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Learn From Obama's LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn is a tough platform for politicians. So we asked an army of LinkedIn experts what the Obama campaign could do better--and how you can apply that to your small business.
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Recently, we asked a panel of social media gurus to evaluate Mitt Romney's LinkedIn strategy. Now we've done the same for President Obama. (One note: Our panel has grown: 23 LinkedIn experts and marketing professionals weighed in this time, up from 16 last time.)

President Obama actually has two profiles: his candidate profile, and his campaign organization profile. Overall, our experts gave the president mediocre grades. Here's what Obama is doing wrong on LinkedIn–and what it can teach you about your own social-media strategy.

1. Half a Profile May Be Worse Worse Than None at All

Our social-media experts guessed that whoever designed the Obama profiles might have been told there were two priorities: "Don't do anything controversial," and "Get us on LinkedIn." (Yes, in that order.)

The result is kind of incomplete and lackluster. (Perhaps that's not surprising, given that the  campaign unveiled one of the most most boring slogans in the history of U.S. politics earlier this year.)

Obama's profiles look, "as if he has completely stepped away," Michael P. Grace, CEO of Dallas-based Virallock, a social-media monitoring and management service. "I would give him a C-minus."

Bruce Hurwitz, president and CEO of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing in New York City, agreed.

"It starts with, 'We've accomplished a lot over the last three years,' but does not give a single example," Hurwitz said. "It's blatant. Plus, he was a university professor yet there is no 'Publications' section. Didn't he publish anything?"

The incompleteness is a problem for a political candidate (and perhaps for any other LinkedIn user), said Patrick Galvin of Portland, Oregon-based Galvin Communications. "Any politician who uses LinkedIn needs to commit to doing it well since a poor profile shows an inattention to detail."

2.  Don't Be a Loner

Whether we're talking about Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or any other social media platform, it's all about connections. The Obama profiles definitely have connections; however, they don't have any recommendations.

Moreover, said Scott Swanay, president of Sherpa Social Media in New York City, his lack of "recommendations (partisan though they would be) and Skills or Expertise makes it seem like his personal profile was thrown together."

3.  Don't Trap Your Connections

Our experts pointed out that there are simple strategies you can use to lead LinkedIn connections toward other platforms. The easiest example would be to make it simple to find the candidate's website, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. But Obama doesn't do that effectively.

It's a lost opportunity, said Marty Martin, managing partner of Adapt Partners in Raleigh, North Carolina, because you want to engage your LinkedIn connections and draw him or her "into a medium where [the candidate] can better control their message."

"Obama could have much more content and it should be visually grabbing the viewing party with his accomplishments and messages," said Scott McIntosh, senior account supervisor and web strategist at Lovell Communications Inc. in Nashville. "Put a slideshare or YouTube video in there!"

4.  Show Some Creativity and Personality

Perhaps the best idea we heard came from Dave Gowel, CEO of RockTech in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and author of The Power in a Link: Open Doors, Close Deals, and Change the Way You Do Business Using LinkedIn.

For example, politicians such as Romney and Obama, "can't accept connections from everyone," Gowel said, because LinkedIn limits users to 30,000 connections.

So Gowel came up with a pretty creative idea: The president's campaign (or Romney's), could state upfront that they can only accept connections from specific segments of the population. An example would be to accept connections from veterans and military families, suggested Gowel, who is himself a West Point alumnus and a former Army officer.

And why do that? Well, as Gowel, who was once described by The Boston Globe as a "Jedi knight of LinkedIn," points out, "LinkedIn is an incredible job search tool."

"They could be added to an email list (because when you connect with someone in LinkedIn, your first-degree connections get access to your email address) for job search information from the VA, military friendly job postings, etc.," Gowel suggested.

For small businesses growing fast, turn this advice into a strategy that targets your best customers, or a particularly influential segment of your fans, to see the biggest ripple effect.

Wait...There Is One Saving Grace. Sort of.

Gowel's suggestion aside, perhaps the only saving grace about Obama's profiles that our experts agreed on is that the president is not alone. Most politicians seem to understand that they need a LinkedIn presence of some kind--but they have no idea what to do with it.

"Given the digital team and know-how, I'm surprised both of these sites aren't more robust," said Diane Darling, a Boston-based author and speaker who teaches businesses how to use LinkedIn. "I can't beleive there aren't any recommendations! It looks like it was tossed up there and forgotten."

IMAGE: Official White House Photo
Last updated: Jun 14, 2012

BILL MURPHY JR. | Columnist

Bill Murphy Jr. is a journalist, ghostwriter, and entrepreneur. He is the author of Breakthrough Entrepreneurship (with Jon Burgstone) and is a former reporter for The Washington Post.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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