The Gamification of LinkedIn

By Devon Glenn 

Is it just us, or is LinkedIn becoming almost as much of a time suck as Facebook? Ever since the company rolled out Endorsements, networking with colleagues on the site is more like  playing a game of “Snood” by yourself.

Endorsements are one-word skills that people can click on instead of writing letters of recommendation for their colleagues.  When you log into your LinkedIn profile, you will see some of your colleagues’ faces appear at the top of your page with suggested skills for you to endorse. (These are skills that your connections have chosen from a list — you can do this, too.) When you endorse the skills, your endorsement shows up on their profile, while more faces appear on yours.

“Snood” is a game where you shoot crazy faces from a canon at other faces to clear them from the wall. The longer you play, the lower the wall gets. (“Bubbles” is another game that does this, but with bubbles instead of faces.)

LinkedIn’s Endorsements are even easier to play with than these games, wherein lies the danger. And that’s not all that LinkedIn is doing to keep you active on your page.

This morning, SocialTimes writer Megan O’Neill was puzzled that someone had congratulated her on changing her job title from “web video enthusiast” to “web video expert.”  She wondered how rewording her expertise could be deemed “awesome news” by one of her contacts.

Pulling up her profile, she saw that changing her title had prompted LinkedIn to ask her colleagues to congratulate her on her new job.

Suddenly, networking with Megan was like having a virtual pet. We needed to acknowledge her career moves, even the ones that only a computer would think of as being career moves. (But Megan really is as much of a web video expert as she is an enthusiast, so we lost all self-control and endorsed her video and blogging skills before logging out.)

Is there value in this? Actually, yes.  Part of the problem with LinkedIn has been that people already have so many other social networks to maintain that there isn’t much time to check in with colleagues and see what’s happening in their careers until it’s time to find a new job or to look for someone to hire. The little updates automate the process of keeping touch.

LinkedIn added Notifications to members’ homepages in September. In November, the company reported in a third quarter earnings call that members had posted four times as many comments on other people’s updates.

As for the newly added bubbles Endorsements, you can see pretty quickly which of your skills are the most valuable to your network, or at least the most widely known, by how many people have clicked on them. (LinkedIn said that there were already 200 million endorsements made at the close of quarter three.)

And you can use your itchy Snood finger to help out a coworker.