Every U.S. Presidential candidate is CEO of his or her own campaign, facing challenges to optimize into opportunities; similar to CEOs leading a business. With perception on the line, a harmony of marketing, brand, and message will broadcast value to the intended audience.

Media frenzy, special interest groups, political pundits, and do-or-die debates can undermine the candidates' need for control over how they are perceived. Press bias and social media outlets can cross wires in their electronic branding. So I would expect the Presidential candidates as campaign CEOs would seize on LinkedIn as a controllable pipeline to fellow educated, high net worth business voters.

But they seem to not appreciate that one unique attribute of LinkedIn is that only you can publish something to your profile, or approve someone else's materials you choose to add to yours. Control is yours, CEO/candidate.

I first started critiquing the LinkedIn profiles of the major (and minor) Presidential candidates from both parties last April, as they each announced their candidacies. At the outset the LinkedIn communication capabilities of nearly all the candidates was really poor.

I decided to take a fresh look at their LinkedIn profiles.

Of those remaining candidates, I am disappointed to say not much has improved in 11 months, with the only exception of Hillary Clinton. The others do not see fit to pump their LinkedIn profile message in any clear, meaningful way to the global business community, neither controlling their message to the business community via LinkedIn, nor leveraging LinkedIn as a social media power tool.

This astonishes me: Three candidates are completely absent on LinkedIn (really!), or left their old profile narrative largely frozen in the time warp they served as Senator or Governor (careless!), and the rest portray the barest minimum showing a dry, factoid-y, resume for their LinkedIn profile (unenlightened!).

Whether a CEO is in business or politics, individuality and true voice does (or does not) come through in how he/she self-brands on LinkedIn: as a prism for candidates to refract away from the pack, but also as an echo for the most articulate and/or vocal among them to be heard often. I saw this in 2012 and see it again today.

Yet most Presidential candidates have largely failed to offer the business community personal clarity, fresh thought or real action to provide more economic prosperity, national security, and business productivity via LinkedIn.

Business pros are a savvy audience and LinkedIn is a unique niche social media--the currency of business thought in this country, a controlled yet open forum for a political CEO to sway 400+ million potential business contributors, volunteers, and voters.

So I will say brava, Hillary, on your staff continuously updating us on LinkedIn with your views on vital issues. Your campaign marketers posted in the past weeks on:

  • Health insurance
  • The gun lobby
  • Infrastructure
  • College savings
  • Equal pay for women
  • Prescription drug costs
  • And notably the Flint, Michigan water pollution disaster

Each was well-written, to the point, and posted on a timely basis for business pros to read and digest. Your staff is fulfilling LinkedIn as one more integral component in your targeted social media exposure.

To the rest of the candidates (in no particular order) I marvel at how ineffectively your media mavens took advantage of the hugely effective tool of LinkedIn, as well and as frequently as Hillary has.

  • Bernie, you have one lonely connection and offer no provocative fresh material on LinkedIn, mismatching your persona as a firebrand and thought leader.
  • Ted, you have written a total of 3 lines about yourself on LinkedIn to cover your public service experience since 2013.
  • Marco, share your newly invigorated vision, ideal and the family story you love to tell. If you don't tell it, someone else will, and Donald will not tell it well.
  • Ben, you speak to 83 more connections than Bernie, but as such, nearly no one is listening on LinkedIn.
  • Jeb, your narrative lacks emphasis and memorable expression to augment your personality on LinkedIn.
  • John, this is not a Governor's resume (past tense). Please use sentences to convey your (present) views and (future) aspirations.
  • And then there's Donald, deserving his own bullet point, for being conspicuously absent, but of course.
  • And Mayor Mike, your LinkedIn profile is a very close second to Hillary's. You really know how to communicate your (New York) values for a noncandidate.

Ahem, we business people read and share valuable material on LinkedIn; we influence each other and make decisions based on curated content published on LinkedIn.

Here are just 5 suggested topics for campaign marketing staff to highlight on LinkedIn (left) and for CEOs to optimize on LinkedIn to attract new business attention (right); notice the intersections:

1. Rewrite the candidate's LinkedIn profile--each section characterizes the candidate's career, to attract the business pro. Speak directly to the reader: "why" and "how" I can help you. Hit nerves and emotions as you do this to make an impact. 1. Paint why you do what you do on your LinkedIn profile: your career story makes you referable. Don't be reticent to talk about yourself; that thinking is last-century. Today a profile, told well, appeals to new prospects and clients.
2. Continue with videos and slide decks that complement the profile narrative to reinforce the candidate's point of view to the LinkedIn reader. Visuals are highly memorable. 2. Use sharp company graphics, slide decks, and video to tell that "why" to a viewer, the impact of your personal brand, and thus of the company you run, to capture their attention.
3. Create community by encouraging followers on LinkedIn groups. Speak to the specific audience as and where they want to be addressed. 3. Gather followers via your LinkedIn personal and company profile pages. Disseminate new company material; lead the way, ahead of competition.
4. Address the business community around the issues that concern it most, with Posts explaining the candidate's personal position on thorny national issues. 4. Already knowing what your industry and customer base is challenged with, aim high as a thought spokesperson, sharing original thoughts via LinkedIn Posts. Create remarkable material.
5. Most importantly: be proactive and continuously visible in the campaign's LinkedIn branding, so the candidate heeds business pros' concerns. 5. Be where your market(s) interact(s): appear often on LinkedIn and the other social media outlets they converse on, share a lot.

Candidates, take a CEO's control of your message and publish more quality on LinkedIn.

CEOs, take a presidential message to your clients with best-in-class quality.

We vote for the candidate, or purchase from the company, that clearly expresses unique vision that most closely resembles ours, when conveniently and cogently presented in the social media forum we frequent.

Published on: Feb 16, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.