If you ask anyone in the industry where you should do your B2B advertising, they are highly likely to name LinkedIn as their bread and butter, way before any other B2B channel. After all, 94% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn to distribute content.
Yet when you ask an advertiser what they think of LinkedIn B2B advertising, they describe it as slow, old-fashioned and lacking in targeting capabilities that, say, Facebook make available to us. So is LinkedIn actually effective in B2B advertising?
It goes without saying that B2B advertising takes on a completely different strategy to B2C, and is determined much more by our ability to target by job title at companies within audience targeting. As the platform where we are most likely to update our careers, LinkedIn enables us to target the relevant consumer in the most granular and accurate way possible when it comes to job relevance.
Yet we know that B2B targeting takes more than just knowing what job titles to go after; there are a multitude of varying factors and segments you want to overlay when doing B2B advertising. This is where LinkedIn’s targeting capabilities prove both challenging and very limiting. If you were, for example, wanting to drill down on age and gender, this would become much more challenging than it should for this day-and-age. Depending on the brand and the objective, there could be a huge difference in how you would target a CEO who is between 25-34, and that of one between 45-54. The language used, and the way you address the consumer varies, and as we all know, messaging and how you communicate the message are key when it comes to any type of advertising.
Let’s take a step back for a second.
We know that up until March last year, LinkedIn’s advertising capabilities were heavily limited. But then things started to change. First came sponsored video, and it was like Christmas in the B2B marketing sector. With an increase in video consumption continuing to rise, being able to target consumers via sponsored video was seen as a step in the right direction for LinkedIn advertising. In July of the same year, they introduced carousels, and suddenly we had a little bit more choice in ad formats.
When it comes to targeting capabilities, it was in January 2019 that LinkedIn announced the arrival of its very own interest targeting. You know what that means – you can now target people based on what interests them, drilling down on more detail and opportunity than just their job title. In March, they introduced lookalike audiences, and audience templates, which streamlines the process of finding new audiences.
If we combine their new array of ad formats with their new targeting capabilities, we start to see LinkedIn reforming itself as it begins to catch up to other platforms that offer B2B advertising capabilities. And according to Shrivastava, LinkedIn has seen a 30% growth in number of sessions per user over the last 12 months.
But we can’t quite say it has reached the sophistication of other platforms just yet. These new features could be huge for LinkedIn, but only if they continue to introduce new components like these. At present, sure, they have given us some useful ad formats and new ways to target, but to catch up to the capabilities that platforms such as Facebook provide us with, LinkedIn still have a way to go. It’s like an elderly person buying an MP3 player in 2019 and claiming to be caught up on all music technology. Being caught up on what was useful ten years ago is useful to a certain degree, but in 2019, marketers know there is more out there, and you have to be able to provide them with not only what other platforms offer, but that something more that will make them want to only use your platform.
What I would really like to know and understand better however is why consumers, other than B2B marketers, use LinkedIn. Because it feels as though this may have evolved over time, and continues to do so. If we understand this better, we might be able to comprehend whether LinkedIn is the right platform for B2B advertising.
Forbes published an article back in 2011 that revealed 22% of top level executives used LinkedIn for industry networking, and 20% for promoting their business. Similarly, 24% of mid-level executives used it for keeping in touch with people, and 20% for industry networking. Skipping forward to 2019, I decided to conduct a survey across 21 colleagues at Croud. It revealed that 61% use LinkedIn to check industry news, with 76% stating their use of LinkedIn has increased over the past three years. What was most interesting however, is that 47% stated that they predict LinkedIn to become a platform used more and more for industry news.
It was revealed in January this year that 45% of LinkedIn article readers are in upper-level positions. It looks as though LinkedIn may just be becoming (or has become) the platform for industry news for employees of all levels – a potential goldmine for B2B marketers. If only their targeting capabilities were better, maybe conversions would be higher.
Yet it was revealed that LinkedIn generates a staggering 3x more conversions than both Facebook and Twitter. Thus, their targeting capabilities may admittedly be lacking, but they still appear to do the job. So if LinkedIn were to continue to hit us with similar targeting nuggets and ad formats in what is essentially a distinct platform for industry news, it’s difficult to see B2B marketers going any other way.
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