Daily Dispatch

The Friday Five

What You Need to Know About LinkedIn Endorsements

By | Mar.15.13 | Business Development, Daily Dispatch, Law Practice Management, Social Media, The Friday Five

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LinkedIn continues to be the favorite social networking entry point for lawyers, law firms, legal marketers and other legal professionals. It is the safe, honorable, professional business networking and research site that most closely resembles the profession’s culture and image. Given this comfort level with LinkedIn, let’s discuss the recent addition of the “skills and expertise” section.

1. What are these new skills’ endorsements? Last October, LinkedIn rolled out a new feature called LinkedIn Skills’ endorsements, allowing your first-degree connections to “endorse” your skills and expertise with one click. Your “skills” appear in your profile as short words or phrases that describe what you do. They are then listed on your profile under “Skills & Expertise” in order, with those skills most often endorsed listed first. The basic intention is to add credibility and have others speak up on your behalf. To lawyers, this might play into the effort to build that “know, like and trust” factor that clients seek and deserve. Whether you like this feature or not—and there are many on both sides of the discussion—it appears it is here to stay. In social media years, of course, “here to stay” might mean the next few months until LinkedIn decides to change its mind. Change is the norm, so we don’t expect any features to stick around too long.

This quick-to-change, short-term mindset doesn’t mean you should ignore new features. A better approach is to stay on top of opportunities that are presented, then decide which ones make good business sense, fit into your business and marketing plans, as well as your personality, and, last but not least, fit into the strict code of ethics in the legal profession.

2. What’s the difference between a recommendation and an endorsement? Recommendations have been around for a while. I’m sure you’ve all seen them, received them, given them and have opinions about how they fit into your LinkedIn presence. Some states do not allow them, so it’s important to research the rules in all the states where you have a presence before allowing them to appear on your profile. While Skills & Expertise endorsements are short phrases or words, recommendations are longer form—often detailed—testimonials, as you can see from Patrick Lamb’s profile below. Recommendations have their own section on your profile, and can add real value if written with thought.

Sample Endorsement

If your state is not excited about LinkedIn recommendations, then simply send the kind client or advocate a sincere thank you, letting them know how much you appreciate their support, but that you are bound by rules of the profession that do not allow such testimonials.

3. What does it mean when others endorse you? So suddenly others are endorsing your skills. What does that mean? The short answer is either “something” or “nothing.” Often these endorsements are given by people who truly know and like you and your work, and who understand what you do for a living. When given in this vein, they are wonderful. Plus, they provide more digital breadcrumbs that help build credibility, are searchable, invite interaction between you and the giver, and lead back to you and your skills. Who wouldn’t want that?

As you can see below, they become a compilation of the skills others might think describe you.

Fig2-LinkedInEndorsements

On the flip side, and this is where the “nothing” could come in, sometimes skills’ endorsements are given without any thought other than to get on your radar—or because someone unrelated to your target audience just happens to click on a few skills without having any idea what you do. These ill-fitting skills can then become confusing to those viewing your profile.

LinkedIn at least sends us emails about new skills that others have suggested, so we always have the option to turn them down, which means they won’t appear on your profile. Additionally, you can delete skills you don’t want to appear, or those from people who have endorsed you if you don’t want others to see them as your advocates.

4. Do you need to reciprocate when others endorse you? The short answer is no. If you have a large number of connections on LinkedIn, you will find there are many very kind people who endorse your skills. This happens easily because we are all presented with suggested skills to check off while we are maneuvering around LinkedIn. That makes it very easy to simply click on these skills as we happily make our way around the site in our daily networking.

What this means, however, is that it could become difficult to keep up with the number of people who endorse you. It takes time to go back in and endorse every one of them for the skills you know apply to them. Also, there will be times when, as much as you’d like to, you simply do not feel comfortable making an endorsement. You want to remain honest and genuine, so don’t ever feel obligated to endorse others only because they endorsed you. On the other hand, if it fits into your personality to reciprocate, and you can keep up without offending those who might be monitoring this closely, then do so.

But always remember that your credibility is at stake when you recommend or endorse others. These statements of support are, again, digital breadcrumbs that lead back to you.

5. How can I control the skills listed? LinkedIn suggests skills for others to endorse based on the keywords it finds in your profile. Now and then, though, LinkedIn gets these skills wrong. Most are relevant, but some completely miss the mark. I strongly suggest you take control of the skills listed by giving your visitors some real skills to consider endorsing. My philosophy is that you want to give your advocates something to talk about if you want them to correctly and effectively endorse, support and promote you.

If you’ve already spent time listing the skills you would like to be known for—perhaps in your marketing materials or website—and researching terms others may use to search for someone with your skills, then add these skills to your LinkedIn profile. It will take away some of the guesswork and increase the chances people will choose those skills when endorsing you. If you haven’t spent time yet on a list of your skills and areas of expertise, you need to do so right away—it drives many other parts of your marketing plan. LinkedIn lets you include up to 50 skills, so use them wisely. You don’t want to use all 50 if that means diluting those that are most important.

Of course, as with all marketing and communication, please temper all of this with your jurisdiction’s rules and ethics.

Nancy Myrland is President of Myrland Marketing and Social Media, and is a certified social media consultant, speaker and trainer, and a professional marketing advisor to law firms, legal marketers, administrators and lawyers. She has more than 20 years’ experience partnering with clients to build their business by strengthening their relationships with their clients. She is member of the Legal Marketing Association’s International Board of Directors for 2013-2014. Follow her on Twitter @nancymyrland.

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10 Responses to “What You Need to Know About LinkedIn Endorsements”

  1. Nancy Myrland
    15 March 2013 at 9:21 am #

    Merrilyn and Joan…Thank you very much for publishing my post today. I’m happy to be here in your community!

  2. Bryan M. Griffith, J.D.
    15 March 2013 at 3:59 pm #

    Nancy,

    I think you’ve shortchanged the very important ethical issues with endorsements. There are myriad ethical opinions discussing when you can use en endorsement, and none of them permit random endorsements of your services which cannot be verified and might not be truthful. When a social acquaintance endorses you for Corporate Formation but has never seen you practice Corporate Formation, it is unethical to allow that endorsement to remain.

    Until LinkedIn allows us to approve each endorsement, I don’t see how attorneys can allow the endorsements feature to be enabled on their profiles. It is inevitable that someone will endorse you for something that you don’t do, or in which they have no knowledge of your skills.

  3. Steve Graham
    17 March 2013 at 11:19 pm #

    Nancy or Bryan, is it possible to un-endorse someone after you endorse them? I tried to retract an endorsement on Avvo and it was very complicated.

  4. Bryan M. Griffith, J.D.
    18 March 2013 at 2:18 pm #

    Steve,

    Yes, you can “Remove Endorsement” in the Skills & Expertise section of that person’s profile. Each skill you have endorsed will have a dark blue plus symbol, and you can hover over that to get the “Remove Endorsement” option. It could be easier.

    I would like to see a “Who have I Endorsed” feature.

  5. Nancy Myrland
    19 March 2013 at 10:47 am #

    Thanks Bryan. I appreciate you adding to the extremely important ethical restrictions we all need to adhere to in the legal profession. I’m sorry as I thought I had mentioned it a few times, thus bringing attention to the need to pay attention to all ethical restrictions regarding endorsements, but I must not have done it justice. Your comment is greatly appreciated. Thanks for keeping me on my toes! Have a good day.

  6. Nancy Myrland
    19 March 2013 at 10:51 am #

    Steve, yes, LinkedIn has made it fairly easy to do so. Thanks to Bryan for answering your question. I agree, Bryan. I would love to see an easy “Who Have I Endorsed” feature.

    One other factor to be cautious about is in the area of deleting skills’ endorsements others have given us. If there are any we delete because we don’t want to be associated with that person’s endorsement of us, we need to know that LinkedIn doesn’t give us a way to undo that…unless they’ve recently changed that feature due to public request, that is.

  7. Neil Ferree
    23 March 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    To me, I use the relatively new 1 click endorsement feature on LI the same way I do by giving Klout+ to a Twitter follower who R/T or shared one of my Tweets, although with Rapportive in place, other social upticks are avail as needed.

  8. Mike O'Neil
    25 March 2013 at 11:25 pm #

    This is a very good analysis. There has been this huge backlash about Endorsements in the user community. Deservedly so too.

    The BIG BLUE BOX is the culprit, not the endorsements feature itself. Less than 1 in 5 pople that endorse my skills have any business doing so. They endorse to simply clear the screen. This causes what many feel are “meaningless endorsements”. Take away that big blue box and it’s an entirely different story.


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