July 17, 2017

LinkedIn levels the playing field

By James Noble Performance Account Executive

James Noble

James Noble

Performance Account Executive

LinkedIn has quietly been developing their platform and product offering over the last 6 months...

James Noble, Performance Account Executive, discusses the growth of advertising via social media and what this means for LinkedIn.

Advertising via social media has grown exponentially over the last few years, with social platforms becoming part of everyday life for many millions of people around the globe.  Looking at the stats, each month there are 2 billion active users worldwide on Facebook, more than 10 billion daily videos on Snapchat, 80% of Twitters users access the platform via mobile, and more than 467 million professionals on LinkedIn. Social media is without question now an omnipresent, natural behavior for the vast majority of society.

The landscape of social media is fast paced, ever changing and more recently, competition between the leading platforms has increased. For example, Facebook introduced ‘Stories’ to Instagram in the latter half of 2016, and then more recently to Messenger and Facebook itself – which is a surprisingly similar feature to Snapchat’s entire platform – and from a brand’s perspective, considering where and how they want to interact with consumers has never been more difficult.

Seeing the potential, brands have adopted social advertising with open arms, not only as a general outlet for promotions, events or to announce new products and services, but also as a tool for driving acquisition. It’s not all about hard sales and targets though; we’ve all heard the need for more upper funnel story-telling in marketing, to create a fully immersive and captivating story to engage consumers, and no other platform has embraced this hypothesis more than social media.

Whilst there’s been a focus in the media on the ethics of advertising, with companies such as Facebook and Google being the subject of many challenging articles of late, LinkedIn has quietly been developing their platform and product offering over the last 6 months and has finally brought this to potential fruition.

They have now introduced ‘Matched Audiences’, LinkedIn’s integration of first party data with their professional audiences.

What is a ‘Matched Audience’?

It’s a well-conceived product as LinkedIn’s ‘Matched Audience’ is their answer to on platform first party data. As we know, using first party data to is nothing new. Considering that Facebook launched ‘Customer Audiences’ almost 5 years ago late in 2012, with Twitter following with ‘Tailored Audiences’ a year later in 2013, LinkedIn may seem somewhat late to the party. So why has it taken so long to catch up? The answer can be found in Microsoft’s recent global acquisition of LinkedIn, pumping a healthy $26.2 billion investment into the platform worldwide and making way for much needed fresh look at the platform. First party data has been a powerful tool in the advertiser’s armory, enabling campaigns to reach a bespoke audience and achieving greater cost efficiency and higher intent from the audience. So why is LinkedIn finally releasing the same product under the new name ‘Matched Audiences’ not something that should be scoffed at?

Let’s look at what the targeting LinkedIn offered pre-‘Matched Audiences’. It would be fair to say the targeting available is unseen across LinkedIn’s competition, without third party’s assistance. Advertisers have a wealth of criteria to build a bespoke audience, from the seniority of a member’s role and the industry in which they inhabit, to the company size and name, campaigns could be delivered with seamless ease across the feed or via Inmail.

Now consider what can be achieved when combining your first party data with LinkedIn’s bespoke professional targeting. Brands can now understand more about their customer’s professional life in ways that are not achievable by LinkedIn’s competition, and discover how their product or service can fit into the consumer’s life. ‘Matched Audiences’ are separated into three categories; website re-targeting, account targeting, and contact targeting. From generating stronger leads from users that have visited your site, running bespoke campaigns from customer lists, or building a brands follower base with already acquired customers, LinkedIn are offering more opportunity to build revenue via their platform.

So what next for LinkedIn and advertisers?

From a frequent social user of LinkedIn, as well as from an advertiser’s role, I rarely see advertising that speaks to me personally whilst browsing LinkedIn; a sea of recruitment campaigns would be happily abandoned in place of a creative and tailored campaign from a brand I truly listen to. I believe that should ‘Matched Audiences’ prove to be the first of a string of updates to the platform, there will be a shift in the number of brands – specifically B2B brands – exploring their options on LinkedIn over the coming months. There is also the level of detail from users that engage with a brands campaign to be considered. Once a campaign has run brands can not only see who engaged with their activity, but consumers job seniority, job title, company size and more, which is significantly more insightful for brands than any other social media platform, and if wielded properly an extremely beneficial to future brands activity.

‘Matched Audiences’ are certainly a fantastic addition to LinkedIn’s network, not only for brands who are now able to be more bespoke with their audience choices, but also for the 467 million LinkedIn users who will benefit from seeing more from brands they have an affinity with. There are still some ways to go for LinkedIn; The formats currently available are limited, offering only static images, text ads, or Inmail to advertisers, which in my opinion considering the wealth and diversity of formats available from Facebook – such as carousels, canvas, and collections to name a few – is just not enough to offer consumers are truly immersive experience. There is also the question around video formats, as there is no native video format offered or reportable video metrics by LinkedIn, a fairly standard format offering at this stage in social media’s lifetime. Despite these flaws I consider ‘Matched Audiences’ are strong foot forward into the future, and eagerly await the next update.