President Barack Obama, pictured during a LinkedIn town hall last year, is one of 150 "influencers" users can now follow.
PHOTO: Getty Images
President Barack Obama, pictured during a LinkedIn town hall last year, is one of 150 "influencers" users can now follow.

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LinkedIn adds follow feature to allow users to follow key influencers on the site

The 150 influencers include Obama, Romney as well as business leaders

Twitter-like feature comes after that site opted to no longer integrate with LinkedIn

(CNN) —  

LinkedIn hopes to jazz up its news feed with the addition of 150 super influencers on the network who fans can follow, a la Twitter.

The elite circle includes President Obama, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, physician/writer Deepak Chopra, Virgin founder/CEO Richard Branson, motivational speaker Tony Robbins and Mashable’s founder/CEO Pete Cashmore, among others. Fans can follow the celebs for regular updates, just like on Twitter. However, there are some differences. There’s no 140-character limit on updates and the communication is designed to be business-related.

“Our goal is to always make sure that there’s high quality,” says Dan Roth, executive editor at LinkedIn. When asked when the next round of super-influencers will be added, Roth replied, “The answer is we don’t know.”

LinkedIn has reason to wade cautiously into this Twitteresque feature. While fake accounts and off-subject tweets are part of that social network’s charm, unleashing the same on LinkedIn could destroy its niche as a sober forum for business. As such, the activity of the initial 150 will be different than their Twitter feeds. “People come here for a purpose,” Roth says. “They’re at work or thinking about work. It’s not about their personal lives.”

The group’s ability to engage LinkedIn’s audience will be ranked by views, likes, comments and shares that are visible to all users. Such metrics will both act as a self-regulating feature, but will also prompt the inevitable ranking of the top 10 and bottom 10.

The addition of the program is the latest evolution for the nine-year-old LinkedIn, which was initially little more than an online Rolodex. Over time, the site has emerged as a social network with its own hive of activity.

Twitter’s decision in June to no longer let users tweet to LinkedIn may have actually helped the company overcome criticism that it’s a low-engagement network: PageLever, an analytics tool for Facebook Pages, found that the Twitter disentanglement actually prompted a 1,000% increase in page referrals from Facebook. Since the Twitter breakup, LinkedIn also ushered in a redesign that made it look more like Facebook or Google+.

What do you think? Will this spur more activity on LinkedIn? Sound off in the comments below.