Why is it all good social networks have to cave to the social game? Just when we finally got use to Klout’s K+’s and even enjoy a perk or two, now even LinkedIn is following suit with the gaming. At least Klout has a direct focus on influence and has fun while doing such. Kred is doing the best they can to bring both offline and community influence into consideration and much more.

Anyone who follows me knows I try to stay positive in both life and business which includes my blog and writing. I don’t believe in ranting and complaining to get attention or stir up a bunch of drama.

However, those who know me also know when something presses hard on my heart and mind I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut. This becomes true particularly when it involves ethical business practices and taking advantage of or guiding newbies in a potentially wrong direction.

I hope all who read this post that may be guilty of the practices I am going to call out know that I am not bashing you personally and do not want to do harm to your business. I will not call you out by name, Twitter handle or LinkedIn profile. I do hope though that maybe this post will inspire you to think twice about your actions and advice you are giving others who are not experienced enough with the social networks to know what is being gamed or not.

I have made a few screen captures below from profiles which are public, though no name is linked to them. All of these profiles can be found with a simple search and are available for the world to see. So, I am showing nothing that you couldn’t find if you did a quick two second search for yourself.

So, let’s get to the point of this post.

LinkedIn Was One of the Last Standing Business Social Networks Not Gamed

LinkedIn has always been the social network that stayed true to real business, ethical business practices and minimized gaming.

I have been with LinkedIn since the first days they launched. They helped me find jobs, candidates for hire, partners, vendors, answers to questions and the list goes on.

We get some of our most qualified leads from LinkedIn as it’s usually the last stop prospective clients make. They know they can validate who we are, what we are and what we have done via LinkedIn. For that I truly thank LinkedIn and hope they will read this post and take it to heart.

Until recently LinkedIn was one of the last standing social networks where real business people could connect without feeling pressured to play the social search game. Yes, there is some gaming. Of course we have all optimized our titles, keywords, skills, job descriptions and more. However, up until now their social search algorithm seemed to be based on ethical business and content practices.

It is the one social network we have felt 100% comfortable introducing to even our clients who are brand new to social media. We knew that it could be trusted and that even newbies wouldn’t feel overwhelmed or get bombarded by spammers. We have helped many new clients kick off startup businesses and more with a simple LinkedIn group to get their feet wet to the social networks.

The LinkedIn Games Begin

LinkedIn recently launched endorsements. This is different from their existing “recommendations” featured they have had for years. With endorsements, instead of someone actually putting thought and spending time on a recommendation, they can endorse you in a split second.

I am not stating that endorsements are bad. Endorsements are of course good, when they mean something. I am thankful for the folks who have given me endorsements as I have not asked or begged anyone to do such. They have done such of their own free will and choice.

Here is my concern with how LinkedIn has implemented the endorsements:

  • It takes one click. This is not a problem as long as they don’t wind up putting a lot of weight into the endorsement when it comes to social search etc.
  • They push the endorsements to you. Every time I login and throughout my visit to LinkedIn I am shown a screen with four people who I can endorse. It takes literally one click and “wala” I have endorsed up to four people. LinkedIn even makes it easy for me to decide what skill to endorse. My contact’s skill is pulled from the person’s profile and all I have to do is click.
  • The endorsements are also pushed to me when I visit a profile.
  • People I barely know are already asking me for endorsements. I am getting requests via LinkedIn email, Facebook and Twitter auto DM.
  • The new features seem to have attracted loads of spammers. The email spam on LinkedIn is so bad we even implemented a stop the spam campaign, “Pet My Pig” that you can see here-> “Stop the Social Media Spam – Pet the Pig Campaign

The Social “Expert” Gamers Are Ready to Play

Once I got wind of this feature and saw a few tweets from social media “experts” bragging about their social search ranking on LinkedIn via Twitter, our team did the double click. We were honestly shocked with the result. Below are a few of the highlights and a few screen captures at the bottom of this post.

What we found when doing a search of the term “social media”:

  • Profiles stuffed with nothing but keywords. Entire job descriptions and companies made up with buzzwords. No wonder they are ranking top of search.
  • Profiles populated with 20+ jobs that are fake. Some are adding 20 or more fake jobs and companies where the company is a skill versus a job. One or two I can see, but 20?
  • Job descriptions that are nothing but stuffed keywords.
  • Job titles that are 100% buzzwords.
  • The same people stuffing keywords, are blatantly promoting on their LinkedIn profiles that they can also help people get on the first page of LinkedIn. I think we’ve all been down this Google search path before, haven’t we folks?

Why Did You Have to Do It LinkedIn?

What happened LinkedIn? Did the pressure get so bad you had to throw out with the bath water the business professionalism and differentiation that set you apart?

We don’t want another Facebook Branchout or Influence game with a social network that’s value is in business networking, not measuring influence. If you want to get into the social influence measurement game, this is a wacky way to do such and doesn’t come close to what both Klout and Kred have already implemented.

We liked you the way that you were. We liked knowing that we could leverage LinkedIn to verify our connections were real. We liked being able to do a search and get real results of people with real profiles with real experience for the terms we were searching, not just the companies or people who hired a social gamer to help them rank falsely.

Your algorithms are deteriorating LinkedIn. If they weren’t we wouldn’t see the people that we do on the top of search.

Please tell us that the endorsement games are not your future. Please tell us you are putting more into your future algorithm than a stuffed keyword profile to rank on the top.

I am one who is always in support of change when change moves in a direction bringing value to those that matter. Given LinkedIn has done little to explain their core vision and direction it leaves us to figure this out on our own. Based on what we know it’s not looking good.

Where We Stand and What We are Doing

I will not encourage our clients to “game” the social search on LinkedIn.

We will do what we have always done with our clients which includes but is not limited to the following:

  • A plan based upon real business goals and objectives.
  • Integrated social media plan that aligns to business goals and objectives where social media can have a positive impact.
  • Development of content, profiles and social brands that offer value and are based on the client’s brand promise, not desire to rank high in a social game.
  • Inclusion of LinkedIn when and where it makes sense and aligns to goals and objectives.
  • Ethical development and optimization of their LinkedIn personal profiles and company pages.
  • Continue to help our clients stand out and build sustainable integrated platforms based upon the most valuable content that inspires and connects them with their target audience with a goal of helping their audience achieve their objectives.
  • Give LinkedIn the benefit of the doubt and hope that they will do what is right for their clients and social ecosystem as a whole.Related: Social Trust Factor: 10 Tips to Establish Credibility

We will not:

  • Fall victim to social games, not even on LinkedIn.
  • Stuff profiles with 20 fake jobs, projects and companies to rank high on one social network.
  • Give LinkedIn more credit than it earns depending on where they go from here with social search and algorithms.
  • Waste time on giving or getting massive amounts of LinkedIn endorsements to rank high on a social search that is flawed on a social network that is clearly becoming gamed.

Where Are You Going From Here LinkedIn?

A few of the many questions I have for LinkedIn:

  • What exactly do you plan to do with endorsements?
  • How are endorsements being calculated into your social search algorithm currently and in the future?
  • What if anything are you currently doing and what do you plan to do with those who abuse the features and are blatantly “gaming” your social network?
  • Do you care about your loyal customers who have been here with you from the start and their needs?
  • What is your strategy and plan? Where are you going? What do you want to be when you grow up?

What You Say?

What are your thoughts? Are you tired of the social games? Do you agree that it is time the leaders of the social ecosystem stand up and state that this is not what we want? If we keep playing the game, the social networks will keep dishing us out the games of “Sorry” and “Trouble.’ My belief is we should expect and demand more not only of the social networks but of ourselves.

Screen Captures From LinkedIn Profiles Ranking on First Page LinkedIn for Term “Social Media”

Blatant promotion and promise to rank first page LinkedIn.

Hmmmm.. deja vu with the early days of Google search, heh?

Stuffed LinkedIn Profiles:

For Laughs…

Additional LinkedIn Opinions From Around The Web

LinkedIn Blog: Introducing Endorsements Give Kudos With Just One Click

Inc.Com: LinkedIn Endorsements Changes Everything Here’s Why (Author Dave Kerpen)

Entrepreneur: 3 Tips for Using LinkedIn’s New Endorsements (Author Lewis Howes)

Viveka Von Rosen: LinkedIn Skills Get More Klout With New Endorsements

Geoff Livingston: LinkedIn Endorsements – Does it Get Any Cheaper?

Christopher Penn: Which is Better? LinkedIn Endorsement or LinkedIn Recommendation?

TechCrunch: LinkedIn Debuts Endorsements as a Lightweight Way to Recommend a Professional Contact’s skills

Social Media Examiner: LinkedIn Marketing New Features to Enhance Endorsement