LinkedIn made two announcements in the last few weeks that got the web buzzing. First, the company filed for IPO, making it the first social network to go public, eight years after its 2003 launch. The announcement sparked speculation on whether other networks like Facebook and Twitter would soon follow suit.

Second, the company announced several new features for increased targeting in LinkedIn ad campaigns. According to LinkedIn, beta testing for these new features delivered three to four times better click-through rates than the site average. So what are these new features, and what do they mean for your business?

Company name. Advertisers can now target LinkedIn users by their listed employer. This feature will be useful for targeting sales prospects, potential employees at specific companies, or for job seekers, potential employers. Keep in mind, though, that your competitors can now target your employees and prospects as well. LinkedIn’s ad interface will also generate suggestions of similar companies for more robust targeting. This feature is more useful for getting in front of larger companies, as ads that have a potential audience of less than 1,000 members cannot be run.

LinkedIn group. Targeting prospects by group will allow businesses to reach audiences with specific specialties, job functions, affiliations, or interests. Some skeptics raise concerns over the general lack of activity in LinkedIn groups, saying this level of targeting will be the least effective. But merely being a member of a group, no matter how inactive it is, allows ads to be served to you based on that membership—you won’t only see the ads as you’re interacting with the group on LinkedIn.

Job title. The ability to target users by their listed job title is aided by LinkedIn’s recent standardization of job titles. Before, users could freely write in any job title, making targeting difficult. Now, LinkedIn offers standardized title choices for users, and re-categorizes freely entered job titles on the back end. This ad feature will be extremely useful in targeting the business decision makers who buy your products or services. Whether you’re selling to IT Managers or CMOs, being able to target your true buying audience should prove very beneficial for LinkedIn advertisers.

In essence, these new targeting features all serve a similar goal: making LinkedIn advertising more relevant to the audience. They reflect a bigger industry shift toward relevance in advertising. It’s the same trend driving innovations like Hulu’s Ad Tailor and Facebook’s Sponsored Stories. These aren’t the only LinkedIn features that aim to promote relevancy; some earlier features for companies serve a similar goal.

Sharing. This feature has been around a while, and works just like Facebook sharing buttons. Adding a sharing button to your product and service pages or company blog crowdsources your traffic building. Users are more likely to click through to see your services or read an article having seen that their colleague recommends it.

Recommendations. A recent feature of LinkedIn company pages, launched in late 2010, allows companies to invite recommendations, similar to the people recommendations on the site. This user-aware feature automatically displays recommendations from people in the user’s network, when available. This adds a peer-evaluated layer of relevancy to your services. Imagine the added benefit for your company if a prospect researching your services sees a company recommendation from someone in their network they trust. Trust is the highest currency in advertising, and as shoppers, we trust people like us. Best of all, your customers needn’t visit your company page to recommend your services; you can embed a recommend button on your company site or blog.

The shift toward relevance in advertising is nothing new — advertisers have long striven to make their ads relevant — but new levels of targeting made possible by the Internet and social media have made relevance in advertising both more important and easier for brands. Across media, companies that work to make their advertising as relevant as possible to their audience will see the biggest returns.

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3 Responses to “LinkedIn’s new ad features reflect advertising’s shift toward relevance”

  1. I couldn’t agree more, especially in B2B. LinkedIn users, I’m sure, are far likelier to have the purchasing authority that B2B marketing and sales professionals are looking for. 

  2. I personally feel LinkedIn is the biggest sleeping giant right now. I am finding more targeted connections for business with the least amount of effort, not to mention the fact that my LinkedIn profile rank higher then every other social media site next to Twitter.

    At an average household income of $109,000 annually, LinkedIn is the site to be on right now!

  3. Targeting groups is an interesting approach, but it seems LinkedIn is really missing a key part of it. The group forum software is so bad, I just can’t spend anytime reading and posting. There’s a lot of sharp folks out there, and there are conversatations I’d like to be part of, but I just can’t get past the structure, organization, and navigation of individual groups.

    There are so many other user forums out on the web that work much better. Perhaps LinkedIn is just trying to do too much with their structure.

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