I’ve always approached networking and social networking from the point of view of trying to build genuine relationships, trying to create value for people without a condition of reciprocity.
For example, I tweet things I think are really interesting and may be interesting to my followers. I don’t do it with the expectation that someone might tweet my stuff. I “follow” people that I think have interesting views and hope that people follow me for the same reasons. But sometimes this means that I don’t follow everyone that follows me. It’s interesting to see my twitter followers go up and down. Clearly, a lot of people follow me with the expectation that I automatically follow them, building our mutual followings. If I don’t follow within a certain period of time, they stop following me.
I’ve noticed the same with the new LinkedIn Endorsements. I’m deeply appreciative of endorsements I get. It’s flattering to have people who think highly of my capabilities. But I’ve also noticed an interesting phenomena. With many people there seems to be an expectation of reciprocity. “I’m endorsing you and expect you to endorse me.” I’ve noticed several people who have endorsed me, that later “unendorse me,” because I have failed to endorse them. I guess the reasons they endorsed me were not because they thought I had certain skills or capabilities, but only for me to reciprocate. And If I failed, then all of a sudden my “skills and capabilities” disappeared.
Frankly, I’m delighted by this! I may not get the “rules” of social networking, but I think it is pure hypocrisy to like, endorse, follow with the expectation of reciprocity. It’s a very transparent way of trying to “game” the system. It lacks authenticity and creates “clutter” and misrepresentation in the social network.
We’ve all seen the offers on twitter, “We can get you 10,000 followers.” We know that is meaningless. Soon we will see similar things in LinkedIn and the value of endorsements will be meaningless.
This may not be a popular view, but I won’t be held hostage to it. It may mean massive drops in followership, people “unendorsing me,” but that’s fine. I really don’t care about people who are in this only for reciprocity.
I will follow and endorse people that create great value for me. I may not endorse someone because I don’t know them very well. I may not endorse someone for other reasons. I hope I am generous in my endorsements, but I hold myself to be authentic in these endorsements. I do not endorse people casually. I make none with the expectation of reciprocity.
What do you think?