LinkedIn has rolled out a new feature that will enable advertisers target a higher number of potential audiences. The process is similar to Twitter’s Tailored Audience or Google’s Customer Match or Facebook’s Custom Audience search. The targeting will allow businesses to upload a list of companies they do or would like to do business with. LinkedIn would subsequently cross reference this list with its existing list of a minimum eight million companies and communicate the ads to profiles who work in these companies.
LinkedIn revolves around a highly business centric social platform and its audiences are either recruiters or candidates looking for the best clientele or company to work for. According to Russ Glass, the head of products for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, “This is us launching our audience match platform, and audience match is effectively LinkedIn’s entry into the custom audience’s world. Account targeting is the first capability we’re releasing as part of our audience match platform”. Facebook rolled out a similar feature last year in January. The concept is to allow marketers retarget users (candidates and clients in the case of LinkedIn) who had visited websites, mobile apps and combine first hand analytics like customer email, CRM data and purchasing data with the targeting parameters to make the marketing more relevant. Ruth even went on to say that LinkedIn has further plans in developing audience match platforms allowing marketing upload unique sets of information.
To keep up with the demands and what competitors like Facebook and Google are offering already, LinkedIn users will be able to use the network’s data and filter user accounts by layering up the existing options for targeting. These will include filters like user’s location, job level, gender, age, seniority level, experience, etc. If a company is searching for “experienced marketers”, this would mean only relevant people from preferable locations, required experience, preferred job level and with “marketing” on their profile description. Advertisers can also filter out accounts they don’t wish to target with these ads. This comes in handy if companies are trying to fish new clients but also don’t want to re-address existing ones.
The account targeting process from LinkedIn however doesn’t provide a whole new capability. Previously businesses were able to do the same based on their current employers. However, this was largely a manual process and was even limited to a 100 odd profiles. The new tool however raises this limit to about 30,000 accounts apart from making it more automatic.
As of now, the account based targeting tool would be limited to two ad formats offered by LinkedIn – the Sponsored Updates that posts status updates on the target profile’s news feed and a Sponsored InMail that promotes these advertises in the target inboxes. Further, the feature is currently also limited to just the brands that have been buying ads from LinkedIn Sales Team directly. However, it is suggested by the social network that the features would be rolled out to brands that have been using self serve tools to buy these ads. The first ones to try out the targeted ad features were Swrve, Salesforce and Comcast.
Some advertisers are also in the dilemma whether sharing the customer account list with LinkedIn would eventually lead to their competitors being able to access this list, either directly or indirectly. However, Mr. Glass ensures that all the information you share is completely encrypted and so secure that account holders wouldn’t be able to access and learn what other (competitors) share.
It has been just three weeks now that LinkedIn has shut down its ad network but this target based campaigns will open up advertising on a larger scale. This will in fact allow companies to target more than 30,000 companies/profiles at a single go. Till today, B2B companies used to pursue around 5000 accounts but the “Accounts Targeting” feature will allow adding more filters to make the advertising more relevant and profitable. LinkedIn expects that this tool will balance the previous loss accounting to over $183 million in the fourth quarter of 2015.
For advertisers, it’s an opportunity that cannot be overlooked. As such, we already see the advantages with account targeting in other platforms and LinkedIn was the only that was waiting in the queue.