How to advertise on LinkedIn

A Guide to LinkedIn Ads: How to Run a Successful Campaign

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Wondering how to best integrate LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, into your social strategy? LinkedIn advertising could be just the ticket, especially if you are a marketer.

The great advantage of LinkedIn is that it is a uniquely focused social network—it’s all business, all the time. This makes it the ideal network for B2B organizations in particular. And with LinkedIn ads, businesses can choose from a range of ads to target and reach the right people when they’re in a business-y frame of mind.

Find out how LinkedIn went from buttoned-up digital resume platform to content marketing rockstar, growing to 500 million users in the process. And learn why and how you can use LinkedIn ads to join the party… sorry, business meeting. (Don’t forget the doughnuts.)

Table of contents

Why use LinkedIn ads?

Types of LinkedIn ads

How to advertise on LinkedIn: a step-by-step guide

Self-serve LinkedIn Ad tips and best practices

General LinkedIn ad tips and best practices


Bonus: Download a free guide to discover four time-saving tools to help you grow your LinkedIn network faster. Includes one tool that lets you schedule a week’s worth of LinkedIn updates in just three minutes.

Why use LinkedIn ads?

It hasn’t been easy for LinkedIn to find its place in the world. In fact, for a long time it was hard to get the point of the network. You signed up, tried to find a semi-professional looking photo, and added your coworkers. Then what?

Today, LinkedIn is a different, much more interesting and useful place for users—and marketers, especially with the help of LinkedIn ads, the ins and outs of which we’ll get to shortly.

What changed?

LinkedIn introduced some pretty significant feature and usability upgrades to help build its community to the point where 40 percent of users visit the site every day. These include:

  • Better mobile apps.
  • Slicker desktop version.
  • Richer content features.
  • Better spam management.
  • Video.

The richer user experience now makes LinkedIn somewhere people want to hang out. According to LinkedIn’s stats, those people include 61 million influencers, 40 million decision-makers, and 10 million opinion leaders—in other words “the world’s professionals.” (Read our posts on LinkedIn demographics and LinkedIn statistics to dive deeper into the network’s user base.)

In an AdWeek article charting LinkedIn’s growth, Jessie Liu, senior analyst at Forrester Research, said: “More than most social networks, LinkedIn has very robust and deep user data. It’s collecting your location, educational history, professional history and interests. That makes it far more valuable than, say, Twitter.”

LinkedIn advertising lets marketers leverage this gold mine of data, offering several hard-to-ignore benefits:

LinkedIn ads even offer guaranteed impressions. Before you pay a dime, you can create your LinkedIn ad and see exactly how big of an audience you are going to reach.

But does it work? Do people use LinkedIn to discover and engage with content? According to LinkedIn’s own data, content gets 15 times the interaction of job postings.

The benefits of LinkedIn and LinkedIn ads to marketers are clear. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how to advertise on LinkedIn, starting with our guide to LinkedIn ad formats.

Types of LinkedIn ads

Whether you want to target executives, influencers, or job seekers, there are various ways to advertise on LinkedIn through different ad types, including self-serve, partner programs, and other options. Each type of LinkedIn ad comes with its own benefits and best practices.

LinkedIn self-serve ads

You can create and publish your own ads through LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager. Campaign Manager allows you to schedule campaigns in advance, target the right audience, and see the industries, job functions, and seniority level of users who click your ads. If you have the time and resources to do that, this could be the easiest option for you. It’s also a great way to dip your toe into LinkedIn advertising.

There are currently three ad options to choose from, with video ads said by LinkedIn to be rolled out in 2018:

Sponsored Content

How to advertise on LinkedIn

Sponsored Content lets you share posts to your Company Page with a targeted audience on LinkedIn. It helps you amplify company news, promotions, relevant industry articles, SlideShare presentations, and Vimeo and YouTube videos.

The ads appear in the homepage feed (on desktop, mobile, and tablet) and on the right side of the desktop homepage. For example, if you have a one-day-only sale or a video of a recent company charity event, a sponsored update is the best way to get that content out to a wider audience.

Why use Sponsored Content?

  • Extend the reach of your content.
  • Attract more Company Page followers.
  • Capture eyeballs and clicks on desktop, tablet, and mobile.
  • Integrate LinkedIn’s lead generation forms.

View LinkedIn’s advertising specs and guidelines for Sponsored Content.

Text Ads

LinkedIn ads

 

Text Ads let you advertise on LinkedIn to drive traffic to your LinkedIn Company Page or your website. This is a quick and easy desktop-only option that lets you feature a compelling headline, a description, and an eye-catching image in a variety of ad formats. Your ads may appear under “Ads You May Be Interested In” and as text link advertisements found at the top of the page. If you want to grab the attention of a busy professional browsing LinkedIn, including promoting a job opening, Text Ads are a good way to go.

Why use Text Ads?

  • Fast and easy to get started.
  • Set your own budget.
  • Choose your audience with laser sharp B2B filters.
  • Track conversions.

View LinkedIn’s advertising specs and guidelines for Text Ads.

Sponsored InMail

LinkedIn ads

Sponsored InMail enables you to send personalized messages to targeted LinkedIn users through LinkedIn’s email client, LinkedIn Messenger. Recipients only receive Sponsored InMails when they are active on LinkedIn to help them get noticed. It’s an effective option if you want to go for a more personalized approach to drive conversion rates.

Why use Sponsored InMail?

  • Send personalized invites to webinars and other events.
  • Target promotions to the right audience.
  • Promote content, such as downloadable ebooks and white papers.

View LinkedIn’s advertising specs and guidelines for Sponsored InMail.

Video ads (coming soon)

In October, 2017 LinkedIn announced they were testing video ads. After a beta phase with a limited number of advertisers, the plan is to roll them out to everyone in the first half of 2018—initially on mobile and then desktop.

Video ads will be available through Campaign Manager, offering the same targeting, budgeting, and reporting tools as the other ad options. Watch this space for updates.

LinkedIn Display Ads

LinkedIn ads

Display Ads is LinkedIn’s programmatic advertising solution. This means you can purchase ads through your preferred advertising platform or a private or public auction.

Display ads allow for a greater variety of media, including text, audio, video, and images, which makes them more eye-catching and interactive.

This is a good option to help you get your business in front of your desired audience early in the buying cycle and increase awareness on a large scale.

Why use Display Ads?

  • Reach more professionals, thought leaders, decision-makers, and influencers.
  • Create more engaging and eye-catching ads.
  • Get ad placement on high-traffic LinkedIn pages.

View LinkedIn’s advertising specs and guidelines for Display Ads.

LinkedIn Dynamic Ads

LinkedIn ads

Dynamic Ads are highly customizable personalized ads. They are dynamically generated according to your audience’s activity. For example, if LinkedIn knows someone is searching for a job in your industry, you can target them at the right time with the right messages. You can write your own ad copy, choose your call to action, and use dynamically generated images from LinkedIn member profiles.

This kind of advertising is especially useful for building relationships and delivering personalized messages to the most influential members of your audience. It’s a great way to really make people sit up and take notice.

Why use Dynamic Ads?

  • Deliver compelling, personalized messages to increase response.
  • Choose from a range of targeting criteria.
  • Generate specific actions through customized calls to action.
  • Grow your Company Page’s followers.

View LinkedIn’s advertising specs and guidelines for Dynamic Ads.

LinkedIn Marketing Partner ads

You can also work with a LinkedIn partner. Each partner offers different tools, such as ad technology, content creation, and media buying, to help you run successful ad campaigns on LinkedIn and achieve a greater ROI than you might get through Campaign Manager.

Hootsuite is proud to be a LinkedIn marketing partner, helping users bridge the gap between paid and organic campaigns to provide end-to-end insights on LinkedIn campaign performance .

Why work with a LinkedIn ad partner?

  • Meet specific marketing goals.
  • Increase engagement and achieve more with LinkedIn ads.
  • Work with experts in LinkedIn advertising.

How to advertise on LinkedIn: a step-by-step guide

Before you can do anything, you need a LinkedIn account. Here are a few quick tips to setting up a LinkedIn account. You also need a Company Page to run Sponsored Content ads, and it’s a good thing to set up in any case. Here’s our guide to creating a LinkedIn Company Page.

How to advertise on LinkedIn with self-serve ads

After you do the above, getting started with self-serve LinkedIn ads is easy. Follow these six steps, which are outlined in more detail here.

Step 1: Set up a Campaign Manager account

This really does just take a couple of minutes. You can create multiple accounts.

LinkedIn ads

Step 2: Choose your ad type

Select the type of ad you want to create. You can create an entire campaign using all three formats for maximum impact and reach.

LinkedIn ads

Each of the three options will require you to create a campaign name and choose your target audience language. With Sponsored Content ads you also need to select a call-to-action option:

LinkedIn ads

Learn more about LinkedIn lead generation forms here (tip number three).

Step 3: Create your ad

Campaign Manager walks you through the process of creating the various different ads, providing ad specs and tips along the way. For example, here are the options for creating a Text Ad:

LinkedIn ads

Step 4: Target your ad

Next you get a range of options for targeting your ad to the right people, including location, company names, school names, job functions, skills, and other filters. You can save your choices as a template to speed things up when creating other campaigns.

LinkedIn ads

Step 5: Choose your budget and schedule

You can choose from cost per click (CPC) or cost per impression (CPM), or cost per send for Sponsored InMail ads (which means you only pay when your message is delivered). For CPC and CPM, you can set a daily spend limit and a bid price, which is the most you want to pay per click or impression. You can also choose a start and finish date for your campaign.

At this stage you can also add conversion tracking (Sponsored Content and Text Ads only). It lets you track specific actions so you can better measure, and then improve, ROI. These include sign-ups, installs, downloads, and purchases.

LinkedIn ads

Step 6: Measure and refine your LinkedIn ads

LinkedIn ads Campaign Manger gives you access to a range of metrics to help you measure and optimize your campaigns. These include impressions, clicks, and spend. LinkedIn also lets you measure “social actions,” which capture how LinkedIn members interact with your content.

How to advertise on LinkedIn with other types of ads

To advertise on LinkedIn using the other other options, follow the links from these pages to get started:

Self-serve LinkedIn Ad tips and best practices

Succeeding with each of the self-serve ad types involves focusing on a few key areas in particular.

Sponsored Content quick tips

Text Ad quick tips

  • Make use of the image option to attract eyeballs.
  • Include a strong, specific call to action.
  • Write a compelling headline.
  • Talk directly to your audience and use active language.

Read 10 Quick Social Media Ad Writing Tips From an Expert for more social ad writing tips.

Sponsored InMail quick tips

  • Address the recipient by name.
  • Keep it concise (under 1,000 characters).
  • Include a clear call to action.
  • Write a compelling subject line that shows the value of your offering.


Read How to Write Effective CTAs on Social Media: A Guide for Marketers for more conversion copywriting tips.

General LinkedIn ad tips and best practices

Here are some more general LinkedIn ad tips and best practices.

Write strong, compelling copy

Strong copy demands the attention of the reader. The best way to do this is to offer interesting insights while keeping your message simple. Demonstrate your understanding of the industry, but keep jargon to a minimum or you’ll generate “zzzzz”s instead of clicks.

To help with this, check out our post 8 Writing Tools for Crafting the Perfect Social Media Post and 12 Quick Editing Tips for Social Media Managers.

Include relevant images

Relevant images are an essential part of social media content marketing. But finding a great image to catch the eye of your prospect can be tough, especially if your budget is tight.

Our roundup of 20 free photo sites for stock social media images is a great place to start.

Target by group

Targeting by group is a great way to reach people who may be interested in your product or service. To make sure you target the right groups, you’ll need to dig around a little before you get started. It’s helpful if you’ve already taken some time to build audience personas. Discover which groups your ideal buyers belong to and then compile a shortlist of professional or trade associations you want to target.

According to a webcast with LinkedIn content campaign strategist Pavels Kilivniks and team lead Katerina Ram, breaking up your B2B target audience by demographic can be a helpful tool for targeting. Here are three good ones to consider:

  • Job title and function are key professional attributes of your audience. LinkedIn ads allow you to search and create audiences composed of specific criteria. So if you want to sell specialized medical equipment to radio brain surgeons in Kalamazoo, Michigan, LinkedIn will help you find them.
  • Industry and company size tell you who your next buyer could be. Do you want to sell to a large company or a small business? Are you targeting all the software engineers in Silicon Valley or dairy lobbyists in your home state? Refine your aim with a precise target.
  • Seniority is a great way to target influencers with your LinkedIn ads. LinkedIn pulls data from member profiles even if they don’t have the word “senior” in their title.
    For example, if a person has been with a company for more than two years, that person will be mapped as an individual contributor and will appear as “senior” in the Campaign Manager tool. The algorithm is able to determine if a particular member is entry-level or not because it accounts for their entire career path.

Test, test, and test again

Test a different version of each LinkedIn ad to see which one brings in the most business. With the text ad option, you can you can create up to 15 variations of one ad. Change the image, headline, text, and destination to see who bites and when.

Budget and bid wisely

Budgeting and bidding effectively is crucial. You can choose to set your LinkedIn advertising bid and campaign budget by cost per click (CPC) or cost per thousand impressions (CPM). If you choose to go the CPC route you can specify the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for each click. This is the best option if your campaign is direct response. If you decide to go with CPM, you pay up to your maximum bid each time your ad is shown 1,000 times on LinkedIn, no matter how many clicks you receive. This is the method LinkedIn suggests if your advertising strategy is creating brand awareness.

Measure to improve ROI

Measuring your LinkedIn ads’ performance helps you maximize your social media ROI. You can use the LinkedIn ads Campaign Manager to track performance by monitoring impressions, clicks, costs, and other metrics. With each new campaign you’ll learn what’s working and what’s not.

The cost of LinkedIn ads tends to run a little higher than other social media platforms so you will want to pay close attention to your analytics.

That’s our guide to LinkedIn ads—a great way for social marketers to reach professionals. Now go update your profile pic. That one of you on vacation with the straw from your Pina Colada showing just won’t cut it anymore.

Bonus: Download a free guide to discover four time-saving tools to help you grow your LinkedIn network faster. Includes one tool that lets you schedule a week’s worth of LinkedIn updates in just three minutes.


Schedule posts and manage your brand’s LinkedIn presence with Hootsuite. Try it free today. 

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With files from Sydney Parker