Do LinkedIn Recommendations Have Value?

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People love to hate LinkedIn recommendations. “Spam” they cry. “Insincere” they shout. I’ve seen it often in my online travels. This week, I happened to notice a blog post by my friend Jeff Chatterton over at Checkmate Public Affairs (a great crisis communications outfit, by the way!) disparaging LinkedIn’s recommendations feature that ever user has access to. I put up a comment on Checkmate’s Facebook Page, but I wanted to expand further here. Here’s the general point Jeff makes:

“I’m sure some genius at LinkedIn thought “Hey, people like being endorsed for something. Let’s make it easy for people to endorse other people. It’s a giant circle of endorsement love.” The current system, where you can ‘endorse’ someone with a few mere mouse clicks, is simply clogging bandwidth.”

Jeff’s not wrong. There is no doubt that this idea was created with the intent of getting LinkedIn users to visit the site more. And everyone likes to receive compliments, which is essentially what LinkedIn recommendations are. Further, it doesn’t take nearly the time or effort to click on a recommendation as it does to write up an actual endorsement, which was the way that LinkedIn users primarily gave the public nod to a connection.

It can be argued that these recommendations mean less due to their “frictionless” format, but I argue they definitely offer one thing: consensus. Whenever a LinkedIn user posts the suite of skills they bring to the table, we essentially have to take their word for it. Until you see it for yourself, the “skill” they boast about may be am exaggeration at best or a myth altogether at worst. But through the number of recommendations, the user’s peers help us figure out where the user’s strength lies.

Let’s look at Jeff’s profile. His top two skilled are “strategic communications” and “crisis communications”. That makes sense. He’s very good at that. The skill he mentions on his blog post that he doesn’t have (but was put up by people in his network), “Event Planning”, only has two recommendations. So we can safely assume that: event planning? Not Jeff’s thing. Jeff even confirms in his blog post that he hates that particular task.

So, it seems to me the recommendations section of Jeff’s LinkedIn profile works rather well.

Sure, writing a handwritten note or picking up the phone is better than a like, a retweet or a recommendation. Personal contact always is. But those kinds of personal touches are exceedingly rare these days in a connected world. At least recommendations allow you to serve as a crowdsourced check on claims made by a prospective or current contact. That’s a good thing.

Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment below.

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