The Nips and Tucks Happening at LinkedIn

By: Guest | October 29, 2012 | 

Today’s guest post is by Liam Gooding

Does everything coming out of California really need a face lift?

LinkedIn has been changing things up lately, but will their actions distract users from discussing business?

Judging by the recent activities, it would seem they’re getting a bit obsessed with their wrinkles.

The question is will they take it too far and end up masking the characteristics we all found so beautiful in the first place?

LinkedIn has increasingly been adding features to the old trusted functions: Linking in with new business connections, linking up with your business connections, and linking into business discussions you care about.

LinkedIn Today and features such as the new ‘Thought Leaders” have the potential to distract users from getting down to business.

LinkedIn Influencers

LinkedIn now allows users to follow ‘Thought Leaders.’

Thought Leader updates will appear on your LinkedIn home page, and potential Thought Leaders have to apply to get extra exposure for their content, which legitimizes them and weeds out the riff-raff.

Sure, reading good content submitted by influencers might keep you linked in to LinkedIn longer, but now you’re in a passive role.

To me, LinkedIn is about action.

Search. Connect. Ask. Answer. Poll. Discuss.

When I log into LinkedIn, I don’t want to read, I want to take action, but pushing content at me keeps me passive.

Sure I can share it, like it, and follow people, but I’d rather target, get to know, and convert. Like an old celebrity with too much plastic surgery, LinkedIn in danger of losing her natural beauty. I can tell there’s still some talent in there, but I can’t help thinking I’d respect her more with wrinkles instead of the obvious attempts to look young and fit in.

LinkedIn Endorsements

LinkedIn also recently released endorsements. When you view a profile of one of your connections, a bright blue box at the top of the profile asks you to endorse that person’s skills. You can choose to endorse all of the skills or carefully select individual skills to endorse. Once you click endorse, another screen pops up asking you to endorse the skills of four more of your connections.

The button even invites you to endorse all four connections without evaluating their skills. How can I benefit my trusted business contacts by endorsing skills I haven’t even examined? I can still show respect to my trusted contacts by leaving them a thoughtful, well-written recommendation, but in comparison, ‘one-click endorsements’ seem shallow.

I can see the benefits to recognizing skills of a few connections you may not know well enough to give a full recommendation to, but sorry LinkedIn, the ‘endorse all four’ feature is like a plastic surgery freak show. It’s like you’ve gone crazy with lip injections and are puckering up your duck-face. You could be forgiven for a little ‘endorsement enhancement,’ but the ‘endorse four’ feature just makes you look silly. You’re distracting us from your real beauty and talent. Search. Connect. Ask. Answer. Poll. Discuss.

The Ugly Truth

True, it’s too early to tell how the users will react to the most recent enhancements. We did a quick poll of LinkedIn users to get initial reaction to endorsements: Thirty three percent said they ignore endorse requests and only 13 percent said they would endorse all the skills of a person he or she likes. Maybe people are more honest than we thought?

Still, LinkedIn previously prompted us all to add multiple skills by counting down how many of the 50 allocated skills we had used. Will tuned in social media people scramble to dump some of those ‘fluff’ skills? Who knows, but it’s another thing people will spend time trying to figure out instead of having business discussions.

I’ll leave the last word to another of my poll contributors:

“Personally, I’m at a loss to WHY LinkedIn removed the Recommendations being shown on your profile as a number. It’s taken me more than five years of hard work to receive the more than 40 recommendations I’ve been given by colleagues, clients, and partners. Now, they aren’t as prominent as they were before. I’ve heard a lot of wild statements about the usefulness as business tool. I’ve certainly got a fair amount of work from it. More so than Twitter or Facebook, but I think LinkedIn are messing with the foundations a bit too much at the moment. What is the point of endorsing skills now? Ultimately none.” Illiya Vjestica

Stay beautiful LinkedIn. Stay beautiful.

Liam Gooding is the co-founder and CEO of Virally. He blogs about content marketing, conversion optimization, and occasionally goes off topic and talks about entrepreneurship and startup marketing. He lives in the delightfully named Canterbury, England. 

  • dariasteigman

    Hi Liam,
    I like the face lift analogy. I really dislike the concept of “endorsements.” The conundrum right now is that you’re either left accepting endorsements (and endorsing your colleagues) or you risk looking like no one really values your expertise. It’s a nasty trap and a Klout-lite game. And, i agree with you, it’s distracting from doing business on LinkedIn.

    • liamgooding

      @dariasteigman Thanks for the comment Daria. Totally agree that there’s now a huge amount of peer pressure to get involved, even if you don’t believe in the value. You have to endorse because everyone else is doing it. The fact that it only takes 30 seconds to give 20+ Endorsements is insane…

  • joecardillo

    Agree w/this, endorsements are classic case of signal v. noise. Once enough people mindlessly click to endorse others for various skills it won’t mean anything. A well written, thoughtful recommendation is still the most important thing I look for. It also gives credibility to both the person making the recommendation and the person receiving it.

    • liamgooding

      @joecardillo interesting you should mention the noise issue Joe, I’m already seeing rants on twitter about the level of email spam they’re generating too. Recommendations might seem ‘old fashioned’ but I think the business community who use LinkedIn are a smart bunch. They know that old fashioned isn’t a bad thing. they know they;re thoughtful and take an investment of time to deliver.

      • magriebler

        @liamgooding  @joecardillo To me, endorsements seem to function on the same level as Facebook “likes”: easy to do and relatively meaningless in the long run. I’m disappointed that LinkedIn seems to be moving away from its foundation of serious networking and assuming more and more of the tics of other social networking sites.

      • magriebler

        @liamgooding  @joecardillo To me, endorsements seem to function on the same level as Facebook “likes”: easy to do and relatively meaningless in the long run. I’m disappointed that LinkedIn seems to be moving away from its foundation of serious, grown-up networking and assuming more and more of the tics of other social media sites.

  • Hi there, thanks for the mention/link. I think by making the site a content destination, obviously they can get more time on site (and show more ads). However, I do like the path they’ve chosen to showcase influencer content as opposed to a mass contributor program like many of the other media content sites have moved to. I completely understand the recommendations/endorsement frustrations.

    • dariasteigman

      @stephsammons I understand the concept behind “thought leaders,” but I’m going to have to see how it actually shapes out. A lot of so-called influencers really aren’t–and the challenge is to showcase the content of those people who might be relevant to you but whose ideas and smarts you aren’t already seeing elsewhere. Otherwise it’s going to just be more “stuff.”

      • @dariasteigman Yep, and the last thing we need is more “stuff” right? If they keep the program small versus letting anyone and everyone in perhaps the integrity will hold up.

    • liamgooding

      @stephsammons No problem Steph, it was a great article to use as a reference!

  • Great article, I really liked the analogy. I agree with a lot of your points. I think LinkedIn should stop trying to play catch-up with other social platforms and just be LinkedIn. It’s working for a reason, it has specific functions for a reason and I don’t see why they are trying to evolve it into something it’s not. 
    I’m on the fence about the Endorsement function. For me, It has been must easier getting endorsements. Asking and getting someone to recommend me was like pulling teeth.

    • joecardillo

      @stevenmcoyle It’s true that it’s MUCH harder to get a recommendation but the handful I have are really valuable. For that reason when someone asks me for one I consider it carefully and try to deliver an honest and thoughtful response.

    • liamgooding

      @stevenmcoyle Hi Steven, completely agree with you that recommendations are hard to get, but doesn’t that make you value each one so much more? And when you view them on other people’s profiles, you *know* how much hard work went into getting them. You’ll take that person more serious. You know the guy with 100 recommendations has Clout. real Clout. Not Klout.

      • @liamgooding @joecardillo I agree that recommendations should carry more weight. But I also think people are looked over for not having any because the people they’ve asked are too busy to write them. My manager during my internship took about 6 months before she got around to writing me a recommendation. If she had the option of simply pressing the endorsement button, I’m sure she would have done it sooner.

        • liamgooding

          @stevenmcoyle  @joecardillo Hi Steve, I’ve had the heel draggers before with recommendations, but in those instances just poke them a few times and move on.
          If they’re slow to hand out good value recommendations, they’re less likely to receive reciprocal recommendations (i.e. they wont receive your recommendation to them as a good manager) which in turn would have a knock on effect to them getting their next position as a manager in a new company.
          It’s their loss.
          Getting the first few doesn’t require a huge project. I have a recommendation because I donated half a day of consulting to a small business owner for free when the new UK cookie laws came out. It was a small gesture and the small business owner decided to write me a thoughtful recommendation afterwards. Think of it as a character reference.
          Think about what gestures you could do for some of your connections. And then maybe later, ask for a recommendation. Don’t do this “transactionally”, but they *will* be faster to respond and write you one up if you’re helpful.

  • KyleAkerman

    My guess is that LinkedIn is using the Endorsements as a way to improve the relevancy of its internal search.  For the longest time it has SUCKED.  And it still kind of does.
    Type “Social Media” into the search box and and choose “People.”
    Look at the first two entries and behold the power of keyword stuffing.
    It used to be that the entire first page was like this.  I now see some legitimate entries, i.e ones with Endorsements and not keyword stuffed job descriptions. 
    – Kyle

    • liamgooding

      @KyleAkerman Hi Kyle, thats a really interesting idea. And I agree it *would* be a good way to easily contextualise the database. Weighting the searches heavier towards endorsements as they were “crowdsourced”. Similiar to Google using +1’s to weight search results.
      Because after one endorsement, LinkedIn then automatically suggests 4 people, and fills in 4 keywords, people just click “Yes to all”. They aren’t actually having any input. They’re just “agreeing” with LinkedIn whether they agree or not. The contextualising is engineered. Fabricated. 
      I think your idea would work and is a good one, and perhaps was the strategy. However, somewhere along the lines, perhaps the UX/UI team, executed this strategy wrong.

      • KyleAkerman

        @liamgooding I did not know there was a “Yes to all” option.  That’s not good at all.  I guess we will have to wait and see if they make any tweaks to the system over time.

  • I’ll admit that I have never been a heavy LI user, but I do check in weekly.  I stopped using most groups because they ended up being spam spewers.  However, I ALWAYS checked out new connections, who they knew, and particularly, their recommendations.  It’s not easy to write a BS recommendation – they’re totally transparent.  
    When endorsements first showed up and I was getting them from clients/past employees, I thought ‘great.’  Then I could endorsed on every skill by someone I’ve never met.  ‘Thought Leaders’ instantly makes me think of Klout and how bogus it is… without even looking I can GUESS who LI thinks the Social Media thought leaders are, and we probably don’t agree.

    • liamgooding

      @AmyMccTobin Hi Amy, do you think LinkedIn is trying to catchup with Klout’s “trendyness” or do you think they’re attempted to bring genuine ‘klout-style’ value to the network (even though the execution may not have worked)?

      • @liamgooding I honestly never know what they’re trying to do other than stay relevant.  This morning I just got endorsed on a bunch of skills by someone who has never met me…. they’re just a bad idea that will hurt LI’s integrity. It HAS to be harder to endorse someone…..

  • I don’t get it, but I guess they have jumped on the content marketing wagon. I don’t think content and Linked In though. I think business. It has been my best tool as a freelancer to pick up new clients. 
    Perhaps they will be pushing some new advertising soon? It has to be tied to the financial bottom line and proving something to their stock holders about earning potential. I just wonder if they are doing it the wrong way.
    I bet they are feeling the pressure as the bubble beings to burst. Facebook still isn’t out of the hole they dug themselves when they went public.

  • francetim

    Hear, hear! I even get posts in my timeline now saying “Jane Doe is now following what Joe Bloggs is saying on LinkedIn Today” – who gives a shite? I want to know what Jane Doe thinks, that’s why I have her as a contact.
    It seems to be one step forward, two steps back with LinkedIn all the time! Overall they are definitely killing it from a user perspective – but they wouldn’t be doing it if it did not help them to capitalize in some way. So let’s wake up and smell the coffee folks…. say after me: “It’s not about the users, stupid”.
    In Thailand (where I live) there is a high-profile case right now of a woman who died recently following very simple cosmetic surgery procedure. Your nip and tuck metaphor is a great one, and LinkedIn should heed the obvious warnings.

  • brucerazniewski

    The recent changes have done nothing for me. They’re mostly a nuisance.

  • I rarely take the recommendations seriously.  They are easily obtained and given out as favors and not necessarily because of merit.

  • Pingback: Google+ Communities: Where is the Value? by @extremelyavg | Spin Sucks()