invest a lot of time and effort in figuring out how to improve this product for their most important customers. The new version of Recruiter has filters where users  can look for LinkedIn Profiles with specific skills – those same skills we laughed at three years ago.

If you are a job hunter, either actively looking or passively open to receiving  offers, Skills and Endorsements just became an important part of your LinkedIn profile.

Now, maybe Skills and Endorsements was a happy mistake, something that could be incorporated into the Recruiter product, so it was. But I think the more likely scenario is that it was an experiment, specifically with integration into the recruiter product somewhere down the line in mind.

Endorsements was a feature whose importance and whole reason for being wasn’t recognized for a long time.

Here’s another feature that a lot of people still don’t understand the reason for:  anonymous profile views. For a long time no one understood why users were allowed to be anonymous when they viewed profiles, and LinkedIn wasn’t saying.

Anonymous profile views anger a lot of LinkedIn users, but they make a lot of people happy. Recruiters – remember those people who use that most important product LinkedIn has? – use the anonymous feature and it makes them happy. They pay LinkedIn lots of money for the privilege. People who complain don’t make this  connection or feel that their free accounts matter more to LinkedIn than the anonymous dude’s paid account (yeah, good luck with that).

Another example is all the changes in LinkedIn Groups which almost no one likes. There is something there, a reason for all these changes, we just can’t see it yet.  We will, but on LinkedIn’s schedule, not ours.

I think there is a lesson here: LinkedIn has a roadmap. We are privy to it in only the broadest sense through what LinkedIn says at conferences or earnings calls. From time to time new features pop up that seemingly make no sense, or features and capabilities disappear or are modified – but all these things serve a higher purpose, one that we will discover somewhere down the line.

So when LinkedIn introduces something that seems frivolous, like an Endorsement feature, don’t roll your eyes and laugh at it. Instead ask yourself where this could lead. That type of thinking has me looking differently at a couple of other things LinkedIn has done lately. It has me thinking about where LinkedIn could be going, which is a lot better use of my time than complaining about a feature that looks odd on face value.

 

A Little LinkedIn Profile Therapy

iStock_000016659255XSmallHaving a good LinkedIn profile is table stakes these days. But don’t get all bent out of shape. Putting together a good LinkedIn profile is pretty easy.  Just follow these six points and you and your LinkedIn profile will be just fine.

1) Before you do anything think about who you want to read your profile. Not who may read your profile, but who you want to read it. If you are job hunting, this might be recruiters and human resources people. If you are in sales, it would be your ideal customers. For the most part, LinkedIn profiles are read by people that see you in passing on LinkedIn, or have heard your name somewhere outside of LinkedIn. They go to your profile as a quick reference check on who you are and what you are about.

2) Write your profile for your “ideal profile reader”. What is the problem they need a solution to, and how are you positioned to help them with it?

3) Pay attention to what LinkedIn says you should have for your profile to be considered complete – these include a photo, your industry and location, your current position with a description, two past positions, three skills and your education. Profiles that LinkedIn considers incomplete will appear lower in search results.

4) Past the things LinkedIn says you need, everything else is optional. Add things like rich media and publications and certifications judiciously. Too many “profile shouters” tell LinkedIn members to use absolutely everything available and the result is profile bloat. You end up with a LinkedIn profile that makes you look not so much like an expert in your field as an expert at writing about yourself. And “this person is really self-involved” is not the takeaway you were intending.

5) If you need help, look on the web for LinkedIn profile primers. However, may I suggest a more organic approach? Look at what other people have on their profiles for ideas and inspiration, remember your target audience, and you will be fine.

6) Your professional life isn’t static, and your LinkedIn profile shouldn’t be either. Come back to it every couple of months. Does your profile accurately represent where you are now? Add, change, subtract. Add or swap in a new report or company presentation, or change the wording in a section and tighten it up. Don’t agonize over it.

Back in my early days as a sales rep we used to wary not to fall into the “shopping basket” approach with our possible customers. “Let me show you every single thing my product can do, and just stop me when you see something you like.” This approach resulted in much glazing over of the prospect’s eyes and zero sales. Don’t fall into this trap with your LinkedIn profile. Figure out what your ideal profile visitor wants, give it to them accurately, briefly and concisely, and you are good to go.

The Case For a Simple Clean LinkedIn Profile

iStock_000018998035XSmallA short story: When I first got into sales back in the early 80’s, I worked with catalog companies who sold technical products worth anywhere from twenty dollars to a couple thousand dollars via catalog. And these people depended on their presentation of the products in those catalogs in order to make sales. Invariably the question they asked was “what problem does the customer for this product have, and how does this product solve it”. The key then became pointing out and focussing on the one or two features that would mean something to a prospective customer. The old advertising adage was true; “when you emphasize everything, you emphasize nothing.” So just focus on the one or two messages you want your customers to know.

The same idea applies to LinkedIn profiles.

When people ask me about their LinkedIn profiles (“should I add rich media? how about projects? what about that course on making sushi I took two years ago. Would that make me look more well rounded?”), I ask these questions back:

“Who is the target audience for your LinkedIn profile? And what do you want those people to know about you?”

That’s what your LinkedIn profile needs to accomplish. And if you don’t need rich media to do that, don’t include any. Many profiles I see these days are just too plain long. These people can come across as a little…obsessive. The first impression I get is not “wow, this person is some sales manager”, it’s “wow, this person has a really long LinkedIn profile” or “wow, this person comes across as just a wee bit too self-involved”

There are exceptions. For people who write or are creative for a living, the LinkedIn profile provides a showcase for that creativity. But other than those, I am having problems coming up with why a manager or an engineer would need a profile which requires a reader to page-down a dozen times to reach the bottom.

LinkedIn says you need the following for a complete LinkedIn profile:

  • Your industry and location
  • An up-to-date current position (with a description)
  • Two past positions
  • Your education
  • Your skills (minimum of 3)
  • A profile photo
  • At least 50 connections

So rich media, projects, social causes, heck, even a summary is not strictly necessary. Just because you can, does not mean you have to.

You do not need a LinkedIn profile that screams, “Behold the wonder that is me”. You need a profile where your target  reader can quickly see that you can help solve the problems they have.