LinkedIn provides a lucrative advertising platform to B2B marketers. Peter Wilkinson, social media director at Panther Interactive Marketing, explores its advertising options
With an exponentially growing user base (LinkedIn has passed 131 million users, more than 15 million of whom joined in the third quarter of 2011 alone), LinkedIn B2B advertising offers genuinely excellent prospects for return on investment. The business-oriented communities on the site are generally well disposed towards adverts that have been correctly targeted.
There’s an increased scope for hitting the right targets at the right times provided you know what the options are, and how to make them work for you. Here’s a list of the primary ad platforms:
Display ads: Display ads are what they sound like: Ads that display onscreen for appropriate LinkedIn groups. There are two formats – a square ‘full-page’ ad that displays where relevant interests or social graph denominators dictate the subject of the ad is suitable and the familiar banner ad.
Social ads: These are a type of ad technology rather than a type of ad. A social ad uses the social graph of LinkedIn’s users to ensure your ads are displayed to businesses and individuals most likely to benefit from your product or service. There are various ways to be seen: By people following your company; by LinkedIn users recommending your ads to other users; and by anyone who joins one of your group(s).
Standard ad units: LinkedIn lets users display IAB-compliant ads in a premium environment – uncluttered and easy-to-follow, with plenty of space for text links in your call-to-action. Don’t forget – the call-to-action is the be-all-and-end-all of your ad. Make it clear and simple.
Homepage takeover ads: This is a novel way to reach your target audience. A high impact roadblock that forces engagement with your ad message and potential call-to-action before the user passes to your normal homepage. Increasingly used to call attention to special offers, the homepage takeover ad benefits from both immediacy and high visibility.
Content ads: Drive customer engagement by streaming multiple content strands through a single ad unit. It’s a marketing mix in miniature.
Tips for ad success
To make your LinkedIn ads work properly, you need to back them up with tried-and-tested marketing techniques:
- Be direct, use punchy headlines and hyperlink your call-to-action.
- Apply traditional marketing principles: Find and focus on your target market first.
- Don’t focus on the hard sell. Most users aren’t in a purchase frame of mind, so focusing on softer conversion action is more fruitful.
- Pick your advertising times carefully.
- Make sure you are achieving a good ROI by keeping a close eye on your stats. • If your ads don’t meet LinkedIn network’s average click-through rate (which is 0.025 per cent), understand they’re not meeting the mark. Pause underperforming ads and launch new test variations in such situations.
- Decide if you are going to run your advertising campaigns from a personal or a business account.
A marketing Mecca
Two most salient features of LinkedIn are it being a useful tool for businesses and the Mecca of B2B activities. A look at the business account set-up makes the first point clear. Business accounts on LinkedIn are connected to businesses and not to individual profiles. The benefit is that unrelated people won’t get to see them through search engines.
Secondly, a single business account can be accessed and controlled by multiple users. The benefit here is that people with expertise in different aspects of the business can manage the account, thereby bolstering the marketing campaign.
In the last quarter of 2010, company pages on LinkedIn were given permission to stack up their services and products, and allow LinkedIn members to recommend them. Immediately after this, participation by businesses surged and through 2011, LinkedIn saw 600 per cent growth.
Individual profile numbers are also increasing. B2B marketers can track these profiles in order to identify their employers. Those businesses can then be categorised in terms of the industry they belong to, followed by industry-focused ads with captions and engaging headlines solely for businesses.
The growth of LinkedIn could also be of use for quantitative aspects of B2B advertisements. As far as the qualitative aspect is concerned, member demographics is of little value because the purpose is not to reach out to end consumers (read employees), rather to their employers. Understanding the structure of businesses and their respective industries, and how they can be helped, should make up the content of the advertisement.
Payment for your LinkedIn ad is made per click (so you can set a budget and work it like an AdWords campaign), or per 1000 impressions. ROI is tracked by successfully completed actions once you have attracted the ad reader to your company pages or LinkedIn group: So your call-to-action is, as ever, the rally point for your whole campaign.