LinkedIn Endorsements sneaked up on people. Many users found out about them only when notifications that they had been endorsed starting showing up in their email, and there was a great deal of confusion about what exactly Endorsements were.
According to LinkedIn's Help Center, "Skill endorsements are a great way to recognize your 1st-degree connections' skills and expertise with one click. They also let your connections validate the strengths found on your own profile. Skill endorsements are a simple and effective way of building your professional brand and engaging your network."
[ Want more LinkedIn tips? Read 5 Ways To Improve Your New LinkedIn Profile. ]
It's that "one-click" piece that many people have a problem with. They think Endorsements have little to no real meaning, and have even come to be abused by people who are serial-endorsing without really knowing anything about the skills of the people they are endorsing.
A story I wrote at the time Endorsements was first unveiled received many comments along these lines, including this one: "The bigger issue is that since this 'feature' has come on line I've been receiving endorsements from people who I haven't spoken with in years, endorsing me for skills that they either would not have known I had or were secondary to the skills that I was known for and demonstrated when we worked together," wrote tv22. "Just today I received one for a skill that I use now, but not so much before, from a guy I haven't spoken with in at least 10 years. It is already becoming noise."
If anything, the feelings about Endorsements have only grown more negative, as evidenced by the dozens of comments my colleague David Nour received on his recent story, "Why Soliciting LinkedIn Endorsements Is a Bad Idea."
Most experts would agree with David that it is a bad idea to actively solicit LinkedIn Endorsements. Indeed, the "I'll endorse you if you endorse me" environment that has grown up around the feature is what has turned many people off. With all that said, there are ways in which Endorsements can be used to build your brand and promote better communications with your contacts. And, having no endorsements on your profile can look bad. Indeed, said Wayne Breitbarth, a LinkedIn speaker and trainer and author of "The Power Formula for LinkedIn," you have to have them: "Like it or not, LinkedIn is a beauty contest -- if you have only a few Endorsements, you're the frump in the one-piece, and your competitor with hundreds of endorsements is sporting the hottest bikini on the stage."
Brandon Lewin, VP of business development at Image Perspective, believes Endorsements can be used to gauge how others see you -- and your strengths -- professionally. "I have found that LinkedIn Endorsements is best used for one big purpose: that is, for insight on your personal brand positioning," said Lewin. "How do people see you as a professional? Have the efforts you have put forth to position yourself as a certain specialist paid off? Those are questions you should ask, and those are questions LinkedIn Endorsements can answer for you. If the answer is no, then you can begin to make a push toward positioning yourself as the expert you want to be seen as."