Trust but Verify: How to Build Credibility Through Social Proof (Judi Hays)

Judi Hays

This article is excerpted from the book Elevate Expand Engage pages 44 - 47

© 2022 Judi Hays. All Rights Reserved.

But prove it to me!

Social proof, based on the idea of normative social influence, is the influence of other people that leads us to conform in order to be liked and accepted by them, and it is the lifeblood of any business.

Your LinkedIn profile is a great way to build up a stock of recommendations and glowing words from colleagues, vendors, current and past clients, and others.

On LinkedIn, there are two types of social proof: Skill Endorsements and Recommendations.

Each one is important for different reasons.

The Skill Endorsements section

This section confuses many people.

Skills are essentially keywords that the recruiting Talent Solutions platform uses when matching employees to job openings.

It’s wise to make use of all 50 slots for an optimized profile—but only list skills that are important and consistent with your current or future business strategy. Generic skills are meaningless to your target audience.

PRO TIP: Look at your competitors and see what skills they are ranking for.

According to LinkedIn, people who list at least five skills receive up to 17x more profile views. The more endorsement counts you have for your skills, the higher you’ll rank in the search results.

You can only endorse your first level connections. And endorsing one of your connections for an obvious skill is not disingenuous. But it does help to know the person—or at the very least choose a skill that they are known for, as noted on their profile.

When used as a gesture of kindness, endorsements are a great way to get their attention—like a gentle tap on the shoulder. They’ll get a notification that you endorsed them, and two out of three times, they’ll reciprocate or send you a message acknowledging it. This is an easy way of building credibility to nurture your network.

It may even spark a conversation!

Skills deeper dive

You can designate up to three skills to have featured in your profile. Rotate the order once you reach the 99+ benchmark. Strive to get 99+ endorsements for each!

LinkedIn’s data as seen through its 800+ million members provides a clearer picture of how workers’ skills have changed over time, and how they may need to change in the years to come.

LinkedIn Skills Assessment

To kick it up a notch, LinkedIn now offers a built-in tool called LinkedIn Skills Assessment. This feature allows you to demonstrate your knowledge of the skills you’ve added on your profile by completing assessments specific to those skills and is particularly useful if you are changing careers or job seeking.

It also helps increase your profile visibility. Vedran Rasic and his team over at one of my favorite apps, LeadDelta - Social Capital Manager, have published a super informative article on how to make the most of this feature. Check it out.

The Recommendations section

source: quotlr

Walt Whitman once said, “If you done it, it ain’t bragging.” So if someone else says kind words about what you’ve done in the form of a recommendation, that goes a long way!

While skill endorsements are helpful, particularly for job seekers, full-on recommendations are much more powerful.

Testimonials are the highest level of social proof and are vitally important in building trust.

From a prospecting point of view, sincere recommendations provide helpful information and insights you can use when sending invitations to connect. Reading what people write about others will give you a glimpse into the person.

PRO TIP: When reading someone’s recommendations, you can see how people refer to them. For instance, my profile name is Judith, but people who know me refer to me as Judi!

Seize the moment

Opportunities to ask for recommendations in a non-intrusive way happen all the time if we look for them.

Let’s say you facilitate a webinar or something similar where there is an audience. After your presentation, send out a survey asking for feedback. Review the feedback, and if you find a few quotes that speak to your knowledge, etc., reach out and thank whoever paid a compliment. Ask them if you could include their feedback on your LinkedIn profile.

Go a step further and copy and paste what they wrote to make it easy for them, and request it from the LinkedIn platform. In return, you could offer them a copy of your slide presentation or handout as an incentive.

Aim for an approximate 3:2 ratio of recommendations received versus given. People who receive AND give recommendations appear to be actively engaged LinkedIn members.

PRO TIP: Try not to request multiple recommendations on the same day.

Recommendations with the same date could look suspect. Instead, have a game plan to reach out to a couple of people regularly, at least once a month.

Think about giving recommendations to others when you’ve had a positive experience. But don’t expect one back. Do it because you want to share a random act of kindness. “Quid pro quo” recommendations appear less credible.

When you recommend someone, you put your credibility behind that person—it is important that you mean it!

By originating the recommendation on LinkedIn, it stays with your profile. You can then copy the text and add it to your website and other marketing materials.

Over to you! How will you build your credibility?

Judi Hays @judihays
LinkedIn Strategist and alumni of the SMMS Original Gang!
Author of ‘Elevate Expand Engage,’ a Refreshingly Different Approach to Winning on LinkedIn
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Tell Us Below:

Have you been leveraging the Skills and Recommendations sections of your LinkedIn profile?

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This is great Judi. I have been lacking on those two spots in my linkedin page to be fair… I don’t ask for recommendations and I haven’t really been asked to give either.

I think adding skills is probably where I’m heading, because I’m not sure who I’d ask recommendations from. I haven’t connected with any of my coworkers from work in a very long time (and I kinda don’t want to? lol) because I never asked for their LinkedIn. It wasn’t those type of jobs I feel.

Kaz whenever a customer or colleague pays a compliment, that’s an opportunity to ask if they would be willing to add it to your LI profile. It’s easy once you know the trigger. And in most cases, people are more than happy to share about a good experience. Take a look at my profile and see the variety of testimonials (some are from clients, some from presentations i given, some from people I’ve helped).

As for giving recommendations, when I encounter something exceptional, I am a big believer in sharing the experience. But I shy away from quid pro quo testimonials as those look suspect.

Take a look at the profiles of people who offer similar services to what you do and look closely at those testimonials and skills. Start with a few important (not generic) and build on them.

This is a long game process and starting today is the first step in your journey.


Yeah I’ll have to be more intentional when it comes to colleague compliments.

I don’t offer any services so I don’t have any customer/clients :slightly_smiling_face:

I’ll check out some profiles and see what they have!

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