LinkedIn Advertising 101: Targeting

July 27, 2016

LinkedIn Advertising 101: Targeting

If you’re a B2B marketer, your audience is on LinkedIn. Eighty percent of leads that B2B marketers source through social media come from LinkedIn. So it should come as no surprise that 92% of B2B marketers leverage LinkedIn over all other social platforms.

The potential for success is clear. From enterprise-level organizations to small businesses, being active on LinkedIn is a no-brainer for B2B marketers.

Part of why LinkedIn is so valuable as a marketing platform is its massive audience—over 400 million members and counting in reach. A major part of the equation is your ability to focus that audience to the most relevant segment for your message. Profile-based experience, employment and education attributes connect you with those with whom your message will resonate the most. Strategic targeting leads to better message reception, better engagement, and higher conversion rates.

Like all digital marketing, finding your sweet spot on LinkedIn takes experimentation and exploring your audiences beyond the convention. In the end, what works best will vary depending on your business size and industry. That said, these tips (and our LinkedIn targeting cheat sheets) can help you get started.

How to Avoid Hypertargeting

When you first look at the targeting options for marketing on LinkedIn, it’s natural to want to pick as many selections as possible. That way, you can really zero in those most likely to convert, right?

It’s a good instinct, but if you choose too narrow an audience, you’ll miss out on valuable learnings and will limit your reach significantly. A common targeting mistake is to over target director and executive audiences, while leaving out the critical individual contributor decision influencers. The executive audience is often oversaturated with the noise of marketing messages and instead look to their teams to filter recommendations and even decisions. Consider targeting the individual contributor and manager audiences, but combine it with years of experience to focus on experts in their field.

A solid approach to any targeted campaign is to A/B test. Start with two or three essential criteria for your first experiment.

As you add different targeting options for your campaign, you will see an estimate of the potential audience selected. Consider that most successful campaigns have an audience range between 60k and 400k — the sweet spot between hypertargeting and potentially sacrificing relevance. Your content strategy will play a huge role in the audience selection and sizing process since your message will vary depending on who is most likely to find it relevant.

The type-ahead and suggested key-words help guide you through the selection process of targeting options like skills, job titles, company names and groups. It’s a good idea to choose at least one or two of these suggestions to capture relevant audience members you might have otherwise missed.

If your campaign is not getting the scale you need to achieve your goals, consider enabling Audience Expansion. Audience Expansion can take the guesswork out of deciding which audiences to target. Simply check the box that says, “Help my campaign reach new audiences similar to my targeting criteria with Audience Expansion” at the bottom of your targeting selection page, and Campaign Manager will find audiences that are similar to your selected targeting criteria. Audience Expansion will even serve impressions to more members based on who’s most likely to click on your content to begin with.

Starting with a broader target audience allows you to refine targeting over time based on engagement rather than hunches.

A/B test and test again

With so many targeting combinations to choose from, it can be hard to know how to zero in on an audience that that will work best for your content. For starters, it’s a good idea to focus more on business identifiers and less on demographics like age and gender. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Geography/Titles: When using job titles as part of your audience set-up, consider leaving off other criteria since you are already being very specific. Consider adding in Years of Experience to focus in on seasoned professionals. A great option to A/B test against job titles would be to use geography + skills.

  • Geography/Company Size/Seniority: Be mindful of seniority levels as they may vary depending on the size of the company or even the industry. Consider A/B testing against alternatives like Years of Experience + function .

  • Geography/Industry/Function: Incorporating industry into your targeting mix will focus on employees who work at the company within that industry. Industry targeting is useful when your product is only relevant to companies within a specific industry. Ex: Software for real estate companies.

Analyze, Optimize, Repeat

Once you select your target audience and begin the campaign, keep a close eye on the analytics dashboard to see how your selected audience is responding. You may need to refine your criteria, add more restrictions, or target a wider audience to get the best results.

Just remember that refinement and improvement is an ongoing process. It may take a few iterations to see the results you’re seeking, but with careful analysis and adjustment, you can get there. Your audience is on LinkedIn. And we’re here to help you identify and engage them.

To learn more about maximizing your reach on LinkedIn, download The LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Platform Overview.