As organic reach on social media flickers in effectiveness, marketers will turn their attention to the power of paid advertising.
If you're new to LinkedIn, it can be fertile ground for B2B companies, for example, looking for qualified leads. Or, a solid place to build up a specific professional follower base.
Take the case of Adaptive Computing, makers of scheduling and middleware software. They decided they wanted to promote their own thought leadership beyond their already existing brand advocates.
Working with Indiana-base agency BLASTmedia, they put together a LinkedIn advertising campaign of sponsored updates. With clear ideas on their goals and a very specific view on intended audience — targeting by job title, function, industry, company size, and even membership in certain LinkedIn groups, Adaptive Computing saw growth including increased ad clicks by 59.89%, increased ad impressions by 349.03%, and increased social actions by 86.67%, according to a case study from BLASTmedia.
That growth has, in turn, spurred engagement on the company's page, including in organic engagement.
Of course, results may vary, but the approach can be used, especially for those new to the area.
Here are 4 big ideas to help guide your brand's entry to LinkedIn.
1. Define your goals
One of the first and most important decisions to make when conceptualizing a LinkedIn campaign is deciding what the goal for the campaign is. That goal will help define the very structure of the campaign.
"The goals behind a content marketing approach of filling out a form for an ebook are drastically different than brand awareness of a new product or feature, thus the strategies needing to be deployed and audiences being targeted can differ greatly," said Andy Groller, director of digital advertising at New York-based digital marketing firm DragonSearch.
Make sure that your goals for your campaign align with your business goals, which is really a good rule of thumb in general for social media.
"You think that's a ridiculously stupid tip. The truth is, it is the most overlooked part of setting up a campaign," said Marilyn Heywood Paige, principal at Paige Integrated Marketing.
Not matching up goals results in a lot of wasted effort.
Paige said she's worked with many small business who tend to get wrapped up in the idea of creating an ad campaign with all the "bells and whistles," sometimes because they feel they "should," but without grounding in business or strategy, or performance markers.
"They are putting time and money into something that isn't necessarily the best investment to make, given their sales goals," she said.
LinkedIn gives users two main options: cost per click or cost per thousand impressions.
With cost per click, your campaign costs will, as the name suggests, hinge on getting clicks (defined as as clicks on the company name, content, or logo). This type of campaign usually works out better for direct response marketing. Cost per thousand impressions can help with a campaign built around brand awareness.
There's also the difference between "normal" ads and sponsored updates.
2. Target your audience
Another key element to creating a LinkedIn ad campaign is targeting your audience. That, of course, means you actually have no know something about your audience.
Groller recommends answering some of these questions:
- What are their job functions?
- Do they work for small organizations or multinational businesses that are 200+ employees?
- Are they decision makers (e.g. CMOs) and thus higher in seniority?
- What LinkedIn groups do they belong to?
- Are those LinkedIn groups fairly active or are they dormant?
- Do your competitors have user-group type LinkedIn groups that can be targeted for further market penetration?
"Conducting research into these initial questions will start to paint a picture of the different audiences needing to be targeted," Groller said.
Having this information works in a few ways. For one, LinkedIn lets users target by job title, company, industry, education, geographic location, and a lot more. It's not just about getting in front of people, it's about getting in front of the right people.
Also, this information on audience will help you craft your ad copy.
"You will begin to understand how they may need to be approached differently in terms of the copy of the ad, the image in the ad, and the landing page where the ad will eventually take the user," Groller said.
3. Write compelling copy
In short, you'll need a headline, image, link, and 75 characters worth of descriptive ad copy.
"Whether you're using LinkedIn Ads or Sponsored Updates, write a message that's going to resonate with your target audience and helps to accomplish your goal," said BLASTmedia's Megan Gish.
If you want to grow your follower base, it might make the most sense to send people to your actual LinkedIn company page. If you're after some other type of engagement, like registration, send them to a page that's optimized for that type of engagement.
LinkedIn allows users to make different versions of ads. One strategy is to make subtle changes in headlines, images, and copy. Another strategy is to make a small ad buy as a test run to see what works, or what doesn't, before spending a lot of money.
"Before blowing your budget on an ad that may flop, use a reduced ad spend to test your ad's success," Gish said.
On the topic of money, LinkedIn works with bids. The minimum bid for clicks or impressions is usually somewhere around $2. LinkedIn will give you a suggested price, say a few dollars per click or thousand impressions, and you have to decide how much you can spend every day of the campaign, to stay within budget.
LinkedIn gives the example of 10 clicks a day, at $3 a click. Your daily budget would be about $30. Deciding this ratio is another reason why it's important to have some analytics on your page and its audience — you want to set reasonable expectations.
And don't forget to read all the details on LinkedIn campaigns. For example, you might need to factor in up to 20 percent of you budget in case you end up with more activity than you literally bargained for before the campaign goes completely offline.
Another small detail — if this is your first campaign — there's a $5 fee that covers initial clicks or impressions after the ad gets posted, according to LinkedIn.
4. Track performance
Be monitoring how the campaign is doing as it's in progress. If you haven't spent much time on the analytics tabs of your company page, check it out.
If you go the route of testing a smaller ad buy, this could be your chance to course correct in order to ensure you're getting the most return on your investment.
Lastly, the end of a campaign isn't the end of the road.
"LinkedIn advertising is not a one and done affair. Monitor your ads performance and make adjustments as necessary. Report on your results on a consistent basis and make comparisons on past ad performance," Gish said.
Erin Carson has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.