Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stuff I Don’t Do: Automatic Recommendations on LinkedIn

(NOTE: This is a series of occasional posts clarifying the things I don’t do, business-wise, marketing-wise, or social-media-wise.  Same format each time.)

What: After approving a recommendation from someone, LinkedIn prompts you to “return the favor” by recommending the sender.  I don’t make it standard practice to automatically recommend everyone back—especially clients—but am happy to do so if asked. 

 Why I Don’t Do It: When I see profiles with too many reciprocal recommendations, it makes me question the intent of both parties and the validity of their statements.  Did one person proactively recommend another for the purpose of receiving a rec in return?  Regardless of how the recommendation came to be, is there a sense of required reciprocity at work?  If so, how does this affect the content, veracity, or quality of the recommendation?  (In other words, does this “return the favor” message prompt a generic-sounding quid pro quo response, devoid of any real specific value?)  I don’t automatically recommend someone right back because I’d rather know that the other party values a recommendation from me (i.e., will ask for one directly). The reverse is true: I don’t want someone to recommend me back automatically.  I’d prefer for my profile (and those of my networked professionals!) to reflect authentic recommendations from various sources. 

 Stuff I Do Instead: I enjoy recommending people without expecting or requiring a recommendation back.  If I’m asked to provide a recommendation, I will do so if I have significant direct and positive work experience with the requester.  Luckily, I’ve had positive experiences with and I really like everyone in my network who has asked for a rec from me, but I shy away from writing one if I know others have had more significant and direct  interactions with them and have more meaningful, specific evidence of success to report.  If I wrote a generic recommendation saying something nice about them but without the aforementioned evidence, I wouldn’t be adding value to their profile, IMHO. And as a marketer I am all about adding value and providing meaningful messages!  Instead, if I am in a conversation (such as networking or social) where it’s appropriate to put in a good word about someone, I try to do so.  The advantage to this kind of word-of-mouth promotion is that it’s contextual (and arguably more powerful due to nonverbals, etc.) than the written recommendation. 

 Additional Comments: There are so many different approaches to social networking with tools such as LinkedIn and I’ve noticed we all have varying “rules” and criteria for using them.  It’s interesting to have open dialogue and really understand the boundaries and expectations we have of our networked colleagues.  I invite you to explore and/or share your thoughts on the subject here. 


Alexa Samuels said...

Tracy, I agree with you.

I feel the same way about Facebook birthday reminders and (ugh) automatic Twitter DMs: where's the authenticity? I know that sounds so "social media speak", but it has to feel real to me.

When prompted to recommend someone on LinkedIn, I never automatically recommend back. Depending on the person, I may send a follow up asking if they'd like me to recommend them, or wait to be asked, or maybe not recommend until a time at which they have done something professional for me worth recommending. I personally feel that an obliged reciprocation isn't as true.

But, as you say, so much of it is personal.

Nice post.

Warm regards,

Tracy Diziere said...

Thanks, Alexa, well said! I should have mentioned in the original post that timing is key so glad you pointed that out. I like that you sometimes follow-up with the question too because it's responsive and personal. I might include that as a possibility as well.