David J. Danto
Principal Consultant, Collaboration/ AV / Multimedia / Video / UC
Director of Emerging Technology
Interactive Multimedia & Collaborative Communications Alliance
The Social Media Popularity Contest
“Your Connection Bill has endorsed you for Videoconferencing!”
That was what my latest email boldly announced in the subject line. I am an expert when it comes to videoconferencing, so I do appreciate the vote of confidence, but something about it isn’t right.
For those of you not aware, the social media site for professionals – LinkedIn – recently created this new “endorsement” recognition that lets members “vote” to indicate that their connection has certain skills or expertise.
Now I do like social media…and particularly LinkedIn. It is the place to be on the internet for career advancement, potential new-hire research, important discussion forums in groups and much more. I’m proud that many outstanding people that I’ve worked with throughout my career took the time to write recommendations for me that appear on my profile. These are people I reached out to because I respect them, and I felt their name on a recommendation for me would portray me in the best light. This includes colleagues that I’ve worked side-by-side with and leaders of firms I’ve done business with. When they state that their experience with me shows me to be an expert, I appreciate and am honored by the recommendations. These new endorsements however…well that’s another story.
“Your connection John has endorsed you for Unified Communications and Collaboration!”
LinkedIn’s algorithms look through people’s profiles and make suggestions to their contacts that they should endorse people for certain skills. If you’re one of my connections, “Does David Danto know about Unified Communications and Collaboration?” comes up at the top of the screen when you go anywhere on LinkedIn. You can ignore the question and keep doing what you’re doing, or you can just click the word “Endorse” under my picture and send me that vote. A tiny picture of you then appears on my profile next to the others who have endorsed me for that skill. If you look at my LinkedIn profile here, you’ll see that I have over 70 endorsements in some areas of my expertise and less than that in areas where fewer people have voted. If you’re wondering what’s wrong with that, the answer is plenty.
“Your connection Jane has endorsed you for Pig Farming!”
First of all, there is really nothing different between this and a popularity contest. The high school class president - and for that matter the emperor with no clothes - also got the most votes, but neither of them were the best or the brightest. It is nice to be popular, but that in and of itself isn’t an indicator of skills or expertise. But beyond that, who are these people that are endorsing me? Are they people I worked with for many years, are they a person I met once at a conference or are they individuals who I’ve never met and don’t know at all? I have received endorsements from connections that have read my articles and asked to network with me, but have never met me. These may be fine people, but they don’t have any relevant experience to say I’m good at something they’ve never seen me do. This also then creates a question of social media and cultural protocol. Am I then supposed to return the gesture and endorse these people for skills I’ve never seen them exhibit, or do I only endorse the people I would recommend in real life for the things I’m willing to promise that they are good at? I don’t want to appear ungrateful, but I also don’t want to lend my good name to something I’ve never seen.
“Your connection Jim has endorsed you for Blowing Really Big Soap Bubbles!”
Then there’s the whole question of the things I’m being endorsed for. Sometimes these are from skills I specifically added to my profile - before this whole endorsement / chain letter thing took off. But sometimes they are subjects that come way out of the blue. The firm I work for (Dimension Data) is one of the world leaders in employee certifications and qualifications. Our roster of experts is unparalleled, and I’m proud to be considered one of those subject matter experts – but of course that’s just in my areas of expertise. We have hundreds of experts in fields I’ve had little or no experience with. Yet people I don’t know endorse me for some of those skills that my firm has but I don’t – and that’s on a good day. Other endorsements are so odd that I have no idea where they came from. Until LinkedIn figures out how to make these endorsements a little more relevant and a little less of a popularity contest we all have to read them with a healthy dose of skepticism.
“Your connection Sam has endorsed you for Swapping Business Cards in Airport Lounges!”
So the next time you swap business cards with someone in an airport lounge pre-flight keep in mind that this may be the source of your next endorsement. You need to be extra nice if you want that next glowing yet worthless testimonial to land on your profile.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions. David has over three decades of experience providing problem solving leadership and innovation in media and unified communications technologies for various firms in the corporate, broadcasting and academic worlds including AT&T, Bloomberg LP, FNN, Morgan Stanley, NYU, Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan Chase. He now works with Dimension Data as their Principal Consultant for the collaboration, multimedia, video and AV disciplines. He is also the IMCCA’s Director of Emerging Technology. David can be reached at David.Danto@Dimensiondata.com or DDanto@imcca.org and his full bio and other blogs and articles can be seen at Danto.info. Please reach-out to David if you would like to discuss how he can help your organization solve problems or develop a future-proof collaboration strategy.