Obama queries LinkedIn users on business issues

Presidential candidate steps Web 2.0 presence to gauge voter opinions

US Sen. Barack Obama launched a new Web 2.0 campaign effort Wednesday, using LinkedIn's professional networking site to solicit comments from the network's 14 million users about business topics.

Obama is posting several questions to LinkedIn's Answers service, which was launched earlier this year to let members ask questions of, and receive quick answers from, fellow users of the site.

Obama's first post this morning asked users how the next president can help small businesses and entrepreneurs thrive. The post had elicited more than 200 responses after three hours on the site.

For example, LinkedIn user Jon Burke advised Obama to "get technology and have a curiosity about it. Recent U.S. presidents and national politicians in general don't seem to care or know much at all about technology. The Internet and Google have become punch lines. A president who follows technology can make more informed policy decisions."

Scott Pickard added that the next president should "support the development of business incubators. These 'entrepreneurial ecosystems' are great starting homes for the entrepreneur and his new venture in years one to four. The incubator lowers hurdles, mitigates risk ... and while it offers no guarantees, it does improve the odds for a successful start and graduation to a sustainable business that creates high-quality jobs while introducing new technologies and products to the marketplace."

"LinkedIn Answers provides an ideal forum for political candidates and campaigns to communicate with a high-level professional audience on key business issues," said Dan Nye, CEO of LinkedIn, in a statement. "We expect candidates from all backgrounds and all levels of government, from city council races to the presidential campaign, will take advantage of LinkedIn as a highly effective online tool for reaching the business audience."

Obama, who has been actively using Web 2.0 technologies like Facebook and MySpace, is leading the race for Web site visitors, according to statistics released last week by Nielsen/NetRatings. Obama had 717,000 visitors to his campaign site in July, the latest month for which numbers were available. The Obama site's total outpaced fellow Democratic candidates Sen. Hillary Clinton -- who had 437,000 visitors to her site -- and former Sen. John Edwards, who logged 348,000 unique visitors in July.

Among Republicans, Fred Thompson's site ImWithFred drew the most unique visitors in July with 381,000, according to Nielsen. Since announcing his candidacy, Thompson's campaign now is redirecting traffic from ImWithFred to Fred08.com. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani ranked second among Republicans online, with 124,000 unique visitors, according to Nielsen.

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