Elements of a Good LinkedIn Recommendation

I just updated my LinkedIn profile to reflect my role as president of New Marketing Labs, and to make sure all my information there was fresh and up to date. I talked with some folks on Twitter about this process and they were surprised to see that I had over 100 recommendations. They asked how I got them, and I responded with my secret: I asked for them.

Elements of a Good LinkedIn Recommendation

LinkedIn, the business network for professionals, is more than a living resume. It’s a reputation engine, a visual representation of your business network’s reach, and a place to express your business capabilities. I use it all the time to reach out to people, to find potential opportunities where I can help others, and to share what knowledge I have with others.

I have a difference of opinion with LinkedIn about who I connect with as a business colleague. They recommend that you link only to people you’ve done business with directly, and who you trust. I don’t do it that way. I connect with nearly anyone.

Where I take my stand, however, is recommendations.

Recommend Colleagues

The people I recommend are people that I can say something good about. You’ll see that I’ve passed on recommendations for over 150 people so far. I could say more about more people, and I try to write a few every week (around 10). They do take a while, so I try to balance it out.

You’ll notice when you read the recommendations that I give that I use different levels of language. I only say “I highly recommend” when I feel someone is the very best of breed in a specific function. I often say something more about hiring someone to achieve success. So, pay attention to your own language within the recommendation. I’ll cover that more in a bit.

If you can it, and you have time, do it. It goes a long way when people see a profile and find a recommendation to go with it. The service you perform by recommending others you’ve done work with goes well in both directions. It says something about that person, and it says something about you for taking the time to participate and recommend.

But what should you say? How should you help someone by writing a recommendation? And what are some of the rules of etiquette around this?

What to Say

Recommendations are social proof. They exist so that a third party will obtain a better perspective on your business colleague’s profile. Thus, your goal, ultimately, is to make sure that third party feels educated about your colleague. Make sense?

As such, be very clear about what you’re recommending.

Here’s my recommendation for Mister. Ben Grossman:

Ben Grossman represents the next wave of dynamic speakers on Internet culture and its impact on business. His presentations have covered the pulse of the Millennials, the Return on Branding Influence, and I’ve heard a few other topics come out of Ben that were equally as interesting. He spoke at my New Marketing Summit event in October 2008, and then I watched him at Jeff Pulver’s Social Media Jungle in November. Those two performances were golden, and the audience in both cases were at the edge of their seats. Ben Grossman is going places. Will you be one of those places?

I’ve recommended Ben as a speaker. I haven’t spoken a word about his work ethic, about whether he can save the world or not, about whether his speeches will help you make money. I’ve mentioned that he’s dynamic. I’ve even ended with a bit of a pitch.

When I can be more specific, I do it. If I can’t, or I don’t choose to be specific, I don’t.

Be aware that the person you’re writing the recommendation for is looking for your words to help act as leverage with a prospective new business partner.

Use terms that suggest this. Say things like: “C.C. Chapman has successfully executed more actionable social media strategies than most people have even started to think about. He counts companies like Coke, American Eagle, and Verizon amongst his client base. His projects have involved building Facebook applications, deploying blogger relationships campaigns, and defining online brand engagement strategies. C.C. works in the specific, starting from the landscape, but ending in actionable engagements. I’d recommend him with any project that requires the very best in social media execution.”

Do you see how that recommendation both beams with appreciation but also recommends ways you can engage with CC? Do you see how I’ve given social proof (mentioning his bigger clients) while also mentioning what he does and what differentiates him?

That’s how you want to write your LinkedIn recommendations for friends.

How to Ask for Recommendations

Ask people who know you well enough to recommend you. Just because we’re Facebook friends or because you’ve commented on my blog doesn’t mean that I know your body of work well enough to recommend you. Asking someone who doesn’t know you very well for a recommendation is inviting an awkward moment at best, and a horribly mis-representative recommendation at best.

Use the recommendation system within LinkedIn to send the recommendation request. If you email it to someone, it’s another chance to NOT get it filled out. The system’s there and it’s easy, and it stacks up the requests in a queue for someone to address when they have a moment.

The best way I’ve found to ask for recommendations is not to ask. I’ve asked people from time to time, but I’ve found that my best recommendations come when I write a good recommendation for someone I can vouch for. Call it quid pro quo, but when folks see that you’ve written a wonderful piece of praise for their professional talents, they’re inclined to help out in response.

What Did I Miss?

Any questions about LinkedIn and recommendations? What else do you want to know about the process? Have you seen recommendation techniques or tips that you want to share with us?

Oh, and if you’d like to connect, here’s my profile and if you use the email linkedin at chrisbrogan dot com to connect, we should be just fine.

Photo credit, foundphotoslj

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