LinkedIn Ads has been a rapidly developing ad platform, with the potential to yield strong results for certain businesses.
Over the past two years, we’ve seen new types of LinkedIn Ads emerge, along with getting a whole new campaign manager and ad creation system. This new and improved system gives businesses and brands enormous flexibility in the types of advertising they create. Versatility is so valuable in marketing, giving you the chance to reach your audiences with the messaging and formats you think they’re most likely to respond to.
Knowing which type of ads to choose can be a challenge, but it’s so crucial to get it right. To help you ensure that you’re creating the strongest ads possible for your own business and for your clients, let’s take a look at each type of LinkedIn Ad you can create and how to use them.
Why LinkedIn Ads and Who Should Use Them?
LinkedIn Ads is an exceptionally powerful social advertising platform, but we do want to acknowledge that it isn’t right for everyone.
The same businesses whose ad campaigns flourish on Facebook by showing users products they need ranging from laundry detergent to jewelry to housecleaning services may struggle on LinkedIn if they’re trying to rack up direct sales.
That’s because LinkedIn is a professional networking site, so people on LinkedIn are looking to expand their network, grow their business, or maybe find either jobs or new employees. It’s not really the right place to try to entice someone to buy an engagement ring for their girlfriend or a fancy fountain water bowl for their dog.
That being said, it can work so well for certain individuals. It can be effective for the following people:
- B2B businesses or freelancers who are selling services, products, or goods for business purposes. Office chairs, scheduling software, and accounting services are all great examples.
- Organizations offering professional advancement or education. Universities, online courses, MBA programs, and even coaches can all thrive on LinkedIn.
- Any employer looking for new potential hires and job applicants. If you’re looking to find the right new team member, consider posting a job ad on LinkedIn. It can put you in front of the right candidates, and it will cost less than a recruiter!
- Companies looking to build brand awareness. If Zappos, for example, published an extensive whitepaper about how their company culture improved customer satisfaction, that’s something you could promote to get clicks on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn Ad Formats
In order to help you create the most effective LinkedIn Ad campaigns possible, it’s important to decide look at what types of ads you have available to you. This can be broken down into two distinct categories: Ad formats, which tell you what the ad will physically look like, and ad types, which detail the specific purpose of unique kinds of ads.
To get started, let’s look at the ad formats first.
LinkedIn’s image ads are pretty standard social PPC ads. They’re going to feature a single image that you can use to advertise your product or service, with text below it. These ads are simple, making them easy to create and split test, and allow users to see what you’re offering at a glance.
Success with image ads will rely heavily, as you can imagine, on the images that you choose. It’s important to create images that are directly relevant to both the product you’re advertising and those that you’re advertising to. Smiling faces perform well on LinkedIn, and the use of contrasting colors to help key information stand out in the image will be useful. This can be seen in the example here:
It’s also going to be essential to tailor your copy to each individual audience that you’re targeting, because while the image will capture attention, it’s the copy that will help you achieve significant results. Swell’s campaign below is a great example; their water bottles are typically a B2C purpose, but by framing it as a gift for conference attendees, they’re giving it a B2B angle and potentially leveraging a bulk sale all at once.
LinkedIn’s carousel ads are a newer ad format for the platform (rolling out in the middle of 2018), and they’re extremely similar to Facebook’s carousel ads. You can add up to ten different “slides,” which contain different images to help you make your pitch.
Carousel Ads, on average, have higher click-through and engagement rates. These ads are mobile-friendly, too, which is a huge asset since so much online traffic is happening on mobile. And, even better: You can actually see which cards are most successful at helping you drive conversions, because you’ll be given analytics on the performance of each individual slide.
Like Facebook's carousel ads, this ad format can be used in a number of different ways to help you sell more effectively. You can, for example, break up a single image into distinct cards and list different benefits or features of whatever you're promoting, which can be seen in the sample above. You could also show different products on each individual slide. If you do the latter, you'll be able to more easily assess which products are driving home the most clicks.
Video ads are popular amongst advertisers on LinkedIn, and for good reason. Video is interesting and dynamic, and the ability to use the storytelling powers of this medium can work well when you’re running PPC campaigns.
Video ads are both mobile and desktop friendly, and they of course come with additional analytics regarding viewer watch times.
For best results with LinkedIn, you’ll want to create video content that’s tailor-made for the specific objective that you have in mind. If, for example, you’re trying to promote thought leadership, think about sharing information and how-to content that’s of direct value to your audience. This is what the example above is going for, explaining their research and sharing it with a relevant audience.
If sales, leads, and conversions are more what you’re focusing on, show demos of your product or detail how specific features and benefits both make you unique and can benefit your customers.
Sponsored Inbox Ads
So far, all the other ad formats that we’ve looked at can appear in multiple placements, including in the newsfeed and the side column (which are extremely similar to Facebook’s right column placements, too).
The sponsored inbox ads are a different format and placement all together, however. They aren’t visual-centric the same way the others are, and instead appear as a message. They’ll show up in users’ inboxes, and even trigger a notification for an unread message just like organic messages from connections will.
These ads can be incredibly effective, combining the benefits of PPC advertising with some of those of email marketing. You’re showing up in the users’ inbox, after all, so you’re requiring that they at least see it, as opposed to ads that can be easily ignored and scrolled past in the feeds.
Sponsored inbox ads won’t work well for every campaign, however. They’re best when you’re looking to engage users individually on some level. Examples of this may include:
- The advertiser reaching out and trying to drum up interest in a local event.
- The advertiser is trying to enlist users in a course or degree program, and is encouraging them to ask questions.
- The brand (or recruiter) is trying to find applicants for a job.
- The marketer is looking to reach out to relevant brands and see if they’d be interested in beta testing their new product.
When writing these campaigns, remember to make it feel like you’re writing an actual message one-on-one. It should feel personal and encourage people to respond if they have questions or any thoughts they’d like to share, and it should always include some sort of call to action at the end.
Different Types of LinkedIn Ads
Now that we’ve looked at ad formats, it’s time to look a look at different types of what are essentially “specialty” ads. These ads will fit into the formats described above (so you can use a video ad format when creating a lead ad, for example), but their purpose is to accomplish specific objectives with unique ad features.
LinkedIn’s Dynamic Ads are one of the more recent developments on LinkedIn, rolling out late last year. These ads will automatically insert a user’s name and profile picture into the ad’s image or copy to grab their attention quickly. We’re all automatically tuned in to our own face and names, so it’s a good way to stand out in users’ feeds quickly.
Note that you can only use the dynamic features in LinkedIn’s Job Ads, Spotlight Ads, and Follower Ads.
Lead Ads prioritize generating leads, and they can come through image, video, and inbox ads. They allow you to attach a lead gen form to an ad campaign, which will automatically fill in a user’s requested information like name, workplace, or job title. The user can edit this information if they choose, and then send the form.
The lead generation forms are native, meaning that they work on platform so that users never have to leave the site, and they’re mobile friendly.
If you’re looking to generate leads through LinkedIn (which is often an excellent step for high-value purchases or for B2B businesses in general), this is a great way to go. You will need to choose the lead objective when creating your ad campaigns.
Job Ads are a special type of ad that can (and should!) be used when you’re actively running ad campaigns that are designed to attract new job applicants.
Since LinkedIn allows you to target users based on the industry they work in, the companies they work for, their education, and their skills, you can run extremely targeted ads that are niched down to appeal to specific types of applicants. Even better, these ads can help you to reach audiences who aren’t actively looking for jobs; keep in mind that plenty of top-talent is likely scooped up by someone else, so this helps get you in touch.
Job Ads will be most successful when you do some combination of the following:
- Detail the position that you’re hiring for, and create individual campaigns targeting the right users for each job role. If a developer sees an ad for a copywriter, for example, they’re writing it off even if you’re hiring developers, too.
- Mention specific perks of working with you, if possible. Do you offer extended vacation days, strong advancement opportunities, or great insurance? This can help sway people.
- You help applicants decide that they’re the right fit for the job on their own. Mention the skills or experience you’re looking for. This may help weed out any not-so-great fits and appeal to people who could make a great team member.
Follower Ads, unlike most ads on LinkedIn, aren’t focused on driving traffic to your site or finding a new hire or attracting leads. The goal here is (you guessed it!) exclusively to get more followers on your LinkedIn Company Page!
Follower count may not be the most important metric of success on social media, but that doesn’t mean that followers don’t matter. When people follow your Page, they’re signing up to receive regular updates from you in their feed. This gives long-term exposure with your target audience in a friendly, non-aggressive way that can be great for brand awareness over time.
LinkedIn Ads has come a long way in the past few years, and it’s doing a good job offering a B2B-and-professionally-oriented alternative to the more-popular Facebook Ads. To find success on the platform, we recommend testing several different ad types and formats to see what works best while making careful and strategic choices based on your specific campaign, the audience you want to target, and the objective that you have in mind.