Wednesday LinkedOut Comic 11: Appropriate Recommendations

11_linkedin_recommendationsRecommendations on LinkedIn are a great thing.  They let others toot your horn while you can do the same or Pay it forward.  There are currently four ways to classify a recommendation based on who provided it:

1.  Colleague

2.  Business Partner

3.  Client

4.  Student.

Recommendations are not gifts to be given out for special occasions or charitable gifts.  They should only be given out when earned through actions that go above the norm.  Here are some tips to keep in mind about recommendations.

1.  They must be sincere:  People rely on recommendations to make decisions.  The quickest way to devalue recommendations is to pass them around freely.

2.  Reciprocal recommendation can hurt more than help:  I often see reciprocal recommendations noted on my home page.  This is where Jim recommends John and John immediately recommends Jim.  People notice this.  Recruiters notice this and discount these types of recommendations.  If someone recommends you only provide a reciprocal recommendation if it’s based on an action that you document in the recommendation.  Otherwise pay it forward by recommending someone else who has provided value to you.

Jim saying John is a great guy and John returning the favor adds no value.

3.  Write a great recommendation and Spell Check it:  Poorly written recommendations and ones filled with grammatical errors reflect poorly on the giver and the receiver.  As a extra precaution, when you receive a recommendation check it for errors.  If you think there is a better way to word the recommendation or some parts need correcting, you can request that the individual revise the recommendation.  You can’t make changes to it.

4.  It’s OK to Request a Reccomendation:  Just make sure there is a valid reason.  Don’t send out a request for recommendations to your entire network.  Don’t ask for one if you have not provided service or value in a great way.  Having met one time, had a single conversation and then connected is not the basis for requesting a recommendation.

5.  If you receive a recommendation request respond to it immediately.  Otherwise you’ll likely get busy and forget.  If you’re not comfortable writing a recommendation send a message back to the person explaining why.  In business it’s never a good thing to delay or ignore a request.

I’m sure there are more tips and thoughts which you can add to the comments section.  Wednesdays are about me unleashing my creative genius in the form of the LinkedOut comic rather than preaching.  Have a great Wednesday!

**Remember to keep the but slapping on the football field.  If you want to tell someone “Great Job” in the office constrain yourself to a high five, a pay raise, or a LinkedIn Recommendation.

Don’t forget to add comments for anything you think I missed.

LinkedIn Part 5: I Highly Recommend Recommendations

If you’re a small business or a sales person you’re not selling a product or service, you’re selling yourself.  For many, the thought of self-promotion just isn’t one that they are comfortable with.  LinkedIn can help you with your discomfort.

Recommendations can serve as an effective alternative to selling yourself.  They are an opportunity to let others toot your horn.  On LinkedIn there are four types of recommendations:

  1. Colleague:  Worked at the same company
  2. Service Provider:  Hired the person
  3. Business Partner:  Worked together but not as a client or colleague
  4. Student:  Fellow student or teacher

Let me start by saying any recommendation is better than no recommendation.  That being said, the recommendation that really stands out is one from a client.  I’ll talk more about this in a second.

Out of curiosity I took a look at 10 of my connections to see how they were doing with recommendations.  These folks all had between 146 and 357 connections, and here is what I found:

  • Colleague Recommendations:  15
  • Service Provider:  18
  • Business Partner:  23
  • Student:  1

That’s 57 recommendations among folks that had a combined 2,747 connections.  I normally recommend that you try to have at least 10 recommendations, so this group is about 43 short.

These are not new LinkedIn users.  They’re people that have been members for longer than a year, and each is very good at what they do.  The only explanation for the low number of recommendations is that they’re likely not asking for them from the client’s who are on LinkedIn.

The best time to ask is when you’ve completed work for a client and they are happy.  You’re also on the top of their mind.  The next time you work with a client see if they’re on LinkedIn.  If they are, connect to them and then ask for the recommendation.  If you did a great job they’ll be happy to submit the recommendation.  Let them toot your horn.

Finally, recommendations from clients also help you get listed in the LinkedIn Service Provider directory.  It’s not the most used LinkedIn feature but it never hurts to be listed as number one.

Don’t forget to share the love as well.  If a fellow LinkedIn member has provided you great service or simply went out of their way to help you, give them a recommendation.  Don’t keep them a secret.
One of the added benefits to providing a recommendation is that you create a link on the recommended person’s profile page to your profile.  People will often look to see who provided the recommendation.  This is just another way to draw traffic to your profile.

Until next time, connect away.

Service Providers Takes a Back Seat

LinkedIn has four main featured sections on the site.  Up until recently it was People, Jobs, Answers and Service Providers.  In a recent update LinkedIn Service Providers was replaced by Companies.  The Service Providers content is now within the Companies section.

Service Providers was probably the least utilized of the four main sections and if one had to give way for a new section I guess this was the smart choice.  Still, other than the People section I personally believed the Service Providers sections provided me the most relevant value.

The section consists of a group of job categories that list the top recommended members based on client recommendations.  I would have liked LinkedIn to do a lot more to promote the section.  Recommendations from your client’s are a great way to build your online brand.  It’s a powerful statement to be one of the top people in your job category within your geographic location.

The Companies page is focussed more on researching companies.  The section is still considered in beta testing and should evolve over time.  For now it’s interesting, but if they put in the functionality to search by more variables than just company name it maybe a really useful tool.

This is almost a case of the self-employed verses small to large businesses.  The Service Providers section allows the self employed person to gain notice by placing high in the rankings, while the Companies section allows companies to gain notice from being in search results.  Being a self-employed person, I admit I’m more partial to Service Providers.  But since I target small businesses I may grow to like the Companies section.

For now, just be aware that each may serve a useful function to help you grow your business.

LinkedIn Recommendations…Fact or Fiction

Jason Alba recently wrote a post talking about recommendations and made some good points. You can read his full post by clicking here.

Having read his post I started looking at recommendations in the Service Providers section (Service Providers used to be a main category, but is now listed under Companies). The most important thing in a recommendation is its authenticity. Truthful recommendations add value. Misleading or false recommendations subtract value. Also of equal importance is the basis for the recommendation which can be one of the following:

  1. Colleague: You worked together
  2. Service Provider: You have a pay for service or product relationship
  3. Business Partner: You have worked with but not while at the same company

The best recommendation is as a Service Provider.  These recommendations are what gets you listed in the Service Providers directory. 

As I was reviewing some of the top people and their recommendations I came across someone who was listed as the 2nd most recommended person.  Here are a couple of the recommendations:

I’ve only known XXXX for a few weeks. In that time he has referred many projects to me and offered to make some introductions to a contact of mine.  In my experience it is rare to come across such an enlightened individual and even rarer for the person to be an YYYYYYYY. If XXXX treats all of his clients like he treats me then I highly recommend him to anyone in search of a great YYY professional.”
 hired XXXX as a YYYYYYYY in 2008

I’ve met with XXXX on different occasions , his professionalism and his knowledge on our matters, were always consistent. His work ethic and personality is very reliable and incomparable.”
hired XXX as a YYYYYYYYY in 2008

XXXX was one of my students in business school. He worked on a strategic analysis project with two other students. The project was executed so well that I am still sharing this today with my current students as a benchmark of the quality, thoroughness, analysis and execution that I expect. XXXX was a great team leader and as you would expect, his analysis was excellent. I highly recommend him. He is an asset to any project.”
hired XXX as a YYYYYY in 2003

The basis for each recommendation above is as a Service Provider.  Maybe I’m being picky, but none of the recommendations appear to be based on someone having provided a service.  They appear to be recommendations of character which would be either as a colleague or business partner.

The classification doesn’t change the authenticity of the recommendation but the recommendations do appear to be mis-leading.  They help this person appear higher than others who are relying on actual Service Provider recommendations to rank in the Service Providers section.  If everyone did the same, there would be no value in looking at the Service Provider directory.

I can’t say definitively that this person was not hired by the people making the recommendations, which is why I have eliminated any personal references.  Just keep in mind that when giving and accepting recommendations that you either add to the Service Providers directory value, or subtract from it.