If your company is in business to sell to other businesses, LinkedIn is arguably a much better platform than others for targeted advertising to individuals.
Google AdWords, by contrast, is in the same ballpark, but its purpose is to capture specific keyword searches, while advertising on LinkedIn is all about catching the attention of business people. As a result, companies that need to know they're advertising to specific people have embraced campaigns on LinkedIn.
Facebook, on the other hand, is great for targeting retail customers, while LinkedIn is more for the professional business-to-business set. If you want to advertise surfboards to twenty-somethings in California, Facebook is ideal, while selling a product to buyers at sports and leisure stores would be more of a move for LinkedIn. LinkedIn has differentiated itself over the years to be a no-nonsense, professional social network free of games and music, while Facebook is more of a personal space.
What's the Difference Between a Click and an Impression?
A click is when someone clicks through to your website, and an impression happens when your ad is served and someone may view it. While the argument for paying for clicks is obvious, impressions are a little more abstract. Impressions act like traditional print advertising in that they reinforce your brand. If you just want to pay for clicks, you can do that, but impressions do have marketing value.
Creating an Ad on LinkedIn
Go to LinkedIn's advertising section and you'll be prompted to log in with your profile after clicking Start now. If you don't yet have a LinkedIn profile, make sure you fill out a proper one out before putting your ad out there.
You'll be prompted to enter your ad campaign name, which nobody sees, so don't sweat this detail. What they will see are your ad variations. If this is your first kick at the can, punch in a few ad variations so that you can track the ones that work the best and build on them. Avoid lingo, acronyms, or overly technical language in your ad creation, just as you would for any other pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaign.
Targeting Your Ad
This is where the power of LinkedIn ads starts to show up. You can target by location, company, job title, LinkedIn Group, gender, and age. While all of these are useful, the most interesting is targeting by job title. This means that if you are a software company selling an enterprise product to CIOs, you can specifically target those with that job.
The job title option allows you to enter either a specific job title that you want to target or a group of job titles that may have the same function. How specific you want to get is completely up to you, but targeting a specific job title will keep your ad from going to junior employees that may not have a say in the purchasing process.
What is the LinkedIn Audience Network?
You'll then be asked if you want to show your ads on the LinkedIn Audience Network. This means that when your targets visit other sites that are members of the LinkedIn network, they will be served with your LinkedIn ad. This is a good option to choose since your targets will have more opportunities to click through to your site even when they aren't on LinkedIn.
Setting Your Bid and Campaign Amount
You only have two choices for your campaign, and that is whether or not you want to pay by the click or per 1000 impressions. You should have the option to pick both. If you're just stepping into the waters of LinkedIn to get your feet wet, choose the Pay-Per-Click option.
Impressions are useful since they help to reinforce your brand, but you'll want to start off experimenting just with solid clicks through to your website. Once you've narrowed down your most effective ads and targeting techniques, you can start ad campaigns that involve impressions.
As with Google, setting a bid involves some experimentation. You don't want to set a bid so low that your ad will never be viewed, but you don't want to start off with the suggested amount either. Bid amounts did not change for me when I changed my targets from three broad categories to a specific job title, so I would be more tempted to go with the specific job titles since I know exactly who my ad is reaching.
Set your daily minimum amount low to start out with, enough that you'll be able to cover at least a few clicks a day. The lowest you can spend per day is $10, but if you are paying $4.00 per click you’ll want to set your minimum higher so your reports don’t just reflect two clicks a day.
If you're going to conduct a trial ad run of three days, do it from Monday to Wednesday, when most business people are active. It would be nice if you could set times in addition to the other targeting methods, since I don't want a click from someone at 2:00 in the morning, but you take what you can get.
LinkedIn will provide you with reports on how your ads have performed. Pick your best ones and use them as templates for new variations, and continue your trial until you feel that your campaign is ready to go.
Is It Worth Stealing Dollars From My Current PPC Budget?
This depends on your business. If your company is pure B2B, such as a manufacturer's representative agency or a wholesaler, you may want to steal a significant portion of your Google budget to target your customers on LinkedIn. If you have more of a mix and want to hit both Internet searches and individuals, start with a small percentage of your online advertising budget and see how it goes.
If you've been staying away from online advertising specifically because you can't target your customers of choice in a B2B environment, LinkedIn ads are definitely worth checking out, especially since the price of entry is initially low for purposes of designing a proper campaign.
Angela West dreams of opening a Fallout-themed pub featuring wait staff with Pip-Boys. She's written for big insurance companies, small wildlife control businesses, gourmet food chains, and more. Follow her on Twitter at @angelawest.