A little while ago, LinkedIn began allowing members to endorse each other. Unlike recommendations, endorsements were simply a way for one member to confirm that another member has a particular skill. Because LinkedIn made it extremely easy to quickly endorse people for multiple skills, and because there is no verification required at all, many observers questioned the validity or use of the feature, myself among them.
Of course, it's nice to have a great list of skills on your profile, and having tons of endorsements for your skills is certainly more impressive than none at all. Furthermore, each time you endorse a potential partner or prospect, that person gets a nice email telling them that you thought they deserved to be endorsed for some skill.
If you thought that was all there was to LinkedIn Endorsements, then you might not have noticed the Skills & Expertise section.
Like the old LinkedIn Answers, Skills & Expertise is hidden within the More drop down. If you can find it, you'll be rewarded with a great-looking landing page that announces that Skills & Expertise is there to help you "Discover the skills you need to succeed. Learn what you need to know from the thousands of hot, up-and-coming skills we're tracking." According to LinkedIn, this feature is still in beta.
The top of the page features a search bar where you can begin typing in a skill. It can be for someone you wish to hire, or something you want to learn about and are looking for someone whose blogs you might want to read. Or, more interesting, do a search on one of your own skills to see where you stack up.
Below is a summary of a couple of specific skills. For me, iPhone was the first "skill" listed, and the summary included cities, related skills, and featured professionals.
If you search on a skill and select it, you'll see the full Skill Details page. The left side lets you search for a different skill or take a look at related skills. We'll get back to the importance of related skills in a moment.
In the middle, you'll see your selected skill and a nice box that details the industry the skill is typically associated with, whether or not you current list that skill, and a button to see suggested skills. You'll also see a percentage followed by y/y, which stands for year over year. We'll talk about the importance of this metric as well in a moment.
Below the info box will be a list of professionals who list that skill. You might think that these professionals are ranked according to the number of times they've been endorsed for that skill, but that isn't the case. The top ranked professional for "Social MediaMarketing" only has 33 endorsements for that skill, while the #2 individual had 99+. So getting ranked isn't solely based on the sheer number of endorsements.
At the bottom is a list of LinkedIn Groups that are associated with that skill.
Along the right side you'll find buttons to share the skill, charts for relative growth, size and age, related companies, related jobs, and related locations.
First of all, getting yourself listed as a Featured Professional within a specific skill could potentially result in a significant number of new leads. If LinkedIn members begin using this feature to contact and hire professionals, you're definitely going to want to be listed.
Or, on the other hand, if you're looking for an expert in a particular field or industry, this might be a great place to start looking!
One of the suggestions I've given people in the past is to seek out leaders and mentors in their field and learn from them. What better way to find an industry leader than to check on LinkedIn's Skills & Expertise? You can identify one or more individuals you might be interested in learning from and take a look at their profile, follow their updates, and subscribe to their blog.
Those are all fun, but there's one more use for Skills & Expertise that could be a game changer for you.
I'm sure you know that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to making your website as attractive to search engines and their users as possible. You identify keywords that your potential customers are using in searches and find ways to increase the frequency and prominence of those keywords in your site code and text. But what about social media? How do we help social network users find our profiles? That is where Social SEO comes in.
All of the major social networks include internal search capability, and that's a feature that is continuing to be refined and improved (like with Facebook's Graph Search). And while targeting keywords like we do in traditional SEO plays a role, optimizing your social media profile for social search has some differences.
On LinkedIn, for instance, your profile lists your previous jobs and job titles, and includes a summary. Many people fail to take advantage of those fields. LinkedIn allows you to be as descriptive as you want, so power users take advantage of that and go into detail about where they've worked and what they've accomplished.
Now, thanks to Skills & Expertise (and Endorsements), we have a great way to monitor, adjust and improve our Social SEO for LinkedIn. Here's how it works.
Go back to Skills & Expertise and look up one of the skills you already have on your profile. Take note of its Relative Growth, Size and Age. Also make sure that the skill is growing compared to last year, and how much. Now, check out some of the related skills. What you're looking for are potential skills that will be even better for you to list on your profile.
You're limited to 50 total skills, so add any that apply to your profession until you reach your max. At that point, it's time to prioritize. You will want to look for skills that are growing, but aren't used by absolutely everyone. Like a long-tail keyword, a more specialized and less-common skill will make you more competitive.
Once you've refined your skill list and you're happy with them, it's time to fill up your endorsements! I am not a big fan of emailing LinkedIn users and asking for endorsements. Instead, sift through your own connections and start endorsing the people you know. They will get a notification and many will reciprocate.
Take the time to check out this LinkedIn feature, and you might get some real value out of it. I know we've covered a lot here, but I'd love to hear what you think in the comments below.
Image courtesy of val.pearl, Flickr.