Distribution 101: The Content Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn Sponsored Updates

By Amanda Walgrove December 16th, 2014

In our latest Contently Labs, we answer a question we hear a lot from content marketers: How do I effectively drive high-quality traffic to my content through LinkedIn?

So you just published a Really Cool E-Book, and you’d do anything to get it in front of the right eyeballs, like, for instance, those of the VP of Marketing at Really Important Retail Company. You could try to track down the VP’s email and fill her inbox with promotional messages. Or, even better, you could post your e-book on LinkedIn for your whole audience to see (which you were going to do anyway) and spend a little extra to directly target the VP (who’s already on LinkedIn and who’s open to finding some new retail marketing literature).

In addition to being a place for professionals to network and showcase résumés, LinkedIn is a great space for hyper-targeting, which makes the platform perfect for B2B marketing.

This is the final installment in our series of playbooks to our favorite paid content-distribution platforms: TwitterOutbrainFacebook, and LinkedIn. While Facebook and Twitter might be kings of B2C marketing, LinkedIn is ideal for getting down to the nitty gritty of hyper-targeting—for honing in on a potential client or for getting a specific piece of content in front of the right eyeballs. Here’s what you need to know.

Which type of campaign should I choose?

LinkedIn offers two options for launching campaigns: Display Ads (creating an ad with text, images, or video) and Sponsored Posts (putting money behind a piece of published content). Here, we’ll focus on the latter.

Once you click “Sponsor Content,” you’ll be prompted to choose one or more posts you can put money behind, or you can create a post by clicking “Create Direct Sponsored Content.” Then you’ll get down to targeting.

When it comes to setting up the actual content of the post you’d like to sponsor, LinkedIn recommends several best practices:

— Be concise and mobile-friendly: More than half of sponsored engagement comes from mobile devices. Either eliminate intro text or keep it under 150 characters.

— Since you’re creating little native ads for your audience, post content they’d come on LinkedIn to see. What do they want to learn? What helpful information can you provide?

— Be accurate: Watch what’s trending on LinkedIn and speak directly to your intended audiences. Targeting marketers? Use the word “marketers” in your text.

— Be human: Include personal experiences, successes, and failures. Appeal to everyone’s need for an occasional lighthearted break from work.

— Be helpful: Offer productivity tips and thought leadership advice.

— Use numbered lists. They make content easier to digest.

— Use first-person language.

— Include calls to action.

As a note, if you want to use Sponsored Posts and Display Ads in concert, you should be aware that they run on two separate analytics platforms—Sponsored Updates are proprietary, while Display Ads use Google AdClick. Piecing them together to get total campaign performance is a tedious, multi-step process. Targeting audiences with segmentation is more feasible with Sponsored Updates than with Display Ads due to the different distribution networks.

How can I target my desired audience?

LinkedIn’s ads program is the holy grail of hyper-targeting—particularly for B2B marketers. The platform lets you target audiences based on location (down to the city), gender, age, LinkedIn groups they belong to, skills, and even schools they attend or graduated from.

However, the most unique and useful option LinkedIn provides is targeting by company name, category, and industry size, as well as by job title and seniority. For example, if you’re looking to reach someone in retail, you can promote a thought leadership piece relevant to retail marketers’ interests and target directly, even going so far as to focus on the senior VP of a specific company.

How should I budget my spend?

LinkedIn’s budgeting options are similar to Twitter’s, offering the ability to set a total campaign budget, daily maximum spend, and length of time the campaign will run. However, LinkedIn differs by offering the option of paying per click (every time someone clicks on your post) or per impression (every time LinkedIn shows your post, per 1,000 impressions). You can choose one and then enter a bid for the most money you want to spend when the action is completed.

You can also set up a few overreaching campaigns and assign multiple pieces of content to each one. Continuing with the above example, say you want to target retail companies, but you have multiple pieces of content you want to use and just a $500 budget. Set up one overarching campaign targeting those retail companies, then simply choose that targeted campaign when you sponsor each piece of content.

It should be noted that while LinkedIn is great for hyper-targeting, paying to reach a small but valuable audience has its tradeoffs. Namely, higher CPCs and a longer-running campaign. Most decision-makers on LinkedIn only log in one to three times a week. So your impressions on a targeted audience lose effectiveness if that audience is too small. You’ll need to bid more aggressively or play the long game with getting your message to that audience. But sometimes it’s worth it to pay several dollars and wait a few weeks for that extremely valuable click, rather than getting a quick click for 30 cents that doesn’t produce a lead.

How can I measure the success of my campaigns?

After setting up your campaign, the results will show up directly under the sponsored post on your page, with an option to manage or adjust the campaign once it’s live. You can also access your LinkedIn Ads Dashboard (it operates like the Twitter Ads Dashboard), which lists your campaigns individually and breaks down performance by clicks, impressions, social actions, CPC, and CTR (click through rate.)

If you still need some assurance that LinkedIn Sponsored Posts are for you, let the case studies speak for themselves. According to LinkedIn, after Adobe started sponsoring posts, its audience was 50 percent more likely to agree that “Adobe is shaping the future of content marketing.” HubSpot also generated 400 percent more leads within their target audience on LinkedIn than on other platforms.

So follow suit and start getting your Really Cool E-Book out there.

For further reading on paid content distribution, check out our guides to Promoted Tweetsgrowing an audience through Outbrain, and sponsoring posts on Facebook.

Image by Twin Design
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