PPC is not just for search engines and independent publishers anymore. In the modern digital world, online advertising is also dominated by social media sites.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even Pinterest and Snap Chat have made a mark but another PPC platform you won’t want to miss is LinkedIn.
Despite having a much smaller following than big players like Facebook and Instagram, with only 500 million users to their 2 billion and 700 million monthly users respectively, LinkedIn has distinct advantages, especially for B2B businesses.
Why you should use LinkedIn’s online advertising
LinkedIn is, in some ways, unique among social media channels, due to its emphasis on the working environment, recruitment and professional networking. The biggest struggle many B2B, SaaS and any functional, work related companies face is engaging with customers on social media. They are places where many go to avoid work topics.
B2C and highly visual companies traditionally perform far better on paid social thanks to this bias. Users go to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram primarily to connect with friends and to be entertained. It is a distraction from work rather than an enabler of business related thoughts.
LinkedIn, therefore, fills a very useful niche for a wide selection of businesses looking to master PPC beyond search engines and independent publishers.
LinkedIn is not just a beneficial PPC platform in theory, it is home to an impressive 106 million active monthly users and can reportedly deliver better conversion rates for businesses than some of the leading PPC and social advertising platforms. Hubspot claim that on average US advertisers receive a 6.1% conversion rate. This is remarkable considering B2B businesses using AdWords receive an average conversion rate of 2.58%. Globally LinkedIn is even more successful, with Hubspot clients outside the USA experiencing conversion rates of 9% from LinkedIn ads.
The Hubspot firm have also found that, at least for their clients, LinkedIn is also beating both Facebook and Twitter in visit to lead conversion rates:
Back in 2013 LinkedIn was regarded as one of the fastest growing social media channels and since then they have done a decent job of improving the functionality and options within their online advertising platform.
There have been plenty of case studies performed to prove LinkedIn’s worth to sceptics, including Spread Fast improving their qualified leads by 7 times or VistaVu reducing cost per lead by 75%.
If you are hoping to use paid social for a B2C business, then Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are probably the best options, especially for e-commerce. LinkedIn does fall far behind in terms of post engagement but it is a worthwhile platform for B2B businesses and those more formal service companies who have struggled on other social media platforms.
According to LessAnnoyingCRM LinkedIn was voted the most effective and most used social media platform for B2B companies in the USA. On LinkedIn you will find a much larger proportion of business professionals who are there to network and are open to services which can improve their working lives. LinkedIn’s targeting is also highly tailored to professional personas rather than personal interests, which gives it a distinct advantage over other social media platforms for certain industries.
What kind of online advertising does LinkedIn offer?
If you are used to working with AdWords or Facebook, LinkedIn’s advertising options can seem a little alien at first. However, despite a few key differences, it is very easy to set up ads and campaigns.
The most important feature to remember when starting with LinkedIn PPC ads is the difference between self-serve ads and ads available through a LinkedIn account team.
Self-serve ads are the simplest campaigns and a likely starting point for the vast majority of advertisers. The process of creation is very similar to Facebook and you have the choice of three distinct ad types:
1) Text ads
Text ads are very simple ads that can be used to drive awareness, traffic, leads and conversions. They are very versatile and can be utilised for a variety of business goals. In spite of their misleading name you can include a thumbnail image to brighten up these ads. Text ads can be used to push users to your website landing pages or your LinkedIn page if you are looking to grow your followers as well.
2) Sponsored content
There are actually two kinds of sponsored content you can use to great affect on LinkedIn. A normal piece of sponsored content is a lot like a boosted post on Facebook. You can pay to have a previously organic post reach a larger audience.
A direct sponsored post is one that does not appear in your organic company feed.
This is helpful for business who want to test their sponsored content messaging.
While sponsored content is primarily used for brand awareness or individual content marketing on other social media sites, it can be very useful for lead generation and pushing conversions on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn encourages its professional users to create long form content, such as full articles, which can be hosted on LinkedIn instead of on your website. These posts are typically longer than status updates and can only be published by individuals and contain images and links like a blog. However, links to these posts can be shared by your company page and thereby turned into a sponsored ad. This gives even greater variety and flexibility to advertising on LinkedIn.
3) Sponsored InMail
Sponsored InMails are probably one of the most powerful advertising features on LinkedIn. Lead generation is frequently the primary goal of many B2B businesses and these companies are more likely to find receptive users on the LinkedIn platform.
LinkedIn allows messages to be sent between professionals, making it ideal for networking and recruitment. Sponsored InMail allows advertisers to add scale to their private messaging efforts on LinkedIn. The ability to send out mass, personalised, direct messages to the right employees can be a real game changer for many industries. It is a perfect medium for promoting webinars, business events and acquiring leads easily.
Another benefit of sponsored InMail is that they only get sent when users are active on LinkedIn for maximum relevant reach.
Ads available through a LinkedIn account team
While self-serve ads can be very effective, LinkedIn has more to offer businesses looking to invest in LinkedIn paid social.
By teaming up with a LinkedIn management team, you can gain access to the following additional ad types:
1) Dynamic ads
Dynamic LinkedIn ads are a little different from dynamic search or dynamic display ads on AdWords but what they all allow is a more personalised and relevant approach to ads.
LinkedIn regards dynamic ads as a type of native advertising with which you can create customised visual ad templates but then have them automatically populated with the relevant name, profile image and content, based on the skills and career history of the user who sees the ad.
Here is an example of a dynamic ad in action on LinkedIn, which has populated itself with an individual’s own profile image and name.
2) Programmatic display ads
Programmatic display is being regarded as the future of online advertising. It allows a whole new level of automation to control ad targeting and allow advertisers to reach the right audience in the right moment instantaneously.
LinkedIn now offers two auction types for their programmatic display ads to make the process as simple as possible for advertisers. If you already have programmatic software you can use the open auction or if not, you can still use the private auction.
The private auction also offers a few more capabilities, such as the ability to specifically target the LinkedIn homepage and target select LinkedIn audience segments e.g. telecoms decision makers. You can also use your own first or third-party data e.g. your CRM contacts, to target as well.
To utilise dynamic LinkedIn ads and programmatic ads you will need to use a LinkedIn account team. They will help you to setup your LinkedIn online advertising for these ad formats. To get started all you need to do is contact the LinkedIn sales team using the enquiry form on this page.
Like every competitive PPC platform, LinkedIn is in a constant battle to stay ahead of the curve and in recent years they have done well to introduce clever new features to help advertisers.
Last spring LinkedIn added capabilities for account based marketing on their social channel. Like dynamic and programmatic ads this campaign type involves contacting a LinkedIn support team but it could deliver an extra boost to your online advertising.
Account based targeting, also called ABM, works well for large companies who have an extensive list of prospective businesses they would like to see their ads. ABM allows LinkedIn ads and Sponsored InMail style ads to be matched to companies on LinkedIn from an uploaded list of company prospects.
This year (spring 2017) the feature became even more powerful and LinkedIn is now offering advertisers Matched Audiences. This is an umbrella term for the three PPC tools of retargeting, ABM and contact based marketing, all of which are available on LinkedIn. Contact based marketing is very similar to ABM except that it targets email lists from your CRM rather than company names.
Another fantastic benefit of choosing LinkedIn ads is the ability to leverage handy lead generation forms. These can be added to sponsored content and InMail ads. All you need to do is add a call to action and be sure to select the option to collect leads with forms when first building your campaign. The best thing about LinkedIn lead generation forms is they self-populate with information pulled from the recipients LinkedIn profile, so you know that the information is accurate, creating better qualified lead data. You can select which questions you would like included in the form, add a customised call to action for the form, add your website link and create a custom thank you message for your leads.
Watch the video below for a more in-depth introduction into LinkedIn lead generation forms:
Enjoy professional persona targeting
LinkedIn has a host of beneficial features, campaign types and ad types at its disposal but one of its greatest advantages for B2B industries is its targeting.
For certain industries, who primarily work with business clients or individual professionals, Facebook and other social media sites have severe targeting weaknesses. They target by demographic and location but their targeted personas are based on people’s individual interests and hobbies outside of the workplace. While this is ideal for B2C online advertising it does not carry much weight for B2B businesses.
On the other hand, LinkedIn was designed around professional personas, which means, on top of geographic targeting, LinkedIn advertisers can layer targeting for seniority, job function, job title, educational background, industry or even directly target company names. This enables LinkedIn to not only target professionals relevant to your services but also the key decision makers within those companies.
Getting started with LinkedIn ads
Despite the variety of ad and targeting choices, LinkedIn campaigns are simple to create and the process will feel very familiar to any advertisers who have used Facebook advertising.
To create a simple self-serve text ad, simply head over to www.linkedin.com/ads.
If it is your first time using LinkedIn social advertising then simply select create ad:
Before you do anything else you must enter your billing information, just as you would on AdWords. Having completed this step, you will be asked to choose your campaign type. As this is a self-serve ad campaign you must choose between a text ad, sponsored content and InMail ad.
Now you can name and select the language for your campaign. Note that this is also where you can select to promote the LinkedIn page itself for gathering followers and/or collect leads using the lead generation forms and set up your conversion tracking (conversion tracking can also be setup after initial campaign creation.)
Now you can build your ad. For a simple text ad, all you need to worry about is a headline, body text and if desired a thumbnail image.
Headlines are 25 characters long maximum and body text can only be 75 characters long. You can link to a website landing page or your LinkedIn company depending on your business goals.
Just as with Facebook, Twitter and AdWords, is it advisable to create multiple variations of your ads to test the popularity of features for best optimization.
Next you can set your targeting parameters. Your geographic targeting comes first.
Then you have the additional professional persona options. Here you can select whether you want to target job title or function or a combination of parameters. You also have age and gender options too.
You can expand your reach with the Audience Expansion option in this section. This works a bit like AdWords similar audiences.
Having chosen your overall targeting types you can then specify which industries, groups and job functions you are actually looking for.
Next comes your bidding options. Here you will be able to set your max daily budget and choose between CPC bidding or CPM bidding, in accordance with your objectives. CPM bidding will be best for sponsored content and awareness objectives, whereas CPC is better for campaigns focused on driving traffic and actions.
In addition to CPC and CPM you have the option of CPS but only for InMail campaigns. CPS is cost per send.
In this area you will also set your maximum desired bid to inform what you are willing to pay for a click, impression or send. You can also add optional start and end time scheduling for the campaign.
Now you are ready to launch your first LinkedIn paid social campaign.
All self-serve ad campaigns have a similar basic setup except that with InMail you must include an email subject line, message and have the option of a customised footer. For sponsored content all you need to do is add the URL of the content you would like to boost and a title.
Conversion tracking and retargeting
While it is optional, anyone running a PPC campaign should set up conversion tracking. Without conversion tracking it will be difficult to collect the best data and monitor the success of specific objectives. It is especially important if your campaign aims to push traffic to your website.
LinkedIn conversion tracking is straightforward to setup and very similar to the process on Facebook and other social channels. When you first setup your campaign and name it you will notice an option to add conversion tracking:
All you need to do is add a snippet of code to the body section of your website and then set up conversions in LinkedIn to show which users actions are valuable. You can then add these conversions to any campaign.
Watch the video below for step by step visual instructions on adding LinkedIn conversion tracking.
Don’t forget that retargeting can increase your conversion rates and this is true on LinkedIn advertising as well. This will enable you to send LinkedIn sponsored content and InMails to those who have visited your website before. Again, it is simply a matter of adding a snippet of code and adding retargeting to a campaign as your audience targeting.
Take a look at this handy video for full step by step instructions:
Be aware of LinkedIn challengers
Unlocking the power of LinkedIn advertising will improve PPC strategies for many industries but especially B2B and recruitment. However, while LinkedIn has so far remained successful thanks to its work life niche, this could soon change.
Never one to be bested in any area, Facebook is trying to squeeze into the B2B and workplace arena. The launch of Facebook Workplace and Facebook job listings are clear evidence of this.
Facebook Workplace encourages professionals and businesses to utilise Facebook as a workplace communication, collaboration and productivity tool. The mobile/web app helps teams stay connected inside and outside of the office and even work with other companies.
Since February 2017 Facebook has been rolling out Facebook job listings to USA and Canadian business pages. Businesses can post job openings in their organic news feed, add them to a jobs tab and include apply now call to action buttons, which open application forms in Messenger.
Since many like to keep their work and personal lives separate, this is not a direct assault on LinkedIn’s monopoly of networking professionals. However, LinkedIn has a clear tendency to focus on mid to high level professionals, who are actively seeking to network, find work and show off their portfolio. Facebook will be easily able to scoop up lower level and new workers, who aren’t necessarily seeking a job in that moment and certainly not networking but would be happy to apply for a job if they saw one pop up in their feed.
Of course, Facebook is not the only potential competitor edging further into the recruitment scene. Google has now launched Google for Jobs in the USA. Users can search ‘jobs near me’ or jobs in a particular industry and be shown opportunities in search. Companies that add job listing structured data can benefit from this.
While this may seem troubling for LinkedIn, Google is actually collaborating with sites like Facebook and LinkedIn to pull data direct from social channels as well. This means the move may be focused more on improved user experiences than direct competition.
Despite these challenges, LinkedIn remains a useful option for paid social on the B2B market and so far, none have been able to match its professional persona targeting.