Like millions of other Americans, Mitt Romney is looking for a job.
Career consultants say if you're job-hunting, you need to be on LinkedIn. So, I figured I'd do Romney a favor, and I pulled together a panel of 16 public relations, marketing and social media professionals across the United States. Then we all got together to critique Romney's LinkedIn profile.
(Of course, I also asked them about President Obama's LinkedIn strategy. I'll have their thoughts on that subject in my next column.)
We found two Romney profiles that seem legitimate (although just to be sure, check out the caveat at the end of this post). The first is the organizational profile of the Mitt Romney for President campaign. The other is what purports to be Romney's personal or professional profile.
So, what is the presumptive GOP nominee doing right? What is he doing wrong? And what does his profile really tell us about him? Here's what our experts had to say:
Right under the photograph and career highlights on just about any LinkedIn profile, you'll find a summary. Romney's didn't exactly blow our experts away.
Here's what it says in its entirety:
Successfully turned around a number of companies, the Olympics, a state, and now Mitt wants to turnaround the United States of America and restore to it the principles that made it the greatest nation in the history of the earth.
Married to Ann for 42 years. Ann and Mitt have 5 boys, 5 daughters in law, and 18 grandchildren.
"A bit weak," said Maciej Fita, founder of Brandignity.com in Boston. "It's the first paragraph people see and read, so make it count."
"[H]e is not utilizing the space well," said Lori Ruff, a Minneapolis-based trainer, consultant and author who has written extensively about LinkedIn. "Someone else obviously wrote this ... I don't think anyone would assume he wrote his own profile, [but] LinkedIn is a professional networking space. No one introduces themselves third-person in real life; why would you do it here?"
Romney has the requisite "500+" connections, along with 97 recommendations. Not bad, and the fact that they seem to come from a cross-section of supporters bodes well.
"Worth their weight in gold," said Dan Wehmeier, social media manager for The Screamer Company, a creative and marketing agency in Austin, Texas.
But 97 recommendations: Is that good or bad? Our experts were divided.
"As a presidential candidate, there should be far more," said Susan Jacobsen, president of public relations firm LUV2XLPR in Washington, D.C.
Mark W. Halpert, managing partner of Connect2Collaborate in Fairfield, Connecticut, disagreed. In fact, he said he believes Romney has "way too many recommendations."
The magic number, he suggested, is 2% of your total number of connections. So if you have 500 connections, you want 10 legitimate recommendations.
Go to the Romney campaign organization's profile, and here's the text you'll read (at least as of when I wrote this column):
America faces exceptional challenges. Mitt Romney is an exceptional man with unique qualifications to lead our country through perilous times, restoring our strength at home and abroad.
Mitt was born in Detroit on March 12, 1947. His mother, Lenore, gave up an acting career when she met and married his father, George. Mitt's father came from humble origins and never graduated from college. He apprenticed as a lath and plaster carpenter and sold aluminum paint before beginning a career that brought him to the head of American Motors and then the governorship of Michigan.
Our LinkedIn experts thought that as bland to say the least. Overall, the campaign organization's website struck Linda Pophal of Strageic Communications, LLC, as "a recruitment tool," for paid staff, as opposed to something to encourage people to vote for the candidate.
"There are 1,500 characters available and the largest paragraph talks more about his father's accomplishments than his own," said Ruff. "Also, there is no call to action. ... Side note: the page appears to be only about a month old... I'd have started it sooner!"
Chuck Hester, a consultant in Dana Point, California, agreed.
"The 'company' profile—for the organization—is not very well managed," he said. "A good company profile should have their employees [use] consistent key words in their own profiles."
Overall, our experts said, both profiles looked as if they'd just been thrown together to check a social media box, so to speak. There is no link to Twitter. Just a small, black-and-white photo on the personal profile and lots of staffers with no photo at all on the campaign site. No call to action for either site, and no real argument why anyone should support Romney.
"I was very surprised to see so many basic mistakes in both profiles given the number of digitally-savvy people who work for the campaign," said Patrick Galvin of Galvin Communications in Portland, Ore.
Our experts all-but-uniformly hated the photos, including both the Romney "R" logo on the campaign website and the black-and-white headshot on the willardmittromney site.
The photo "could lead voters to conclude, 'he's living in the past,'" said Scott Swanay, president of Sherpa Social Media in New York. "
"The Romney logo looks a bit lost. Needs to be bigger. Some of his staff don't have pictures, but they show up first. VERY simple to fix and I'd suggest it's done ASAP," said Diane Darling, a Boston-based author and speaker who teaches executives how to use LinkedIn. "Switch to a color picture of Mitt! And one where he is smiling. B&W looks like it's from Mad Men."
(In fairness, one of our experts, Diane Darling of Effective Networking in Boston, had some constructive criticism for the photo on my LinkedIn page. I've been using a photo from my time reporting in Iraq for a few years, but if you don't know that, she said, it "looks like it was taken while you were in someone's backyard.")
When I started working on this column I reached out to both LinkedIn and the Romney campaign to make sure these profiles were legitimate. I never got a definitive answer. So I asked our panel of experts what they thought.
The bottom line is that they're mostly sure that these are legitimate. The one thing that gives them pause is that neither profile is anywhere near as professionally done as you might expect a major party presidential candidate's to be in 2012.
That said, 14 of 16 experts were convinced of their legitimacy. (The two others weren't sure one way or the other.) The profiles look real—with vanity URLs and lots of connections including campaign employees.
Moreover, if you follow the money, it makes sense that they're real. The organizational profile includes job listings that "cost a significant amount of money that someone trying to spoof Mr. Romney would likely not [pay]," said Marty Martin, managing partner of Adapt Partners in Raleigh, North Carolina.
And, that page in turn links to the individual Romney profile we've been talking about.
Just as important, it's not as if there's another LinkedIn profile reading Mitt Romney LinkedIn that seemed even remotely legit.
Of course, if either profile wasn't on the up-and-up, it would say a heck of a lot about the campaign's social media savvy that somebody else managed to impersonate the presumptive Republican nominee for president!