Audience Targeting Tips for Reaching Those Who Matter Most on LinkedIn

November 15, 2016

Audience Targeting

Getting your message to the right people on social media can seem like playing catch in the dark. At best, you can see vague silhouettes of the people you’re pitching to; at worst, you close your eyes and take your chances.

That’s especially true for B2B marketers. Most social media platforms don’t have the demographic information to precisely target a business message.

At LinkedIn, we turn the lights on. Our members self-report their job history, industry, title, level of experience, and much more. We know that giving marketers access to that information improves the experience for everyone. Our members want valuable content, and marketers want a receptive audience. The right targeting brings the two together.

Refining our targeting has been a key part of our team’s continual effort to improve advertising on LinkedIn. We make targeting part of our testing routine, continually trying new angles, evaluating, and optimizing based on the results. Now we’re ready to share what we’ve learned, to help you refine your strategy.

Here are some of our targeting best practices:

1. A/B Test Your Targeting

This is the biggest takeaway from our continued success, and it’s something many marketers overlook. If you’re A/B testing your headline, creative, images, landing pages, and everything else, don’t forget to include the audience in your testing.

It’s easy to create new campaigns on LinkedIn, so devote at least one to testing different ways of targeting your audience. Try filtering by skills versus job title, industry versus function, and with or without geographic limits. Keep refining over time, and you can find a more relevant audience without sacrificing reach.

Recommended: How to Use LinkedIn Targeting Tools to Optimize Performance

2. Start with Audience Expansion

Every campaign started in Campaign Manager includes an “audience expansion” option. Select this option and LinkedIn’s algorithms will find additional audience members who are similar to those you are already targeting. When you’re just beginning to test and refine, use this option to reach a broader but still relevant audience. Not only does it expand your reach, it generates more data so you can optimize more purposefully.

3. Use Click Demographics to Fine-Tune

After you have accumulated enough data with a wide audience, check the Click Demographics tab in Campaign Manager. You will be able to see how your content is performing with different subsets of your audience.

Use this information to inform your content plan—if you’re reaching a big audience, but getting the most clicks from an irrelevant segment, your content may need to be more focused. If you are seeing a response from your most relevant audience, you can tighten your targeting on that audience and increase your spend strategically.

4. Personalize within Your Audience

When targeting a broad audience, think of how you can call out specific subsets of that audience to encourage a response. For example, when we were promoting our Rethink the B2B Buyer’s Journey eBook, we knew it would be of interest to marketers in various industries.

So we ran three versions of the ad, with the creative tweaked slightly to call out tech marketers and financial industry marketers:

We saw a much higher engagement rate from the two targeted versions than the generic one. So if your content serves  a particular subset of your audience, make sure to let them know.

Targeting Tips:

To go with the big ideas above, here are some quick tips we learned by trying, failing, and trying again:

  • Don’t hyper target. You may raise your conversion rate, but if the audience size is too small, it can still be a net loss.
  • Align your content and targeting strategy. Ideally, your content will be created with targeting in mind and a strategy baked in.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment. Try different demographics and levels of seniority. Go for decision makers, then go for decision influencers. It’s easy to create campaigns and tweak settings—be creative.
  • Target seniority rather than age. Seniority is more likely to be accurately reported, and more likely to reflect what you’re looking for. Targeting by age can reduce your audience by up to 90%. It’s not worth narrowing down that far.

When advertising on LinkedIn, you have access to first-party reported demographic data from our 430 million members. More importantly, you have the targeting tools to reach the members most relevant to your message. Use the tips in this article to refine your targeting and market to who matters most to your business.

For more LinkedIn marketing tips from our team to yours, download our eBook, Spotlight on Tactics: A LinkedIn Advertising Guide.

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