Linkedin Marketing: Good, Bad and the Ugly
Linkedin is predominantly ‘the’ B2B Marketing platform of our time. It has had its ups and downs especially with its choice of feature updates; e.g. the latest groups related update. But with a staggering 400 million users worldwide, 2 members joining per second, gaining popularity in China and having survived for more than a decade; it is arguably the world’s largest professional network and the most successful one to date.
The key to Linkedin’s success has been it’s adaptability to change and the word ‘quality’. Whilst Linkedin’s cashcow is still it’s recruitment business (61% of the total revenue as of Q3 2014), the marketing/advertising tools now account for close to 20% of Linkedin’s revenue and is expected to grow further alongside it’s premium subscriptions. Linkedin was one of the firsts to open up its platform of ‘content’. It’s now trying to lead this space by offering external bloggers a space to write almost anything. This is a win-win for both parties. Linkedin get’s the content and I get a trusted space to showcase my content.
Linkedin offers marketers, recruiters and sales people three distinct types of solutions. Here are the Linkedin marketing tools in more detail.
Linkedin Display: This is similar to most other ad platforms where they have IAB standard ads with sizes and specs unique to the Linkedin platform. Within display, there are 4 main ‘types’ of ads. The usual display ad where you promote almost anything with a CTA. They also have an option called ‘spotlight ads’ that tends to pull out your profile image and tries to connect you to a brand. Then there are the ‘join group ads’ and the ‘follow company ads’ that basically invite users to join or follow companies and groups. Display is available in the Linkedin self serve platform, however if you’d like to get premium inventory spots, you need to work with their account management team.
Linkedin InMail: Inmail is a great way to have a one to one conversation with a prospect. Linkedin recently did some work on this product which impacted on having better open rates. This option is only available if you work directly with Linkedin’s account management team and there is a minimum spend of $5K per send. Inmail can be expensive, but it can be successfully used in an ad mix. For e.g. Inmail with display and sponsored updates works well in terms of raising awareness and increasing conversions.
Linkedin Sponsored Updates: This is one of Linkedin’s most successful ad properties. A sponsored update is an update done on an organisation or group page that appears on a user’s newsfeed. Through Linkedin’s self serve ad console, one can target this update to a much wider audience. This ad-type looks more native to Linkedin and users tend to trust this a lot more than display. If you’re an organisation that relies on content as a source for generating leads; this will be an ideal lead gen tool. The CTRs as well as the conversions tend to be higher for sponsored updates and you can play around a lot more with the image as well as the copy.
Linkedin Text Ads: Text ads are available via the Linkedin self service console and is quite a popular medium amongst first timers. It operates on a CPM or PPC basis and gives the flexibility to operate on a low budget.
Linkedin Lead Accelerator (Re-marketing): Through Linkedin’s acquisition of Bizo, they introduced their first attempt at offering a re-marketing solution for marketers. The good news about this is that you have the possibility of targeting web visitors based on their Linkedin info such as company size, interests etc…You can also create ‘nurture streams’ and then have multiple waves of communication under each of those streams. It’s a bit tricky to get your head around the nurture streams and the waves but once you set it up properly; things become much easier. The streams are based on priority levels. For e.g. If your top converting audience are your product downloaders, you should start off with a stream for product downloads and then follow it up with a stream for content. This way, your initial stream targets the highest converting traffic and then when the waves within that stream is over; it goes to the second stream and targets the rest of the traffic. The waves can be timed according to your nurture cycle. The reporting on this tool is pretty cool and the ads appear on Linkedin’s partner content channels as well as on Facebook. The CPAs tend to be quite good too.
The Targeting Platform is the console that sits behind most of Linkedin’s marketing tools and is the corner stone of any Linkedin segmentation strategy. It provides a pretty sharp targeting platform for marketers. Depending on your segmentation strategy, you can use Linkedin’s targeting platform to suit your needs. Since B2B marketing is all about being super targeted, you can dissect the Linkedin audience based on geography, industry, education, gender, groups etc…If you work directly with Linkedin’s account management team however, you get more access to ‘interest’ level targeting.
The Linkedin Account Management team @Marketing Solutions: With more and more marketers moving into programmatic advertising options, the human involvement or the account manager type of role will and should move into a much more advisory/technical role. However, my experience with the Linkedin account management team has been nothing less than fantastic. They’re knowledgable and always try to offer marketers the best inventory possible. They’re also very reliable and try to help you succeed in your role.
Linkedin reporting sucks! If there is one thing that needs improving, it’s the reporting! The reporting console is pretty archaic when compared with the likes of Google and Facebook. I tend to use Google UTMs for all campaigns and then rely on Google Analytics as well as CRM systems for a full ROI analysis. When Google and Facebook are moving towards attribution modelling and multi device tracking, Linkedin struggles to show conversions per campaign. Even setting up ads and selecting new sponsored posts can be a nightmare, especially if you have multiple adgroups. If Linkedin wants to make amends with us marketers, reporting would be it!
What does the future hold? Linkedin is all about data, big big data and has recently stated that they process 1 trillion messages a day using Apache Kafka. Using open source IoT ready technology such as Kafka is a seismic shift for Linkedin and is a step towards winning the internet of things.
They have also made some interesting acquisitions lately that have also bolstered some of the existing tools that they offer. For e.g. Bizo has more or less become the Linkedin Lead Accelerator and Fliptop is their sales solution.
Imagine combining Linkedin’s database of professionals together with the content they consume, organisations they move around, their various interests and the devices they use! Linkedin already has this data and all they need is to create a model or an algorithm that predicts the behaviour of existing and potential employees of an organisation. Combine this with the marketing solutions and voila, they have an eco system built to understand the professionals of this world and to make Linkedin the world’s labour exchange platform!