In a world where Facebook advertising reigns supreme, it can be hard to determine how other paid platforms fit into your social media strategy. Linkedin specifically can feel like a puzzle piece you can’t quite place–despite having cornered the professional networking market (and being an OG in the social network space), Linkedin may still fly under the radar for some marketers, myself included. As I shift from working primarily with B2C brands to B2B, I’m starting to better understand where Linkedin advertising fits into a strategy as well as its strengths and weaknesses as a paid platform.
But first, context. How does Linkedin advertising work, exactly? Well, a peek into Linkedin’s Campaign Manager reveals a dashboard that looks somewhat similar to Facebook’s. Plus, considering LinkedIn ad objectives mirror those on Facebook and Twitter, the metrics we know and love are in there too. There’s also quite a bit of overlap from a structural perspective. There’s budget flexibility, advanced targeting options, different ad units, and placements–however, despite the similarities on the surface, these tools function a little differently on Linkedin.
Looking at ad placement, options like sponsored content feel reminiscent of Facebook’s boost option for top-performing organic content. Promoted articles or updates show up right in the audience’s newsfeed, making them prime for engagement. Linkedin even has a handy guide that walks marketers through the process of leveraging sponsored content for lead generation.
Linkedin’s text ads which appear on the side of a user’s homepage offer an incredibly straightforward PPC solution to advertisers that can feel more approachable to Linkedin newbies.
If lead generation is your thing, Linkedin has you covered. Much like Facebook, Linkedin simplifies lead gen by utilizing pre-filled forms in certain ad placements. Advertisers can make use of form fills with Sponsored Content and InMail ads. These social networks are quick to fill forms with user data, both to assist users and so that you have genuine and reachable leads coming through. As a bonus, you can easily download these leads from Linkedin’s Campaign Manager to use with your preferred CRM tool.
While Facebook offers a wealth of lifestyle and interest-based targeting options, one of the most valuable facets of Linkedin’s paid platform is the available targeting around professional life.
Facebook has set the bar for audience availability, and the massive user base has allowed marketers to specify targeting at a granular level. While Linkedin doesn’t have sheer numbers on its side (for perspective, Facebook has over 2 billion monthly active users; Linkedin has 294 million), it does have a highly distinct user base with a wealth of self-declared information. You want young professionals ages 24-32? You got ’em. You want graduates of the University of Oklahoma? You got ’em (also, Boomer Sooner). You want CMOs living in Baltimore? You got ’em. Given the nature of the platform, Linkedin has the ability to look beyond standard demographic targeting. Since users (and companies!) have the incentive to keep their profiles up-to-date in the name of being professional, marketers have access to more accurate and specific user-generated firmographics at their fingertips. With this data, you can target and nurture new leads with potentially fantastic accuracy.
You can also retarget to those already in your marketing funnel.
This is where the Linkedin Insight Tag comes in. Similar to the Facebook Pixel, the Insight Tag enables analytic insights, conversion tracking, and retargeting for your campaigns.
While the Insight Tag isn’t as refined as Facebook’s Pixel, the feature is a significant benefit to the platform and advertisers alike. In Linkedin’s case, this piece of code is necessary to track conversions and events, while simultaneously giving you feedback on the success of your ads.
Cost and ROI
Regardless of all these useful features, it’s important to consider the nature of the platform, the audience available for targeting, and their mindset while they’re using the service. Is the audience relevant to your communication goals? Are they so wrapped up in what they’re doing that they’ll never pay attention to your message or offer? How much will it cost? Based on that, is it a channel worth pursuing for your specific business?
From everything we’ve talked about so far, it’s apparent that Linkedin is a goldmine for B2B marketing. However, their smaller (albeit highly specialized) audience pool comes at a price. Like Facebook, Linkedin charges advertisers by CPC and CPM. Fair warning, though: there can be some sticker shock if you’re used to Facebook’s pricing. In 2017, the average Linkedin CPC was $6.50, while Facebook’s average CPC was $0.54.
At first glance, Linkedin looks incredibly expensive. How can you know if you’re getting the right bang for your buck? To start, having a clear communication goal including both medium and message in mind for each campaign is crucial in order to leverage Linkedin ads properly.
More importantly, a “high” CPC means very little if you know that it generates leads directly or indirectly who are highly qualified and more likely to convert. Closing the loop between ad platform click and CRM-based sales activity means your team can more accurately determine lead-quality and ultimately the lifetime value of a click, to more intelligently evaluate any platform or campaign’s ROI, regardless of the difference in initial cost.
That should sound pretty good to just about any
Despite all of the progress LinkedIn is making in offering tools to advertisers to better connect with its audience and measure effectiveness, it’s still relatively easy to poke holes in direct comparison to Facebook. In fairness, some of that feeling may be a hangover from the days when LinkedIn left you nearly blind to any sort of ROI, reach, or engagement metrics.
However, as Linkedin continues to expand its paid advertising and content promotion offerings to remain competitive, the value of the platform can’t help but grow. In fact, Linkedin has been consistently rolling out advertising product updates since the inception of Campaign Manager in 2015. After all, there’s a lot of catching up to do–as Facebook continues to drive billions of dollars in ad revenue, social platforms will continue the arms race to earn a piece of the digital ad spend pie.