12 min. read
Lately, some marketers have been worried about their ability to generate leads on social media.
Plus, Facebook and Twitter’s recent algorithm changes, while improving user experience, continue to somewhat limit the organic reach of posts from brands.
But no need to stress—savvy marketers know that LinkedIn marketing (yes, that often derided B2B social network) is a gold mine for generating leads, promoting thought leadership content and driving traffic to company websites.
Also see: “Is 2018 Finally the Year of LinkedIn?”
Why LinkedIn is now awesome for brands
LinkedIn now drives over half of all social traffic to B2B blogs and websites. Source: Foundation
Keen ‘prospectors’ are already mining rich seams of untapped potential, unearthing cartloads of LinkedIn benefits for B2B marketing:
• LinkedIn is responsible for 64% of all visits from social media sites to corporate websites.
• 93% of B2B marketers now consider the platform to be the most effective site for lead generation.
The platform itself isn’t resting on its laurels though, nor is it basking in the glory of its recently announced 60% increase in engagement rates.
Pushing forward faster, further
Instead, LinkedIn has been busy adding functionality to its already powerful marketing and ad offerings, creating ever more opportunities for B2B marketers to reach out to prospects.
Whether it’s doubling down on search filtering and leveraging user data or introducing its powerful new video ad format and content options, now more than ever is the time for B2B marketers to sit up and take notice of LinkedIn’s potential.
No longer should you be asking “Why use LinkedIn?” but instead:
What are the best practices for LinkedIn B2B marketing?
The main rule of LinkedIn for business is: look before you leap.
First, it’s essential that you have the basics of your LinkedIn Company Page set up.
Second, roll out a strategy to ensure your marketing endeavors remain focused at all times:
“Lack of a clear strategy is the biggest mistake. Users sign up to LinkedIn but then have no clear plan in mind how they will use it.”
– Steve Phillip, Leading Coach and Expert on LinkedIn best practices
Tackle blind spots
Ensure that your team is fully educated in the services that LinkedIn offers.
Sure, use this guide as a jumping off point—but also dig deeper and consider training to ensure that everyone is on the same page with regards to LinkedIn’s B2B marketing capabilities.
After the initial buzz surrounding your LinkedIn presence dissipates (and it will), it’s common to lose momentum if you aren’t racking up quick wins; it is essential to realize that like any marketing undertaking, the process of B2B marketing on LinkedIn takes time to develop, settle in and deliver returns on your investment.
Identify decision makers
Be specific about who it is you want to create relationships with on LinkedIn; think about industry sector, location, job titles of decision makers, and more.
Design your content plan (see below) around what prospects will want to read—and what added value your content will give them.
Ensure you create a roadmap for every aspect of your LinkedIn marketing plan, covering how, what, and when to post.
To learn more about optimal LinkedIn posting times, read our article on The Best Times to Post on Social Media in 2018.
Also, consider reading LinkedIn’s excellent Tactical Playbook and Content Marketing Toolkit, which offers exhaustive breakdowns, templates and checklists for creating the ultimate LinkedIn B2B marketing strategy.
According to the Content Marketing Institute’s Joe Pulizzi, marketers with a documented strategy are four times more effective, yet only 28% of marketers actually have a documented content marketing strategy.
LinkedIn B2B marketing strategy cheat sheet
Our quickfire guide to ensuring LinkedIn marketing strategy success:
1. Make content count: ensure your content reveals how your product or service has helped businesses.
2. Don’t be too sales-centric: make an effort to split your content into 50% about your brand and 25% about the sector you operate in.
3. Be human: make the final 25% about the themes and issues that fire you up personally so people see you as an individual, not as some faceless corporate ‘cog’.
4. Keep content coming: posting at least once a day is best, but whatever frequency you decide on, stick to it and keep posting.
5. Get employees onboard: make sure that team members and other employee advocates engage with and share the content you post—it can dramatically expand your organic reach.
6. Deploy keywords: using the ‘Specialities’ section of your LinkedIn Company Page, add keywords relating to your business so it appears in related search results.
7. Go hunting: use LinkedIn’s powerful search facilities to locate potential buyers and identify what their wants and needs are to help target your LinkedIn advertising campaigns further.
8. Track engagements: use your company’s analytics page to identify your best-performing posts to help shape future content strategies (see the Linkedin insights & LinkedIn analytics entry below).
How to make the most of your LinkedIn B2B marketing campaigns
From text ads and Sponsored InMail to LinkedIn video ads, the platform offers a diverse range of advertising opportunities for marketers, all accessible via the LinkedIn Campaign Manager.
This platform also offers a range of highly powerful targeting and analytics processes, transforming LinkedIn into a formidable marketing tool.
But what LinkedIn advertising options are actually available—and why should you deploy them?
LinkedIn Text Ads
LinkedIn Text Ads show up at the top and right sides of users’ feeds and include brief ad copy plus an optional small image. Source: LinkedIn Business
What? A basic but effective ad that allows for an optional 50×50 image combined with a 25-character or less headline and a 75-character or less description.
Why? Ideal for targeting specific audiences, sourcing job applicants and increasing traffic to your website/landing pages.
LinkedIn best practices:
• Snare your audience’s attention with headlines that address them directly and make a clear offer of value.
• Don’t hard-sell your products/services; remember, always help, educate and inform before making any sales move.
• Always include an image, as they generate 20% more clicks. Also, use profile images if applicable, as they outperform logos and objects.
• Ensure your call to action is clearly written in plain language and features keywords targeted at your specific audience.
• Include your company’s name within your offering if possible to promote brand awareness to those who don’t click on your LinkedIn ad and therefore are judged as ‘impressions’.
• Create a specific landing page for the text ad that reflects the correct branding, messaging and offerings; don’t just dump your lead on your homepage and walk off.
LinkedIn Sponsored Content
LinkedIn Sponsored Content is essentially a normal post that you boost with an ad budget. Source: LinkedIn
What? Typically a company page update featuring a headline of ideally 150 characters or less, introduction copy of ideally 70 characters or less, and a recommended image size of 1200×627 to help boost CTR.
Why? Ideal for increasing your follower count, promoting thought leadership, building awareness for specific events and generating leads.
LinkedIn best practices:
• Address your target audience directly in the headline copy—LinkedIn research shows this creates a 19% higher CTR and a 53% higher conversion rate.
• Ensure your copy is to the point and features statistics where possible; shorter content sees an 18% increase in engagement while using stats creates 162% more impressions.
• Create a strong CTA so audiences understand how they should act once they have digested your content.
• Enable Lead Gen Forms—these pull together a member’s profile data such as job title, contact details, etc., collating them into a single form that the member can then send to you with a single click (these are also available on Sponsored InMail—see below).
LinkedIn Sponsored InMail
LinkedIn Sponsored InMail lets you send customized private messages to users. Source: LinkedIn
What? A private InMail that features the sender’s name (ideally 25 characters or less) with a subject line (ideally 30 characters or less), body copy (ideally 500 characters or less) and a CTA button (ideally 25 characters or less) plus a 300×250 image, all of which is delivered directly to your targeted members’ LinkedIn inboxes.
Why? Ideal for personalized invitations to events and webinars, promoting downloadable content such as white papers, and engaging directly with targeted prospects.
LinkedIn best practices:
• Send your message from a person within your company—not from the company itself—to make that personal impact. Such an approach can boost open rates by 16%.
• Ensure the sender’s job title reflects the InMail’s offering for added credibility and relevance; if you’re sending an IT-related message, then send it from the head of IT or another tech-related employee.
• Include relevant hyperlinks in your body text and add your offer in a separate CTA; this can raise CTR by 21%.
• Keep your body text brief and relevant to the person you are sending it to, and make sure you stay personal throughout your messaging. Also, remember that body text that features 500 characters or less has a 46% higher CTR.
More than 85%
of LinkedIn engagement comes from mobile devices, so ensure all messaging and landing pages have been optimized for mobile—whatever ad format you are using.
LinkedIn Dynamic Ads
LinkedIn Dynamic Ads adapt to each user that sees them…well, dynamically. Source: LinkedIn
What? An ad that dynamically changes its content and profile image depending on who is being targeted.
Why? Ideal for attracting new followers to your company page and highlighting targeted job opportunities based on users’ career histories.
LinkedIn best practices:
• Enable the option to display the profile image of the member viewing your ad; this will display their photo alongside your own, creating 100% higher CTR and conversion rates.
• Don’t use your company logo as your profile picture; instead, replace it with the face of the person who will communicate with users with if they click through. Alternatively, try a theme-driven icon to draw attention to your LinkedIn ad.
LinkedIn Video Ads
LinkedIn Video Ads appear in users’ feeds and auto-play silently by default. Source: LinkedIn
What? A video ad (at last, LinkedIn!) that auto-plays in members’ feeds without sound but offers viewers the ability to turn the sound on if they wish.
Why? Ideal for building brand awareness through storytelling, positioning your brand as a thought leader, demoing products or services, and previewing events and webinars.
LinkedIn best practices:
• Keep your Linkedin Video Ads under 30 seconds: according to an internal LinkedIn report, ads which are 30 seconds or shorter experience a 200% lift in view completion rates.
• Ensure you get your main message across within the first 10 seconds—internet audiences have short attention spans.
• Expect exceptions to the above rules! For example, the “demand generation” is more patient and will watch longer videos if you’re detailing a product or story that is more complex; test first to find your ad’s sweet spot (see “Testing times” below).
• Use a mixture of people, graphics and text in your video if your production budget will allow for it—such techniques will help keep audiences watching.
increase in shares when deploying video compared to text and images combined.
For information about LinkedIn Display Ads, head here for details.
LinkedIn targeting and segmentation
LinkedIn allows you to target users based on a wide variety of attributes. Source: LinkedIn Business via Marketing Mojo
With so many ad formats available, the question is—how do you effectively deploy your LinkedIn ads to ensure they find their audience?
Again, LinkedIn offers an enviable selection of targeting and segmentation tools that allow marketers to drill into member details and create bespoke campaigns.
LinkedIn’s own recommendation is to choose two targeting options for individual campaigns along with a location (which comes as a standard feature).
The platform offers typical targeting options such as gender, age and more, but with a raft of additional alternatives to choose from:
Company name • company industry • company size • company connections • followers • job titles • job function • job seniority • years of experience • and many more.
Another powerful targeting option, Audience Network lets marketers show ads to LinkedIn users while they browse other websites. Source: LinkedIn Business
Marketers can also use the LinkedIn Audience Network to reach audiences beyond the confines of LinkedIn itself, pushing out Sponsored Content to a network of vetted publishers.
Perhaps most exciting for marketers, though, is LinkedIn Matched Audiences (LMA)—an ad service that offers three powerful features which focus on LinkedIn targeting and retargeting.
First, there are the two core targeting options: account targeting, which offers the ability to target individual decision makers at specific companies, and contact targeting, which enables an enterprise to import CRM contacts or use email lists and then target decision makers discovered in those lists.
Finally, marketers can retarget company website visitors to further drive up lead generation rates.
increase in conversion rates when using LinkedIn account targeting.
Coming up with a great content and targeting strategy is only half the battle.
The other half?
Testing the hell out of your LinkedIn marketing and advertising campaigns to ensure they’re given the best possible chance of making it out ‘in the wild’. A few tips:
• Find the right balance between targeting your audience but not being so narrow that your ad becomes too ‘niche’—use A/B testing to find your ideal balance.
• For every ad, consider creating two or three active ad variations to see which performs best. Remember to test single variables within the ads to ensure you achieve meaningful test results; for instance, test two images against each other, then test two headlines, etc.
• Pause your lowest-performing ad every one to two weeks and replace it with a new one—this will help increase your ad relevance score (see “So how much do LinkedIn ads cost?” below).
LinkedIn insights & LinkedIn analytics
LinkedIn has plenty of analytics to explore, from content performance metrics to trends in follower growth. Source: LinkedIn Blog
To aid marketeers, LinkedIn offers a Company Page Analytics service that allows you to do a deep dive into how well your campaigns and individual posts are performing.
LinkedIn analytics range from how (and if) your ads are hitting home with followers to how many new followers you have attracted to click rates, interaction rates, and key trends that you can take advantage of in the future.
Critically, LinkedIn insights allow you to analyze your audience’s professional backgrounds, identifying their demographics from seniority and title through to company size and industry.
From here, you can identify your most engaging ads—and highlight any content gaps—then feed that data back into your content plan to inform new campaigns.
It’s this level of granular detail—if exploited fully—that makes LinkedIn B2B marketing so powerful.
For more information about how LinkedIn analytics work, head here.
So how much do LinkedIn ads cost?
Average ad costs in 2017. Ads on LinkedIn tend to be more expensive than ads other digital marketing channels, but with higher conversion rates and stronger B2B lead generation. Source: Adstage
Such a wealth of options begs the question—what’s the price tag for an actual LinkedIn ad campaign?
As is common with other social platforms, there’s no actual set cost; instead, you use LinkedIn’s bidding system where self-service ads can be distributed on a:
• Cost-per-click pricing basis (CPC, ideal for generating traffic and leads)
• Cost per 1,0000 impressions pricing basis (CPM, ideal for increasing brand awareness)
• Cost per view pricing basis (CPV, ideal for increasing LinkedIn video views)
• The exception? Sponsored InMail, which only charges you when your message is delivered.
Choose which method you prefer and then take part in LinkedIn’s auction process. This will decide which advertisers aiming at the same target audience will have the honor of their ad actually appearing in the selected users’ feeds.
The higher your bid and, critically, the higher your relevance score (based on engagement rates and many other variables), the higher the chance your bid will be successful. For more information on the auction process, watch this:
It’s worth bearing in mind that LinkedIn’s CPC price is generally higher than other platforms.
The good news?
Conversion rates are also higher. According to specific client data from Seer, the average CPC for Google AdWords was $2.56, compared to LinkedIn’s $12.88—but the conversion rates on LinkedIn were better at 0.77% compared to AdWords’ 0.65%.
Additionally, LinkedIn is fantastic for lead generation, as the platform generates more B2B leads than either Facebook or Twitter.
This means if you want the optimal platform for B2B lead generation, LinkedIn should be your de facto choice.
You are able to set your own budget, bids and schedule on LinkedIn—and if you ever need to halt your advertising, you can do so whenever you want. This means you remain in control of your bottom line at all times.
Key takeaways for LinkedIn B2B marketing
If you’ve ever had doubts about LinkedIn’s effectiveness as a marketing tool, these should have now been put to rest. To make the most of your campaigns, remember:
• Draw up a detailed content plan to ensure your LinkedIn marketing strategy has the very best chance of making an impact; don’t rush in without any preparation.
• Identify which ad formats serve your strategy the best; you may find a combination of different formats is most effective depending on your campaign.
• Ensure your marketing missives are targeted at the right personas based on a fully-fledged content plan and conduct frequent A/B testing so your campaign’s ads always hit their marks.
• Use LinkedIn’s powerful analytics features to dive deep into the ongoing successes (or failures) of your marketing plan, adjusting and tweaking where needed, all while gleaning invaluable insights that can be deployed in future campaigns.
• Monitor your budget and don’t be afraid of the LinkedIn auction process; while bidding may seem costly, the platform’s conversion rates are higher than other platforms.