LinkedIn ads have always seemed promising but been incredibly difficult to pull off.
They lacked the virality of Twitter. And they lacked the sophistication of Facebook.
Thankfully there’s been a few updates over the past year that have started to change all of that.
They’ve adopted some of the content spreading techniques that make Twitter so valuable. And they’ve started copying some of Facebook’s unique audience targeting options so that you can laser focus automated retargeting ads.
The end result is that LinkedIn has finally taken its place in a marketer’s toolbelt.
Simply put: If you’re a B2B marketer, LinkedIn ads have quietly become an indispensable tool to for prospecting new leads, nurturing those you’ve already interacted with, and slowly buy surely converting the ones who’re ready to take the next step.
This section you’re reading right now is the second part of our total guide. Haven’t read the first part yet and want to brush up on some LinkedIn Ad basics? Click here to read it now.
Otherwise, let’s dive straight into how you can get started with LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager.
🛑 Wait… Quick Disclaimer: Yesterday, while we were writing this, LinkedIn posted on its blog about some changes in the Campaign Manager in order to make it more efficient. It’s just a new look (call it “design enhancements” if it sounds more Pro to you), and you can find some little differences with the pictures that we use in this post. 🛑
How to Get Started with the LinkedIn Campaign Manager
LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager is similar to Facebook’s Business Manager in several ways (except without a lot of the extra options and complexity). In here you can manage your ad campaigns, edit Page or account details, get analytics feedback, and more.
After logging in, they’ll ask you to select which Page you’d like to manage or advertise under. Select it, and you should see something that looks like this:
Up above, you’ll see a quick snapshot of ad campaign performance over time. Over on the right-hand corner, you can fire up a new campaign by simply clicking the “Create Campaign” button.
On the bottom end of the page, you can see any active campaigns and get quick a dashboard with a snapshot of their metrics like performance, leads, conversions, etc.
There’s a Tools link in the very far upper right corner (by your account profile). Here, you’ll find some more Facebook-inspired options including conversion tracking, matched audiences, and lead forms.
In the new version, Key tools have moved under “account assets” in the top navigation to help you more efficiently manage your Insight Tag, API keys, targeting, conversions and more, including features like Matched Audiences and Lead Gen Forms.
First, let’s dive into the conversion tracking tool.
Clicking that text link takes you to a page like the one below, which asks you to select the website you’d like to track conversions on:
Next, they’ll provide a tracking script similar to most other apps you’re already familiar with. You know the drill here: Copy/paste that sucker into onto your site before the closing body tag (</body>).
If you’re not tech savvy (or don’t have access), you can also email this to someone who is (and does) directly from this screen.
Next up, we need to assign a conversion action. For example, is someone going to opt-in? Add a product to cart? Actually, follow through with the purchase?
This process is almost exactly like creating a Goal inside Google Analytics. Depending on your conversion action, you can drop in the Thank You or Confirmation page to track new unique visits back to your ad campaigns.
When finished, click “Finish” to confirm the new conversion action.
Now, let’s jump into Matched Audiences.
Go back to the Tools drop down and click on the link:
It will bring you to this dashboard that gives you two Matched Audience choices (website traffic audiences and uploaded list audiences).
Can we be honest with each other for a second? LinkedIn advertising used to… well, be tricky. Honestly, there were some legitimate issues with the platform.
Their ‘firmographic’ interest-based targeting was decent because you could select to show ads to people based on job titles, etc. But as we all know, the Holy Grail for social ads come down to audience targeting (or more accurately, retargeting custom audiences).
Thankfully, LinkedIn recently unveiled these new Matched Audiences as the answer.
So now your first Matched Audience option is based on targeting previous website visitors. You can retarget all website visitors, or target those that hit certain page URLs (just like inside Facebook).
So for example, let’s say you only want to target blog post visitors. You can quickly do that now if your blog has a “/blog/” subfolder in the URL path. The same holds true if you have specific blog post categories.
For example, Unbounce uses the category before the post title in their URL:
So now you can drop: “https://unbounce.com/ppc/” into the Matched Audience option above to retarget all PPC blog post readers with PPC-related ads.
Then after selecting your new website audience, you need to install your insight tag to track those views. Once again, you’ll need to copy and paste this bad boy onto your site before the closing body tag.
And then you will start to see the list fill up with those visitors to retarget:
Next up is your list option for uploading specific contacts.
To get started, hit “Connect to data integration” or “Upload a list.”
This is similar to the AdEspresso data sync feature that will help you target specific ads with custom messages tied back to a person’s lead status or interactions with your other campaigns in different channels.
Otherwise, the “Upload a list” feature is exactly what it sounds like. You have two options here:
The first is matching based on a list of accounts. In this case, you can send specific ads to employees of companies you are interested in targeting with account-based marketing.
For example, if you are a Facebook advertising software company (coincidence) and you want to target your product to interested users, you can target accounts in the marketing space that need your service.
Simply create a spreadsheet with the proper “file guidelines” and hit upload.
You can also select the second option to upload a list of emails from another platform. So you can export a CSV file of subscribers, leads, and customers from any platform and run new ads against them in minutes.
Like Facebook, LinkedIn will attempt to match those emails against user accounts in their system.
The final option inside the Tools section is Linkedin’s Lead Forms:
Once here, head over to the “Create a new form template” button on the far right to get started.
Now you can literally create an opt-in form, similar to Facebook’s own Lead Ads:
Keep in mind that this is essentially your ad. So all the same ad creative rules apply: You want to make sure the value prop is clear and compelling, short punchy headline, evocative wordless images, etc. etc.
Next, you can select which form fields to require (hint: fewer requirements doesn’t always = more conversions).
The next option will allow you to essentially re-create a Thank you page that people will see after opting in.
So you can add a few details about what happens next, who’s going to be following up with them, etc. (Read Karola’s excellent article on how to increase ROI with Thank You pages for more ideas.) You enter the fields on the left and it’ll show you a preview on the right of what it looks like.
Once you’re done, hit save and you’re good to go!
Now that you know how LinkedIn’s ad platform works, let’s dive into actually creating individual ad campaigns. We’ll start with the most common: Text ads.
How to Create Your First Text Ad Campaign
LinkedIn’s ad platform is excellent for a very few, specific use cases.
But there are two problems that we’ve already alluded to.
The first is that LinkedIn’s reach is nowhere near Google or Facebook’s (as evidenced by their share of ad revenues).
And the second is that, interestingly, their Cost Per Clicks also tend to be more expensive.
It actually makes a little sense when you think about it. LinkedIn ads, when done correctly, allow you to sidestep gatekeepers to reach otherwise notoriously difficult to reach individuals.
Which means using their text ads for straight content promotion (like you might on Twitter or Facebook) is probably too cost prohibitive. However, when done right, it is one of the best paid social options to generate new B2B leads.
The first lead gen option they provide is a basic text ad (you’ll find it in the middle of the three advertising options inside the Campaign Manager).
After clicking, you’ll get to enter a name, language, and conversion option.
Then you’ll be able to start editing the ad creative directly. To be honest, your options are fairly brief here. You’ve basically got a tiny image, headline, and short copy area. Here’s what that screen looks like:
Thankfully, you can now choose between different ad sizes for these text ads (between square, tall, horizontal, and long).
That’s good news because it gives you another element to test. Otherwise, the ‘legacy’ square ads are a tough format to nail).
For example, the old square ad position is similar to an AdWords ad in size. Which means it’s super duper teeny tiny. And it also lacks the killer intent which makes people convert on AdWords ASAP.
This ad format is tricky to get right for a few reasons:
- The image creative is minuscule. So you can either use a logo (which generally isn’t very compelling for people to click) or you can risk using a value-prop driven creative (which is probably either too big or too vague to be instantly recognizable, too).
- You’re literally stuck between a rock and a hard place, where the only way out is LOTS of iteration.
Fortunately, there is one signal you can use to tune the frequency of which ads are performing: CTR. LinkedIn will stop underperforming ads for you (for example, they used to automatically stop serving anything less than 0.015 CTR).
- Pause or kill off any ads with a CTR south of 0.35%.
- Raise or lower bids accordingly (scale vs. efficiency) if ad CTR is between 0.35 and one percent.
- Raise your bids high to capitalize if the CTR goes north of one percent. AJ says you’ve got roughly ~three weeks before ad fatigue starts to set in. So get it while you can!
Let’s upload an icon for this example so you can see how it looks.
On the right side, you can adjust your preview method to see how your ad will look in different settings and page previews, too.
After you create your first ad, you can simply duplicate it multiple times over, switch up those variables (like the image creative) so you can continue iterating until CTR ranges start falling in line with the recommendations above.
You’ve now seen some of the challenges you’ll face with landing on the perfect ad format.
Historically, that was made even more difficult by your lack of targeting options. For example, in the past, your goal was to try and find an audience size in the 60,000 – 600,000 range (similar to how you use interest intersections or exclusions on Facebook to arrive somewhere within 500,000 to 1 million-ish users).
Then you can target by location up to the city or town, and also narrow your audience by age, job, skills, degrees, company size, seniority, and more.
However, this often makes it incredibly challenging to (1) reach enough people to generate any meaningful results vs. (2) convert the ‘right’ audience at a price which makes sense.
Mercifully, LinkedIn’s new Matched Audiences now gives you more control:
So if you want to target website visitors for retargeting, select an audience you’ve created (as shown earlier in this guide). If you have an uploaded list of accounts or emails, you can also select that list here, too.
This decision also simplifies your ad creative dilemma we touched on earlier. For example, your logo splashed across LinkedIn would mean absolutely nothing to a cold, new audience. However, if you run it against people who’ve already visited your site multiple times, you might be able to salvage your CTR with some brand recognition.
After selecting or creating and saving a new audience, you set the budget:
Here, Linkedin will give you suggestions on what to bid according to what others are bidding for similar audiences. You should almost always start with that suggested range (otherwise you risk limiting your campaign reach — which will almost always be a problem with LinkedIn ads).
You can also select a start date by scheduling it out in advance or starting it immediately.
After you’ve set a budget, hit next, and fill in your credit card information:
And boom, your campaign is live!
There is one final ‘ad’ option, though, that doesn’t look or feel like a standard ad. Let’s check it out.
How to Send Targeted Messages with Sponsored InMail
Sponsored InMail ads are, literally, messages that you can send directly to individuals.
The first step is to choose your campaign name and optional conversion tracking:
Then, select the sender if not you personally (which should still be an actual person with a real, live profile, etc.):
LinkedIn also recommends that you make sure the Sender (and your message) is relevant. (Gasp!)
Meaning your Sender should be a first-degree connection with someone and that the message is also contextually relevant to something that these two people have in common.
Pro tip: You can separate these InMail campaigns by persona and then have different Senders with different messages targeting different types of buyers. For example, Hootsuite recommends splitting by either role or even company size that you can match up with different inside sales reps.)
Once you’ve cleared those two hurdles (which isn’t a small feat), you can begin to create the message:
LinkedIn again recommends you send a conversational, friendly message. The goal here is to make a connection, not necessarily a conversion.
Think about the way you send an email to a B2B buyer. Your goal is to get them to open the email and actually read it. They’re not signing up for an expensive coaching package based on your compelling email copy.
That means you’re not ‘selling’ in the body of the message, but merely trying to open the door, first. So just focus on writing something that will be opened and pique their interest enough to give you a shot (by clicking on a link).
Next, if you have a landing page and concrete CTA to add, you can include it in the next step.
Once again, you can duplicate the existing ad you just created to tweak, refine, and test over time. This will
(a) allow you to create variations much faster and
(b) allow you to run informal split tests to see which messages variants are pulling in the best numbers.
When finished, you can again select from a variety of different targeting options including ‘top of the funnel’, interest-based or custom (“Matched”) ones to follow up with individuals who already might know you by name.
And then, of course, get testing!
The trick with social ads is that it’s impossible to know what’s going to work best — until you try them out. So start small, run some real live tests, and then iterate as you go.
We’d love to hear about your progress and experiences with LinkedIn ads in the comments.
Otherwise, if you’d like a refresher on some of the basic LinkedIn ad fundamentals, keep reading below!
(Step-by-Step Tutorial Included)
by Ana Gotter
Moment of truth: do you use LinkedIn Ads?
If I had to place a bet, I would guess that most people reading this post have not run an ad campaign on LinkedIn. If you haven’t, you’re in the majority—only one of my clients has ever run a LinkedIn campaign.
That’s a shame; LinkedIn Ads can provide immense value for certain businesses, especially when they’re used correctly. And that one client? They got results that they were really happy with. Do you want the same? Just keep reading then!
We’re going to give you everything you need to get started with LinkedIn Ads, including a step-by-step tutorial.
We’re going to change that right now!
What Do LinkedIn Ads Look Like?
LinkedIn Ads works on a bidding system like other ad platforms, and lets you show an ad to the audience of your choice. You can target specific audiences, and control your budget. This is all similar to what we’ve seen on other platforms. The ads themselves, though, have slightly different formats from what we’re used to.
The formats include:
- Sponsored content, which is similar to Facebook Ads; your content, like links to a post or a status update, will be displayed in users feeds. These ads appear seamless, and are only marked as ads by the small “Promoted in the top right when corner.” They can be displayed on mobile devices, tablets, and desktops.
- Sponsored inmail, which lets you mass-deliver private messages to the inboxes of your audience. They can be shown on all placements.
- Text ads, which are similar to ads in Facebook’s side bar; these will be small and brief, off to the side of the site’s feed. These ads are available only for desktop placement.
Like Facebook, ads that put you most directly in front of users will likely yield the best results. These ads are the sponsored content and sponsored inmail formats, which fit more seamlessly into the platform and thus have a slightly higher chance of user engagement.
Which Ad Type Should I Use?
Each ad type as different advantages and best use cases.
Sponsored content is ideal if you want to get plenty of eyes on your content, like blog posts or business announcements, driving engagement. It’s also helpful if you want to get more followers for your on-site Company Page. The format of the actual ad lets you share valuable information that can help you with lead generation and nurturing, in addition to brand awareness.
Text ads are most effective if you want to show your ad to as many people as possible. They can be helpful at driving conversions and are most effective when you use highly targeted campaigns. A great example would be an MS program advertising to potential students. You can also run text ads even if you don’t have a Company Page.
Sponsored Inmail feels highly personalized because you’re delivering content right to a users’ inbox; their interest is automatically piqued, and they get a notification of a message. You can add a CTA button to the messages, allowing you to drive conversions effectively, whether you’re trying to get downloads of your ebook or registrations for your next event. The other great perk of Sponsored Inmail ads is that they’re only delivered to users who are actually active on LinkedIn.
Who Should Use LinkedIn Ads?
LinkedIn is a professional platform, making it different than all the other platforms we discuss on this site. People predominantly use this site to:
- Look for jobs
- Look for and maybe recruit potential new hires or freelancers
- Connect with colleagues and provide recommendations
- Share and discuss news in their industry
- Connect with industry influencers
People who use this site aren’t necessarily doing so for enjoyment; it’s a professional site, like a professional networking event, and it needs to be treated as such. People won’t be interested in emotional appeal products; they’re interested in software for their business and education to advance their careers and phone answering services instead.
Because of this, B2B businesses will have the best results on the platform. In very rare cases, some B2C businesses that offer professional services to consumers (like consulting, training, or education). The exception to this is if you’re using LinkedIn Ads to recruit or find new employees; in this case, any business could use the ads to great success.
How to Create LinkedIn Ads
To create LinkedIn Ads, you’ll start at your campaign manager which can be found here. You’ll first be asked to choose which type of campaign you want. Unlike other platforms, you CAN’T choose multiple placements at once, but that’s ok; each of these ad formats is so different, they require completely different creatives.
The process of creating the Ads is almost entirely the same, with a few small differences in creative.
For this example, we’ll look at creating Sponsored Content. If you haven’t created an ad account, you’ll be asked to do so unless you’re running Text Ads (which do not require a Page). If you do, search for the company name and select it.
You’ll then choose the language you want your ad to be displayed in, and to enter a campaign name.
Next, decide if you want to send users to your content or your Page (you’ll have the option of adding a “Follow” CTA), or if you want to use LinkedIn’s lead gen forms.
On the next screen, you can choose a company update to sponsor or create a new one.
To create a new one, add text. You can also upload an image.
Next, you’ll choose your targeting. Targeting options include targeting by:
- Company name, size, or industry
- Job title
- Job function
- Fields of study
- Years of experience
- LinkedIn groups belonged to
- Job seniority
After targeting, you’ll make two decisions.
The first is if you want to enable your ads to be shown on LinkedIn’s audience network, which means it will be shown on LinkedIn’s partner sites. You’ll also choose if you want to enable LinkedIn’s Audience Expansion, which works similarly to Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences, showing your content to people similar to your targeted audience. If you targeted Home Depot employees, for example, Audience Expansion might also show your ad to Lowes employees.
Next, set your budget. LinkedIn Ads do cost more than other sites like Facebook Ads, with the recommended bid for CPC being over $8 and over $44 for CPM. You’ll set your daily budget and your maximum bid. You’ll also set a start date and an end date if you choose. You can also choose a total budget, which I recommend doing.
That’s it. Your ad is ready to submit for approval.
You’ll see small differences in the creatives section of different ads. Text ads, for example, let you choose headlines, images, and descriptions, as seen below.
LinkedIn Ads may not be the perfect fit for all businesses, but they can be a great option for the right businesses.
B2B businesses and businesses looking to hire new employees can end up right smack-dab in front of their target audience thanks to these ads.
The key is to remember that you’re showing these ads to a professional audience because it’s a professional site; people use the platform to network, look for jobs, look for new hires, and connect with industry peers. Your content—and your copy—should be created accordingly.
Logic (with strategies like features/benefits) and conciseness will weigh heavily if you want users to click.
What do you think? Have you used LinkedIn Ads? Have you ever clicked on any? What best practices work for you? Leave us a comment below and let us know what you think!