You will be stunned by the results of our experiment on LinkedIn. We investigated, tested and measured how Buying LinkedIn Endorsements work or doesn’t work. But for the precious details, you need to read a little bit more.
There are several articles about everything pro and contra. Scientific studies that prove a conjecture, and the next day another clinical experiment proves the opposite. Yesterday vitamins were good for you and fat is bad, today vitamins cause cancer and fats are your friends. So why would it be different with LinkedIn endorsements?
Of course there are different opinions. Some people think buying LinkedIn endorsements are useless, some think they are the holy grail of LinkedIn and keep collecting thousands of them. Let’s see the psychology behind LinkedIn endorsements, and then you can decide is it worth to spend your money on buying them or not?
The psychology behind LinkedIn endorsements?
We all know that the crowded restaurant is more inviting, and the “best seller” book sells better just because it’s declared a bestseller. We tend to follow the crowd’s decision and only 5-10% of the population are willing to act against a group decision even in emergency situations. These are not wild guesses but scientifically proven fats. We usually act like cows following the herd, or if it’s too offensive metaphor for you, let’s say we are fishes swimming with the stream.
This behavior has it’s benefits. If we have no clue what to do in a new situation, we look around and follow/copy what other people do. This is how we avoid dangerous places, people and situations, relying on the decision and behavior of surrounding people.
When we decide what to buy, who to work with, we rely on our previous experiences. If we don’t have that we ask advice from our friends or other influencer people in our life. If they can’t help us, we look even farther and search for social signals, social proof online. Basically we rely on others previous decisions, and the visible trails of those: articles, blogs, reviews, opinions, ratings, etc.
LinkedIn endorsements are a special kind of social validations, because it’s based on responses of individuals but together these single interactions represent a group decision. From this group decision again, individuals can make conclusions.
What does your LinkedIn endorsements represent?
The common answers are: “They represent what I am good at” or “Acknowledgements of my skills”. Actually both answers and all similar answers are wrong. Because the endorsements you receive have nothing to do with your skills. Literally no one will visit your profile and endorse your “web-design” skills after you made him a nice website.
I suppose that you are the kindest person on earth ever, but for the sake of explanation let’s pretend for a moment that you are a talented, skilled professional, a real expert and an… a**hole! You are the best in your field, but your social behavior is somewhere between a rabid grisly and a hobo with a terrible hangover. Everyone is satisfied with your work, but they prefer to go and have a root canal treatment than socialize with you.
Will anyone endorse you skills? No they won’t, because you are like the plague. They keep away from your profile and any interaction, because they don’t want their avatars displayed on a profile of an a**hole. In the meantime, the secretary without any hard and professional skills – except nail polishing and initiating unnecessary private phone calls – collects endorsements on her profile without any effort.
LinkedIn endorsements represent one single skill: The way you socialize.
If you are really the kindest person on earth, and even the sun starts to shine when you speak, than your connections on LinkedIn will endorse your skills doesn’t matter how skillful you are.
How can we tell if someone is not an a**hole?
Do you want a short answer? You can’t.
In the everyday life you can tell the difference in a blink of an eye. On LinkedIn, it’s more complicated than that. The lack of endorsements can mean a lot of things. Maybe the person is just registered to LinkedIn, or he is just not a networking superstar but a little bit shy. Or maybe he is a full pledged a**hole. As you can see it’s beneficial to differentiate yourself from the outcasts, because even if we left kinder garden a long time ago, these stigmas are everywhere, even in corporate field. Having more endorsements means that you are a people person, you coworkers, employees, partners and clients like you. Not your skills… you!
Why socialization skills are so important?
I really don’t want the bore you to death by explaining everything in detail, so let’s focus on the facts: We do business with people we know, people we trust or recommended to us. Even if their price is higher, they are the safe, reliable choice. In business that is what matters right? You can have the lower price quote ever, if the shipment never arrives, the quality is unacceptable, the customer service is basically nonexistent. When recruiters look at the profile they can see immediately that you are a people person or not? This can be a warning sing, that you can’t fit it, you are not a team player. Because where are the endorsements from those people who loved to work with you?
Do you think firms are looking for grumpy, antisocial programmers to put them into the basement in cages? Even if they do a great work, they have to interact with other departments, coworkers to make the current project come true. How can someone with terrible manors cooperate with others, without poisoning the atmosphere and ruining morale?
When should you buy LinkedIn endorsements?
Maybe you should not, because it’s not for everyone. Consider this: If you don’t want to spend a lot of time contacting people and asking for endorsements, because you have better things to do in your spare time, for example spending time with your family, or making more money, it’s a good idea to outsource the endorsement gathering. Because let’s be honest, buying endorsements are simply outsourcing. You ask people do to something for you.
For example you love to do gardening, meanwhile your neighbor decides to hire a gardener. You have no problem with washing your car, but I prefer to pay for this service at the gas station. So while I buy my snacks for the road, in the same time my car is getting spotlessly clean. It’s all about understanding the value of your time.
Is your time more precious than spending it on endorsement gathering? If your answer is yes, than you definitely should buy LinkedIn endorsements. But if you have a lot of free time, and you have nothing better to do, start connecting to your coworkers, partners, clients and ask them to endorse your skills. If you are not an a**hole, they will endorse you.
But wait! Aren’t purchased LinkedIn endorsements dishonest?
This question for me – as someone working in the field of marketing – is especially funny, because you might not realize, but everything around you is a lie. Your makeup, your hair color, your perfume scent, the brand of your phone, the washing powder you buy, politics, and even what you say on a job interview is lie. The whole world is made to manipulate and convince you buy stuff you don’t really need and to help presenting yourself as something more than you really are. That is why people with iPhones barely change their default ringtone or notification sound to constantly show everyone they have an iPhone – what they usually lease, because they can’t afford it. You are the part of this huge global lie already, and you can’t do anything against it unless you quit “the world” and become a Buddhist monk.
The only real question is that you also want to benefit from this or not? Asking your contacts to endorse you is already a lie, because they are not doing it by themselves. But not asking them to endorse you will leave you without endorsements in a world, where everyone has a lot of endorsements except you. And in the previous paragraphs we learned what that means.
- Sherif, The Psychology of Social Norms (New York: Harper, 1936)
- Diener, “Deindividuation: The Absence of Self-Awareness and Self-Regulation in Group Members,” in The Psychology of Group Influence, P. B. Paulus, editor (Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 1980)
- Tesser, J. Campbell, and S. Mickler, “The Role of Social Pressure, Attention to the Stimulus, and Self-Doubt in Conformity,” European Journal of Social Psychology, (1983)
- Fein, G. R. Goethals, S. M. Kassin, and J. Cross, “Social Influence and Presidential Debates,” American Psychological Association, Toronto, Canada, 1993.
- Craig Soderholm, How 10% of the People Get 90% of the Pie (New York: St. Martin, 1997)
- Douglas Rushkoff, Coercion: Why We Listen to What They Say (New York: Riverhead Books, 1999)