Scrolling down the emails, you spot another LinkedIn endorsement. Should you cheer, ignore it, or thank the endorser? Paul Hutchings gives his view.
Have you endorsed anyone on LinkedIn? My profile currently shows I'm mostly endorsed for "market research" (phew!) but hang on a minute that's only 10% of my connections. And many of those other endorsements (relating to aspects of market research) are from people who I've really never worked with. I lay claim to specific expertise that isn't coming through in that list and I want influential people who know me well to endorse my expertise.
In an online, hyper-connected, information-rich world is this feature really helpful?
LinkedIn is one of the social networks that is actually turning a profit. But even with over 200 million users and apparently two new members every second it still needs to come up with ways to increase how much we engage with "the facebook for business".
Through their clever little profile pic bar charts, endorsements help viewers get a better sense of our "skills and expertise". Putting aside the quant pedant in me that is irritated by the lack of a common scale on the pic bars (they're all a maximum of 12 pics long), a quick glance at someone's endorsements gives me a sense of what the crowd thinks he or she is good at.
But actually, a lot of people endorsing others have no direct knowledge of their expertise or what they're really good at.
Are they doing it to get endorsements back, to help someone they know, or to share the love? Or is it because they just want to get rid of that box at the top of the profile that says "Does Paul have these skills or expertise?" with its easy endorse-for-all-these button for LinkedIn's suggestions. Though that doesn't help because you're then asked to say what skills or expertise four of your other connections have.
This endless engagement and social connection is at the heart of the social networks" purpose: they are always looking for new ways to draw us in, to keep us there and get us sharing. LinkedIn gets its money from premium profiles, recruitment and targeted ads, yet there is very little it can offer above the free service to members that is attractive unless you're a fan of online stalking, so endorsement seems designed more for recruiters and advertisers. It's a relief to see it being subverted as I did the other day. I have a management consultant friend who has been endorsed for bumper stickers, pole-dancing and swearing.
With sincere apologies to my endorsers (who doesn't love a bit of validation?) you do have to wonder about a system that seems to offer connection without adding meaning.
But what do I know? Just five people say I know about "social media".
Directory, Kindle Research Ltd
This article was first published in InBrief magazine, August 2013
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2013