LinkedIn advertising isn’t for everyone.
In fact, everything about – from what and how you post to whether you should run ads – is different than your typical social media platform.
I’ll cover the basics of LinkedIn advertising and whether or not it’s right for your business. Full article, video and podcast below.
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The Benefits of LinkedIn Advertising
The strengths of LinkedIn lay in its differences.
As we covered, this isn’t your average social platform, which gives it a leg up when it comes to advertising.
You probably know this, but LinkedIn is a business-oriented place. Its audience is primarily professionals, and they don’t come to LinkedIn to scroll through photos of cats and memes.
They’re there with a purpose in mind, meaning they come specifically for industry news and updates and new opportunities. (Hint: if that’s your market, this is where you should advertise).
Because of its specific audience, LinkedIn offers unparalleled targeting abilities to capture leads based on their professional practices and status. That means if you’re trying to target someone in upper management (or an executive with the ability to sign off on a deal), you can do so.
It also stands to reason that through LinkedIn, you can reach a higher-value audience. LinkedIn members tend to have higher job salaries and responsibilities than those of other platforms, making them ideal candidates. For reference, 75 percent of LinkedIn users have incomes of over $50,000.
Of course, advertising on LinkedIn doesn’t come without a few drawbacks, and we’ll explore those in detail momentarily.
First, let’s take a look at what it takes to create a successful LinkedIn ad in the first place.
The Basics of LinkedIn Advertising
Here’s the great thing about advertising on social media: if you’ve done it once, you can do it again – on almost any platform.
The setup process stays similar – choose your ad format, target audience, budget, etc. – no matter which channel you choose.
So if you’re a seasoned marketer, these steps may look familiar.
Step 1: Sign Up for Campaign Manager
The Campaign Manager is the command center of your ad campaigns, and if you haven’t already, your first job is to sign up.
All you need is a LinkedIn Account and a few minutes to spare. The setup here is straightforward, and will only take a few minutes.
Once you’re set up, this will be your go-to for ad creation and reporting, with features like:
- Dynamic visual reporting that recalculates and displays only the data that matches your search and filter settings.
- A detailed breakout of the actions your Sponsored Content campaigns generate, including Clicks, Likes, Shares, Comments, and Follows.
- A detailed view of the demographic categories of LinkedIn members who click on your ads, available at the account, campaign, and creative level.
Step 2: Choose Your Ad Format
You have three options when it comes to LinkedIn Advertising:
1. Sponsored Content
Sponsored Content ads are likely the ones you’re most familiar with.
These appear right in the user’s feeds and look almost identical to regular posts, except for the small “sponsored” that appears at the top.
According to LinkedIn, Sponsored Content ads allow you to:
- Get your message out on every device: desktop, tablet, and mobile
- Use rich media to stand out in the feed
- Easily test your messaging and optimize campaigns in real time
With these ads, you also have the option to use LinkedIn’s Lead Gen forms, which allows LinkedIn to pull information directly from users profiles to include in a lead generation form (should they choose to submit it, of course).
LinkedIn also recently rolled out Sponsored Content Video ads. These work identically to text Sponsored Content ads, except of course, the content is delivered in video form.
Sponsored Content Best Practices
If you go this route, keep the following in mind:
- Use a clear, concise headline (under 150 words) to attract attention
- Keep your descriptions under 70 words; longer ones may be cut off
- The bigger the image the better – Content with larger visuals tend to get up to 38% higher CTR! LinkedIn recommends an image size of 1200 x 627 pixels
- Include a clear CTA
2. Sponsored InMail
This one works with LinkedIn Messenger.
Rather than appearing in feeds, these ads appear in a users message center, allowing you to send personalized messages directly to the users you’re trying to target.
The advantage here is that it’s a more direct means of targeting your audience. Rather than hope they come across your ad in their feed, it notifies them directly in their messages.
Because of this, InMail sees high open rates. For advice on the do’s and don’ts of InMail ads, see this article on LinkedIn.
Sponsored InMail Best Practices
- Keep it concise – body text under 500 characters has a 46% higher CTR
- Include links – messages with links in the body text have been shown to lift CTR by 21%
- Include CTAs, but keep them short – CTAs with 1-3 words show a 13% higher CTR
3. Text Ads
Text ads are what you likely think of when you think “ad.”
They run alongside a user’s feed on the homepage, and on a pay-per-click (PPC) or cost-per-impression (CPM) basis.
Text Ad Best Practices:
- Set a maximum bid as high as you’re comfortable with; the higher the bid, the more people are likely to see it
- Include images in your text ads
- Create multiple ad variations to test
- Include an attention-grabbing headline
Step 3: Create Your Ad
The actual creation of the ad will depend on the format you choose, and LinkedIn has in-depth Instructions for crafting each.
As far as the kind of content to feature in your ads, always keep your target audience in mind. You should have an understanding of what they relate to and what will prove most engaging.
LinkedIn Advertising Campaign Ideas
- Offer industry news, Analyze industry news instead of just sharing it. Offering insights and key takeaways will keep your content from feeling generic, and help establish thought leadership in your field.
- Share information from other sources, as long as it’s useful and relevant to your audience. And remember, always give credit where it’s due!
- Repurpose your own content. Remember to check your blog, website, and social media channels instead of creating new content every time.
- Use rich media (like video, audio, or other element) by incorporating YouTube, Vimeo, and SlideShare videos if using Sponsored Content ads.
- Focus on storytelling – both your brand story and related human interest stories that connect to your brand, and you will deepen the emotional connection between your brand and audience
Step 4: Choose Your Target
LinkedIn isn’t your typical social media site, and it’s targeting options aren’t so typical either.
Because LinkedIn was built with professionals in mind, it’s unique in that it allows you target your audience by professional behavior, rather than lifestyle choices and behaviors.
As you can imagine, that’s a pretty powerful tool, especially for B2Bs or any business that caters to an audience based on business backgrounds, etc.
LinkedIn offers the following targeting capabilities:
- Location – this is a mandatory field; you can limit it down to a specific city or keep it broad by entering a country or state
- Experience – Function, Title, Seniority, Years of Experience
- Company – Name, Industry, Size, Followers, Connections
- Education – Schools, Degrees, Fields of Study
- Interests – Skills, Groups
- Identity – Location, Age, Gender
LinkedIn also offers a few custom targeting options, including:
- Audience Expansion – this enables LinkedIn to identify and show your ad to audience members similar to those you have selected with your targeting criteria
- Website Retargeting – through remarketing, you can target users on LinkedIn who have previously visited your website (highly recommended!)
- Contact Targeting – build a target audience through your own contacts
- Account Targeting – target your audience by company name
Keep in mind that as with any channel, you want to limit your audience based on your targeting preferences, but not limit it so much that you narrow it down too far.
When starting out, LinkedIn recommends choosing just a location and two other targeting criteria.
Step 5: Budget
And here we have it: everyone’s favorite step (just kidding).
Joking aside, budget creation is a necessary evil in all advertising endeavors, and LinkedIn’s no different.
You have three options:
- Cost-per-click (CPC) – best for lead generation, event registration, etc.
- Cost-per-impression (CPM) – best for brand awareness
- Cost-per-send (CPS) – used for InMail ads (you pay for each ad successfully delivered)
The option you choose will, of course, depend on the overall goal of your campaign. In addition, you’ll be asked to enter a suggested bid, daily budget, start date, end date, and total budget.
Keep in mind, LinkedIn advertising costs are notoriously high, but more on that in a minute.
With your placement, creative, and budget and place, you’re good to go. Advertise away.
So, Who Should Use LinkedIn Advertising?
The decision really all comes down to the target audience and unfortunately, budget.
Hands down, B2Bs will have the most success.
LinkedIn reports that research from several sources found that:
- 80% of B2B marketing leads from social media come through LinkedIn.
- 92% of B2B marketers use the platform over all others.
- 46% of social media traffic to your company site comes from LinkedIn.
A recent article on MarketingLand made the case that three types of businesses will find most success on LinkedIn:
- High-value B2Bs (products & services)
- Recruiting efforts – this can be less expensive than hiring employees for recruitment
- Higher education
That said, LinkedIn Advertising isn’t for everyone. That same article also identifies the following, who should stay away from advertising on the channel:
- B2C companies
- B2Bs with smaller deal sizes (<$10K)
- Broad targets
- Ad agencies
To uncover why, we have to look at those two key factors: target audience and budget.
LinkedIn Advertising Target Audience
To start, we know good and well that LinkedIn’s audience is primarily business professionals. If that doesn’t align with who your brand is targeting, you can go ahead and rule it out.
Beyond that, you’ll want to take into consideration the size of your audience. Seventy-five percent of LinkedIn users are located outside of the US.
It’s safe to say that those with a global audience will find higher value in LinkedIn, while brands operating on a local or regional scale may not see the same returns.
As far as male/female ratio, LinkedIn’s audience is pretty evenly split, with 56% men and 44% women.
We can also look a little deeper into user behavior to determine who’s best suited to advertising on LinkedIn.
For example, we know that LinkedIn is often used to find new job opportunities, which is why it makes sense for recruiters to invest in advertising on the platform rather than in hiring a new employee or consultant to do recruitment for them.
We also know that 50% of B2B buyers use LinkedIn when making purchasing decisions, which is why the Marketing Land article recommended B2B product and service brands use LinkedIn advertising.
Do keep in mind that they recommend only those with an average deal size of over $15,000; otherwise, the price of the sale may not make up for the high CPCs on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn Advertising Budget
The other big barrier to entrance is budget.
Simply speaking, advertising on LinkedIn will cost more than other platforms.
According to AdStage, LinkedIn’s ad breakdown looked something like this in 2017:
- The average LinkedIn Ads CPM is $8.39
- The average CPC on LinkedIn is $6.50
- The average CTR on LinkedIn is 0.13%
Actual costs will, of course, vary on your targeting and ad placement options.
The reason for the higher costs can be partially attributed to the fact that LinkedIn just doesn’t have the user numbers that a site like Facebook does. In that respect, more advertisers are competing for space to show a limited amount of users, driving prices up.
Whatever the reason, it’s why it isn’t recommended that all B2Bs jump into LinkedIn advertising. If you are considering it, really evaluate the amount you’re likely to spend versus what you’re likely to take in. In some cases, you may find that the returns don’t justify the cost of advertising on LinkedIn.
On the flip side, users on LinkedIn often prove to be more qualified leads than those on other social sites, and the higher CPCs may be worth it in the end.
LinkedIn Advertising: Bottom Line
Is it for you? Well, maybe.
If you’re a high-rolling B2B, absolutely.
If you’re a B2C, better to stick with other social channels.
Beyond that, here are a few key takeaways:
- Analyze user behavior – if you’re recruiting or catering to higher education, you’ll find a good fit in LinkedIn
- Those with very broad audiences (men, 65+, etc.) won’t benefit from LinkedIn’s targeting abilities, and likely won’t see the returns of more niche brands
- Those with a global audience may do better
- Smaller B2Bs likely won’t see a high ROI
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and sometimes your best bet is to experiment.
If you decide to give LinkedIn advertising a try, start with a low budget first and see how it goes.
Best case scenario? An ad performance so great you’ll have no choice but to up your budget.