When was the last time you looked at your LinkedIn profile?
If you’re like some, it was probably a while ago. In fact, some people really only look at (or update) their profile when they’re looking for a job. Sad reality. But, most likely true (based on what I’ve seen and heard from others).
Me? I check it weekly (daily, really). I update it monthly. And I’m constantly refining my profile. But, that’s because for me, LinkedIn is a powerful networking and business tool. I use it all the time.
Others use it only when they need something. And I think that’s very, very foolish (rant for a different post).
If you are one of those people like me that review their profile regularly, you know all about endorsements and recommendations–and the power they now have in the new online world.
There has been a lot of debate about these functions. But, most of that debate focuses on the wrong debate.
“How many recommendations do I need?” is the typical question I hear.
Or, “how many recommendations should I have for each job I’ve held?”
“How do I go about getting more endorsements?” is another common refrain.
But, those are the wrong questions. Why? Because LinkedIn recommendations and endorsements are complete shams.
OK, I said it. I expect LinkedIn and Mr. Weiner to lock my account down any minute now.
But really, think about it.
That long list of recommendations you have? How many of those were “trades”? (“you write a recommendation for me, I’ll write one for you”)
How many of those recommendations are from people who truly know your work style and the results you’ve achieved over the years?
All those endorsements–are they really focused on the areas you want to be known for?
I think there are a number of reasons recommendations and endorsements are complete lies–and, more importantly, they’re impacting our perceptions of colleagues, would-be hires and vendors online. Consider the following lies and consequent results:
The lie: Too much focus on only the top endorsement categories
Result: Not ENOUGH focus on the lower categories
When you glance at someone’s endorsements, what sticks out immediately? The categories at the top, right? But, what about the categories that fall at the bottom. For example, for me, media relations, social media marketing and PR sit near the top of the list. Makes sense. But, corporate communications sits toward the bottom. Now, I probably have almost 10 years of experience in corporate communications, yet ,there it sits near the bottom of that list of endorsements. Now, maybe I’m not doing a good enough job of positioning myself in that arena, but I would argue that most people that are endorsing me probably haven’t worked directly with me and know me from my blog or online (where I rarely talk about corporate communications or my experience there).
The lie: A lack of direct work experience with the endorsee
Result: Endorsements that mean nothing
I’ll ask again, how many of those endorsements come from people who have actually worked closely with you? For me, 87 people have endorsed me for “media relations.” But, a big chunk of those 87 haven’t worked with me before (note: I love the fact that people have taken the time to endorse me–this is in no way a critique of these people), and if they had, they would know that’s probably not the one skill I’m the best at. Sure, media relations is definitely in my skill set mix. I’m proficient at it and I work with clients in this area regularly. But, it’s probably not my #1 skill. Probably not even #2. But yet, there are those 87 endorsements.
The lie: The “recommendation trade”
Result: Hollow recommendations filled with corporate “puffery”
This is the elephant in the room no one really wants to talk about, it seems. How many recommendations are based on the assumption: You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours? I’m guessing it’s a big number. I have no data to back this up, mind you. It’s just a hunch based on my personal interactions (I’ve fallen prey to this–although I will say the recos at top do not fall in that bucket; two former clients and two people I’ve spoken with or for) and what I hear from others. But, it’s a serious issue because it breeds the myriad of “hollow” recommendations we now see on LinkedIn. Oh, you’ve seen them. Full of corporate buzzwords and exaggerations. The problem is with this many “trade” recommendations out there, it’s hard to discern which recommendations are truly worthy and meaningful and which are just barter.
The lie: Endorsements for the wrong skills
Result: Confusion around true strengths and weaknesses
Consider my former BlogWorld planning partner and group director at WCG, Chuck Hemann. From all accounts, Chuck is one of the foremost thought leaders on digital analytics. He blogs about it. He teaches it to clients and colleagues. He’s even written a damn book about it. Yet, what skill shows up #1 on his endorsement list? Digital strategy. Now, I’m not saying Chuck doesn’t have this skill set (clearly, he does), or that it shouldn’t be a key skill for him (it should). But, I would think given ALL his work in analytics, his book, his blog, his complete focus, that analytics would be #1. How does this happen? See above–most likely, endorsements from people who really don’t know Chuck all that well. The result? Confusion for those finding Chuck on LinkedIn over his biggest strengths.
What do you think? Am I wrong here? Are LinkedIn endorsements and recommendations the big lie of the professional social web?
Earlier this week, LinkedIn users started receiving emails like this:
Feels pretty good, right? I’m in the top 1 percent! Others received emails stating they were in the top 5 percent. 10 percent, even. All in an effort to recognize the platforms more engaged and prolific users.
And judging from the dearth of posts yesterday on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, I’d say LinkedIn made out pretty well here from a short-term awareness/buzz perspective.
But, outside of ego massaging 20 million LinkedIn users, what really happened here? What did LinkedIn really achieve? And, does it really provide long-term value to these top users and the platform itself?
There was also a lot of blowback online yesterday around these emails. People saying they found them “smarmy” and even “spammy.” Now, I tend to think a lot of the folks saying that are people who work in our industry. People who have their radar up for this type of stuff.
Take a look at Mark Schaefer’s post from yesterday:
I know you can’t read the comments, but there were more than a few that weren’t exactly enthralled with the email. Not so much that it was spammy–but more about the lack of value the email and data provided.
And, that’s what this all comes down to in the end. What kind of value is LinkedIn creating for its users with this kind of note? Answer: Not much.
What’s more, take a step back for a moment and look at some of the more recent changes to LinkedIn and you start to see an ugly pattern emerging.
Is LinkedIn slowly eroding its own platform?
Look at their recent “endorsements” rollout. Another “hollow” tool designed to spur clicks and engagement, but really what do these endorsements really provide users? I don’t know about you, but there have been many people who have endorsed me for “media relations” or “social media marketing” over the last several months. People who have not worked with me. People who probably know little about my background (outside of what LinkedIn tells them). But, people who probably ready my blog and interact with me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. And while I really appreciate the endorsements, you can’t help but wonder if they really mean anything to employers and others who view your profile. Are they really a valued “social signal”?
Or, what about when LinkedIn rolled out the ability to follow “thought leaders” on the platform in Oct. 2012? You can follow such luminaries as Tony Robbins, Mitt Romney and T. Boone Pickens. It’s a nice idea, but it lacks relevance. Wouldn’t it be great if LinkedIn curated thought leaders by INDUSTRY and served those up to us instead of giving us a swath of general business and industry thought leaders? Instead, we get more irrelevance–posts and shares from the likes of David Cameron, Jim Kim and James Caan (no not that James Caan, the other one; oh, you don’t know the other one? Huh). Again, adding little value for most.
You see where I’m going with this. Many of LinkedIn’s recent “enhancements” or “benefits” haven’t really been enhancements or benefits at all–at least not from a user perspective. In fact, they’ve been turning people off to the platform. And, keep in mind, LinkedIn was and still is widely regarded as THE professional social network of choice (for now).
There are tens of thousands of people (educated guess) who interact and have a profile on LinkedIn that don’t show up ANYWHERE ELSE on the Web. This is the one place these business folks come to interact an get information about companies and people.
But, if LinkedIn keeps rolling out “enhancements” like these, and emails touting that you’re in the top 1 percent of all profiles viewed, well, I have a feeling their credibility might take a hit (and for many, it already has).
So, I ask you: Is LinkedIn slowly eroding its own platform? What do you think?
LinkedIn ads. They’re the ugly stepchild of social advertising. OK, that might be taking things a bit too far, but they’re rarely discussed. But, for more organizations (particularly B2B organizations) they’re a cost-effective way to promote products/services and raise your brand profile online.
Not sure if you saw the news last week, but LinkedIn now has 150 million users. It’s no Facebook, but remember, people consider LinkedIn their “professional” network of choice. So, they go there to: find jobs, find information, meet new people, and find contractors/vendors.
It’s not just that there’s a whole bunch of people who use LinkedIn. It’s that the *right* people are using LinkedIn (for certain organizations–think about those interested in reaching C-level folks).
What do I mean?
1.3 million small business owners use the platform. 7.9 million “business decision makers” use it (OK, I know that’s a little soft, but still). And 4.2 million corporate executives use LinkedIn.
So, we know the people with “buying power” are using the platform.Why not advertise to them on the network they’re using for business?
More people are–although it still seems like it’s not discussed often enough. And, the ads sometimes reflect that. Off-based. Off-target. And somewhat lazy writing.
So, I thought we’d spend some time today talking about how to write a LinkedIn ad that will actually get clicks–and drive results for your firm.
First, know where you’re sending people
LinkedIn gives you the option to send folks to a LinkedIn page (your corporate page, most likely) or a separate URL. Whatever you decide, make sure the destination is a welcoming spot. Be sure it’s paying off on the promise you’re making (or question you’re asking) in the ad. Nothing worse than a landing page that doesn’t address the need or want a customer has after reading (and CLICKING) on your ad.
Cut through the clutter–but be relevant
You only have 25 characters (with spaces) for your LinkedIn ad headline. So you have to make it short and sweet. You need a headline that not only hooks the reader, but one that is also free and clear of jargon. You don’t have room to mess around here. Ask a question. Make a bold statement. Just make sure you get your audience’s attention. Remember, they’re not coming to LinkedIn for the ads.
Focus on a strong call to action
LinkedIn encourages you to use strong “call to action”-type words like “try”, “download”, and “sign up.” My suggestion? Don’t try to do too much here. Remember, you still have the link/URL at the bottom of the ad. Tell people why to make that click–just don’t go overboard trying to do it.
Make your photo tell some of the story
Much like Facebook, images can be everything for a LinkedIn ad. Why not makes your work a bit? Pick one that helps you tell your story a bit. Or, pick one that’s a bit out of the ordinary. Remember, you’re trying to grab people’s attention for a moment. Just make sure your photo involves color–the LinkedIn ad background is white, so if you pick an image with a lot of white in it, it’s likely to get lost. Also note the size of the image if 50 by 50 pixels–make sure the best part of your image isn’t getting cut off when you resize it.
Test and tweak. Repeat.
The best part about LinkedIn ads? You can use 15 different versions for each campaign. That means you can run all sorts of tests. Test the headline. Test the body copy. Even test the image. See which combinations work best–and put more money toward those ads.
Have you used LinkedIn ads before? If yes, what tips would you add that could help others as they write their first LinkedIn ads?