Chairman of the Tax Advice Network and BookMarkLee
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LinkedIn for start-ups: Part four - endorsements and recommendations

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1st Mar 2013
Chairman of the Tax Advice Network and BookMarkLee
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In this fourth part of his Linkedin series for start-ups Mark Lee talks about endorsements and recommendations

A link to each of the previous parts of this series appears at the end of this article.

At the start of the series I noted that Linkedin is constantly evolving. Most recently, they removed the generic ‘questions’ and ‘answers’ facility at the end of January.

This was no great loss from our perspective. It simply means one less ‘feature’ we can ignore as it wasn’t really useful to accountants in general practice.

The previous big change to Linkedin was the introduction of ‘endorsements’ in September 2012 – of which I'll write more about later.

Firstly, lets focus on the more important and long established recommendations feature.

Recommendations

One way to help boost your chances as a start-up practice is to accumulate testimonials. These would ideally be from satisfied clients who have worked with you previously.

However, many accountants are uncomfortable with the idea of asking for testimonials. It's also probably a tad weird to ask ex-clients for these by reference to your previous job at the same time as you are setting up in practice.

Linkedin provides a great alternative facility – the recommendations feature.  You can use this to secure an alternative form of testimonials without embarrassment.

Also, these recommendations can be checked to show the independence and credibility of the person who gives them to you.

Asking contacts, ex-colleagues, ex-clients and even current clients for recommendations is a very simple process. Click your profile and recommendations and then simply select which contacts you want to ask for recommendations.

I suggest you ask groups of people on different days, perhaps spread over a few weeks. You can simply say you have been advised to update your Linkedin profile and to get some recommendations.

Ask them if they have the time and think it appropriate, you would really appreciate it if they would post a recommendation in regard to the value of your work, then add something specific to the group of people you are asking, e.g. while you worked together at XYZ and Co.

Research suggests that users with recommendations grow credibility and are more likely to get requests for advice and to be found in searches and of course, you can use the recommendations in other marketing materials and on your website.

I am quite thrilled and also humbled by the large number of recommendations attached to my Linkedin profile. These are partly a function of having being around a while of course.

Sadly, few relate to the impact of my writing (yet), but if you take a look you’ll see that I have a significant number of recommendations from a wide range of people with whom I have worked over the last 10-15 years. This provides a degree of confidence in my skills and my approach.

I am delighted to say that many such recommendations unsolicited. Indeed this is the way that I give recommendations too. I see the profile of someone I have worked with in the past and I post a genuine recommendation.

I don’t believe in giving them out just because someone has recommended me. This will rarely be appropriate and it diminishes the value of both recommendations when it happens. So ignore the prompt that pops up when you accept a recommendation for your profile.

If you only have a few weak recommendations from friends and family, this will probably not help your practice build new clients. It's much better to have a few really positive ones and to grow this number each year.

Endorsements

Many Linkedin users consider this new facility to be simply a game and quite silly, which it is. But used intelligently it could also prove useful for start-up practices.

It’s not as serious or as valuable as the recommendations feature. You may choose to edit your profile and to move the endorsements box right to the bottom, at least until you have accumulated a worthwhile number, whatever that is.

Since the facility was added, when anyone with whom you are connected looks at your profile they will be asked to endorse you for your skills and expertise. You will also be encouraged to do this when you visit someone else’s profile.  This only happens with level-one connections, so random strangers cannot endorse you nor vice-versa, unless you have connected with a lot of random strangers.

There seem to be two types of skills for which you can be endorsed. The first are those that you have chosen to add to your profile (see part one). The second are related skills that Linkedin thinks you might have based on the skills you have identified.

I would suggest that you only accept endorsements of skills that are relevant to your start-up practice. In my case, I now have hundreds of endorsements for a variety of skills. But, as I am no longer in practice I have not accepted or hidden those that referenced accounting and tax advisory as these are not topics for which I want to be known or endorsed.

Start-up practitioners on the other hand may want to gather endorsements across a wide range of accountancy and tax skills.

The point about endorsements is that it’s too easy to click and post them without adding any context or meaning - they have no credibility.  Most users and Linkedin experts I know say much the same thing. A few marketing types have got caught up by the hype, as they often do, but without seeming to think it through.

I certainly wouldn’t place any great store by a few endorsements on a Linkedin profile and I don’t think many other users would do so either. It’s a little different when you have hundreds of them I guess but this is unlikely for start-up practices.

Still, if you want to be endorsed for things you are good at do ensure you have listed at least ten skills on your profile.

Linkedin will prompt you to expand on some of these so tax, for example, generates a sub-list of different taxes. Pick only those for which you have real expertise. Linkedin may be encouraging users to play a game with endorsements, but for a start-up practice your profile is a serious business.

Your skills

On the main navigation menu there is an option, far right, called ‘more’. Click this and you can then click ‘skills & expertise’. Search on one of your skills. The results will also show you ‘related skills’.

You will also see a list of professionals with the same skill. You may find other start-up practices although probably not in your area but you will get some inspiration regarding other skills you could list on your profile. These will all help enhance the number of occasions that your profile appear in the search results when someone searches for an accountant like you.

If you have questions, ideas or views on anything above, please post your comments below and, by all means, connect with me on Linkedin.

For further reading, see: 

Mark Lee is consultant practice editor of AccountingWEB and writes the BookMarkLee blog. This is for accountants who want to overcome the boring stereotype and to be more successful in practice, online and in life. He is also chairman of the Tax Advice Network of independent tax experts.

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