I saw this clever ad for Barack Obama running in the right sidebar of my LinkedIn profile page  today:
I think it’s an ad, because the clickthrough link is tracked through DoubleClick. When you click on that ad, though, it pops you over to LinkedIn’s Question & Answers section…
In the Q/A section, Obama asks “How can the next president better help small business and entrepreneurs thrive?” The ad’s received quite a bit of attention from LinkedIn users, as shown by the 1216 answers that have been posted in the past day since the question went live.
The LinkedIn question allows users to also click on his name, taking them over to Barack Obama’s LinkedIn profile page . (I should note here that I’m not endorsing his campaign or anything — I haven’t yet made any personal decision about presidential candidates, and I’m only posting this out of interest in the promotion strategy that’s being used.)
Now, I’ve seen quite a few people posting questions in this section of LinkedIn since they made it live in the last year, so it’s not the first time that someone has used the Q/A section for the purpose of self-promotion.
However, it does go to show that Obama’s got some clever people running promotions in his campaign, and they’re apparently now integrating in social media or networking sites as they can. This is a form of social media optimization, and it’s been done in an altogether slick manner. I’ve previously recommended that professionals use LinkedIn for reputation management , and you can see how politicians and others can also use it to give themselves “presence” with the particular demographic audience. Social Media Optimization of this sort can allow one to promote through many unique and highly participatory audiences including MySpace, Facebook, StumbleUpon, and more.
I do wonder about the wisdom of LinkedIn allowing their Q/A feature to be used as an advertising component, though. I’ve already felt like the Questions and Answers section has been getting a bit tarnished by the various people who are just using it for self promo. I’m looking cynically at many of the questions posed in there, since quite a few people don’t want answers at all — they just want to spam people who post a question, or they want to lure people into looking at their profiles by posting something.
Now that LinkedIn is apparently lending official sanction to using the platform for advertising, this sort of commercialization is only likely to increase.
When the ads increase, it removes my incentive as a user to participate, because I feel like I’m being snookered or wasting my time. As Jakob Nielsen , the well-known expert on Usability typically notes, users tend to blank out web content that they perceive to be advertising, even if it isn’t. LinkedIn could shoot themselves in the foot with this strategy.
Kudos to the marketing cleverness of the Barack Obama marketing folx, and fifty lashes with a wet noodle to LinkedIn.