Last Friday, I received my daily LinkedIn Pulse email. The “highlight of the day” was an article from Hillary Clinton, 2016 Presidential Candidate.
Because I’m an admitted marketing/politics/news nerd – and a small business owner – I read the article.
It was pretty much what I expected. Some general suggestions with no specifics, just like what you would hear during a campaign speech.
What fascinated me were the comments. Many LinkedIn users called out LinkedIn for allowing its publishing platform to be used as a megaphone for a political candidate.
Some said they would be cancelling their premium membership, while others said they would stop using LinkedIn completely.
That seems a bit drastic and I’ll believe it when I see it, but the reaction does raise a fair question. Should LinkedIn allow political candidates to use its publishing platform to post content that amounts to a campaign speech?
LinkedIn and its users have a few factors to consider before answering that question.
It’s virtually impossible to differentiate between valuable, relevant content and “campaign-speak.”
Hillary, like any other candidate, could say her article was intended to start a discussion. Many would obviously disagree.
At the same time, most users of LinkedIn’s publishing platform post articles that are nothing more than self-promotional drivel. Poorly written, self-promotional drivel.
If you’re not going to ban articles from political candidates across the board, is there really a fair, consistent way to categorize content? And who makes that call?
If this particular article was written by a small business consultant named Hillary Smith, I wouldn’t be writing this post.
There was nothing wrong with the recommendations in the article, but it was just another post that would have been tossed on top of the heap of “nothing special” content you typically find on any publishing platform, including LinkedIn.
But that wasn’t the case. This was an article by the Hillary, which explains the reaction.
This article brought out the worst in many LinkedIn users.
Some users tried to keep the conversation productive by offering their thoughts on improving the small business climate in our country.
The majority saw this as an opportunity to spew names that ranged from “liar” and “criminal” to “evil” and “Hitler.” Many commenters then took out their aggressions on each other.
While you don’t want discussions to devolve into name-calling and hate, it’s not LinkedIn’s responsibility to babysit a bunch of “professionals” who don’t have the good sense to act like adults and be respectful of each other.
There’s also that “freedom of speech” thing, which gives people the freedom to prove they’re idiots.
Ultimately, people who post those kinds of comments are only hurting themselves, but the quality and tone of the discussion is something that should concern the folks at LinkedIn.
As a professional networking and career development platform, LinkedIn is held to a higher standard than other social channels. If this kind of discussion becomes commonplace, it could damage the LinkedIn brand.
Is LinkedIn using this post to test the waters?
The powers that be at LinkedIn bestowed upon Hillary the title of “influencer” even though this article was her first published post.
I found that curious. Doesn’t that kind of devalue the label?
Of course, the “influencer” label means more eyes on the content, as if Hillary needs anything beyond her name to get plenty of attention.
This is pure speculation, but I wonder if LinkedIn is trying see if there’s an appetite for similar political content by highlighting the article of one of the world’s most polarizing political figures.
I took a look at the most recent posts from some of the most prominent influencers on LinkedIn. Let’s compare their levels of engagement with Hillary’s post.
Richard Branson: 108,809 views, 3,056 likes, 429 comments
Conan O’Brien: 207,021 views, 1,321 likes, 211 comments
Jack Welch: 258,324 views, 2,922 likes, 378 comments
Arianna Huffington: 272,603 views, 8,643 likes, 929 comments
Hillary Clinton: 94,920 views, 1,302 likes, 861 comments
I’m guessing Hillary’s article would have received more attention if it didn’t show up in Pulse feeds on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, but I can’t say how much.
Here’s my take.
I spent about 15 years of my life working in radio, and I abhor censorship.
I continue to believe that any radio host has the right to say anything that doesn’t violate federal laws or their employer’s code of conduct.
I also believe that station owners have the right to fire a host for saying something the owner feels is inappropriate, listeners have the right to change the station, and advertisers have the right to take their business elsewhere.
The same philosophy applies to LinkedIn.
If political candidates are allowed to set up profiles, they should be able to publish articles just like any other user.
All other users have the right to ignore that content, cancel their premium memberships and delete their profiles. Advertisers have the right to take their business elsewhere, and LinkedIn has the right to ban users for content and comments that violate its rules.
Is it fair that a political candidate’s article goes right to the top of the news feed just because that candidate has more name recognition?
Is it fair that a political candidate earns the “influencer” title for the same reason?
Obviously, a content contributor like me will never bring more than a fraction of the views, likes and comments of any of the big names mentioned previously.
My concern is that political candidates could potentially dominate news feeds, especially during an election season.
Where does that leave small business owners like you and me who are trying to build a following by creating and sharing helpful content?
That’s a problem, and I have no idea what the solution is.
Spare me and everyone your political commentary.
I don’t care what you think about Hillary Clinton or any other candidate for public office. I don’t care what party or philosophy you support.
That’s not the point of this post.
For the record, I feel very confident in saying that no political rant in the history of social media has ever changed someone’s mind. In fact, political rants only deepen the divide between two sides.
And in most cases, they make you look like an ass.
So take it somewhere else.
However, if you have any thoughts about the use of LinkedIn’s publishing platform by political candidates, please share them here.