The pros and cons of LinkedIn advertising, how much it costs, what ad formats are available and how to set up your first campaign.
LinkedIn is the definitive B2B social network, connecting you with 675+ million professionals around the world. While certain other networks like Facebook and Twitter are highly-capable B2B advertising platforms, LinkedIn is the only major network designed specifically for business minds to connect and engage.
In this guide, we’re going explain the pros and cons of advertising on LinkedIn, explain how much it costs to advertise on the network and show you how to set up your first campaign.
LinkedIn is the most unique social network out of the big players and this makes it relatively easy to decide whether it deserves a place in your advertising strategy. Simply put, if you’re looking for a B2B platform to engage with business decision-makers, LinkedIn is the network for you.
According to LinkedIn data, the network has more than 675 million users around the world in 2020. Now, that might not sound so impressive compared to Facebook’s near-2.5 billion users or even Instagram’s 1+ billion user base. However, LinkedIn has the unique advantage of a highly-focused user base that rely on the network for a specific set of purposes – all related to business.
With Facebook, you really have to narrow down your audience to connect with businesses decision-makers, slicing that 2.5 billion user base into smaller fractions. With LinkedIn, you can connect with these people effortlessly, knowing there’s less resistance to marketing messages because this is why everyone’s there in the first place.
LinkedIn users are in business mode and this is a big deal for advertisers.
Here are some more stats from LinkedIn about the kind of people you can reach on the network:
Those are the kind of people you want to reach on a B2B advertising platform.
Unsurprisingly, the US has the largest single LinkedIn user base in the world with 167+ million people actively using the network. India comes in second with 64+ million and China has the third-largest user base with 49+ million people.
Then we have the UK, which has the fourth-largest LinkedIn user base, comprising of more than 28 million people.
LinkedIn’s global reach is truly impressive and, to put this into context, there are fewer than three million Facebook users in China where foreign social networks typically struggle to gain traction. Likewise, there are fewer Instagram users in the UK (roughly 24 million) than there are people actively using LinkedIn.
The majority of LinkedIn users are aged 30-49 (37%), followed by 18-29 (28%) and 50-64 (24%). In major economies like the US and the UK, roughly half of users are high-earners with recognised higher education.
To sum up, your key target audience on this network is high-earning, business decision-makers and that sounds great from an advertising perspective.
LinkedIn advertising has a reputation for being expensive compared to other networks and, in terms of CPCs, this is generally true. Facebook typically works out as the cheapest option per click.
Things look very different if you start comparing median CPM, which gives you an idea of how much you’ll pay to get your ad seen by 1,000 people on each network.
Of course, the true cost varies from one business to another (and one campaign to another) but the fact remains that you’re probably going to pay more for each lead generated via LinkedIn advertising than on other platforms.
What matters with any advertising strategy, though, is the profit your campaigns generate and this is where LinkedIn’s unique user base starts to shine.
As good as Facebooks targeting options are, LinkedIn is simply the more effective platform for reaching specific business decision-makers – the people who are actually going to make purchase choices and sign them off.
This is what makes LinkedIn a special network and higher CPCs aren’t going to be a problem once you start generating leads from the big spenders.
There are four main ad types in LinkedIn Advertising, some of which comprise of multiple formats:
You can find more information about these ad types on the LinkedIn advertising website but here’s a summary of what you have to work with.
The most common type of ads on LinkedIn are Sponsored Content Ads, which appear in the feed across devices (as you can see above). There are three formats within this ad type, which are designed to engage users on a visual basis, much in the same way we’re used to seeing on networks like Facebook.
These are native ad formats, meaning they appear in the LinkedIn feed in the same way regular content does, which is good news for click-through rates. You can also turn these clicks into conversions by using LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms on your Sponsored Content campaigns to generate high-quality leads from inside the LinkedIn app.
This is one of LinkedIn advertising’s most powerful features so take the time to get familiar with Lead Gen Forms.
Sponsored Messaging allows you to reach individual prospects on a personal basis and start meaningful conversations with the people who matter most to your business.
There are two formats within this ad type:
First up, we’ve got Message Ads, which allow you to send direct messages to users with a call-to-action message and CTA to encourage immediate action.
The other format is Conversation Ads, which create a chatbot-like experience designed to engage prospects and guide them through a more complex conversion process.
Text Ads are the simplest ad format in LinkedIn, displaying in dedicated ad spots across the platform – eg: in the sidebar for desktop users. Text Ads are also the cheapest ad format to use on the network – both in terms of CPCs and not needing to invest in visual content.
Dynamic Ads are a personalised ad format that reaches out to prospects by their name and uses their account data – such as profile photo, company name and job title – to build quick connections. The ad format places users alongside your brand image to suggest the relationship is already there to nurture and encourages them to follow your brand.
This is a powerful ad format for building brand awareness on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn already has a highly-focused user base so it doesn’t need such an advanced targeting system as Facebook to help you narrow down your target audiences. The biggest advantage of this is that you don’t have to spend months getting to know LinkedIn’s targeting options.
Here’s a quick summary of what you can do.
Location targeting is required for all LinkedIn campaigns and this allows you to target audiences based on where they live or where they visit.
You can create a list of all the locations you want to target in the include field and you can also prevent people in specific locations from seeing your ads by adding them to the Exclude field below.
LinkedIn allows you to target users based on detailed information about the company they work for. These are some of the most important targeting options on the platform in terms of pinpointing users who are actually going to do business with you.
To make the most of these targeting options, you really need to do your audience research and determine which kind of companies you want to deal with.
Demographics targeting on LinkedIn advertising is really simple. You have the option to target users based on their age and their gender – that’s all there is to it.
LinkedIn lets you be very specific about the educational background of people who see your ads. There are three core targeting options available here:
Of course, these can be useful to companies that want to target current students but you can also use these as an extra layer of targeting to pinpoint the business elite who attended top institutions.
Along with company targeting, this is another really important set of targeting options to get familiar with. You want to know your ads are being seen by people who have influence at the businesses they work for – people who influence purchase decisions.
To do this, you need to target people in the right job positions and these targeting options make it possible:
Once again, you can layer targeting options and specify any audiences you want to exclude.
LinkedIn also provides two types of interest targeting which help you deliver branded and information content to relevant audiences.
You also have the option of using Member Traits targeting, which allows you to reach members based on behaviours, such as frequent contributors or regular travellers, for example.
For more information on LinkedIn targeting options, you can find an in-depth summary on this support page.
To create your first LinkedIn advertising campaign, sign in to Campaign Manager and select the account you want to use (or create a new one). At the top-right of the main dashboard, click on Create Campaign and you’ll be guided through the following steps.
First, you’ll need to choose the objective for your campaign from the following three categories:
Once you know which of these three goals you’re aiming for, select the objective that matches the user action you want to target – eg: website visits, website conversions, etc.
Your next job is to define your target audience and you should feel pretty confident about being able to do this after looking at targeting options in the previous section. Again, this all comes down to audience research and the most important targeting settings are normally going to be company and job experience targeting.
Next, you’ll be asked to choose your job format and this where you’ll need to experiment a little. It’s important to choose the right ad format for achieving your campaign objective so if you selected website visits, for example, you need to create an ad that’s going get people clicking through to your site.
Generally speaking, Sponsored Content formats (Single Image Ads, Video Ads and Carousel Ads) are great options for awareness and consideration campaigns. However, they’re also powerful formats for lead generation, too, if you’re using LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms, as we mentioned earlier.
Dynamic Ads are also great for awareness campaigns but you might want to experiment with these and Message Ads for conversion objectives, too. The increased relevance and personalisation of these ad formats can make a real difference.
Once you’ve selected your ad format, you’ll be asked to set your budget for the campaign and your maximum bids. First, you want to set your daily budget and be warned that the actual daily spend can be as much as 20% higher than the amount you set – so keep this in mind.
Next up, you have the Schedule section and you can either run your campaign continuously (default) or set specific start and finish dates.
Finally, you’ll want to select your bid type and you can choose from Automated Bid (default), Maximum CPC Bid (cost per click) or Maximum CPM Bid (cost per 1,000 impressions).
All that’s left now is to build your ad creative and run your campaign live. The ad builder will guide you through this process and you can find all the ad specifications for things like image sizes and file formats here.
Once you’re done, you’ll just need to confirm your billing information (if you haven’t already) and your campaign will be ready to go.
With LinkedIn, this question is really easy to answer. If you want to connect with influential business minds, then absolutely, yes. No other network really matches LinkedIn in this regard, even if the likes of Facebook and Twitter are both capable as B2B marketing tools.
LinkedIn has had its problems in the past but things have improved a lot in recent years and Microsoft deserves credit for a lot of the changes it has made since buying the network in 2017.
Yes, those CPCs might be a little scary at first, especially if you compare them to Facebook, but LinkedIn connects you with high-value business decision-makers and it’s all about the ROI and profit your campaigns generate.
We have a dedicated team of LinkedIn specialists who can set up and continually optimise your campaigns to ensure you get the best possible return. Call us today on 02392 830281 to find out more.
James is Head of PPC at Vertical Leap - he joined us in 2012 and has over 20 years' experience working in digital marketing. His areas of specialism are paid search, Google Shopping and eCommerce PPC. Outside of work he enjoys fishing, camping and motorbiking.
Categories: PPC, Social Media
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