One of the features I like about LinkedIn are the Groups and the interesting discussions they often generate. Not too long ago there was a discussion started over LinkedIn’s new use of endorsements on profiles. So for example, if I click on one of my contacts profile I will be presented with something like this:
If I’m inclined to do so, I can select one of the skills that my contact has claimed to possess and endorse him for it. Once several contacts have done the same you end up with a section on your LinkedIn that looks a bit like this.
When LinkedIn first came out, I seemed to remember everyone praising it for it’s more “gated access approach” to adding connections and building a network. If you wanted to connect with someone then you would be presented with a list of options as to how you know them:
I think a lot of people felt this helped to build trust and a sense of authenticity, not to mention more professionalism compared to other social networks like Facebook. It was harder to just add someone randomly like you tend to do on Facebook. LinkedIn makes it so you have to kind of think about who you’re connection to.
In addition, LinkedIn allows you to give and receive recommendations from others. Getting a recommendations from someone could be a great benefit to someone, and the more you have, the more attractive you’ll look to a potential employer. I guess the new endorsement feature was provide another way to provide recommendations but rather than having to put thought into writing a paragraph or two about the individual, all you have to do is select a button that says “endorse”. There’s not really a lot of thought that goes into it and I’ve even caught myself endorsing someone simply because I noticed they had endorsed me. So, I can see how people might criticize LinkedIn for setting aside some of it’s original philosophy to create clear, authentic connections between people for something a little more superficial.
If I were trying to convince a library director or CEO who is new to social media to create at least one profile online, I would probably recommend that they start with LinkedIn simply because it has that more professional edge and would therefor seem a little “safer” then if I tried to convince them to begin with Facebook. I think, however, people are right to criticize the endorsement feature in LinkedIn and I can imagine many newcomers to social media may agree and be a bit turned off by it.