5 Less-Than-Obvious LinkedIn Targeting Tactics to Start Using Today

July 24, 2019

Strategies are an ever-present talker in marketing circles, probably because there are so many to account for and consider. 

We have our big honkin’ ones, like our corporate and general marketing strategies; our mostly ubiquitous ones, like content marketing, social media, search, and employee advocacy strategies; our situational ones, like tradeshow, guerrilla, and affiliate marketing strategies; and our day-to-day ones, like the strategies we craft for singular campaigns, emails, and blog posts. 

And then there’s targeting strategy. Where does this fit in? 

Well, you could argue that targeting strategy is among the most important of them all because without it, every strategy above and the dozens not listed are incomplete. But just because targeting is part of every strategy, doesn’t automatically make it strategic. 

Without proper targeting, you can craft what would’ve been a captivating message, add impeccable timing, and it’d be all for naught. That is, the message would’ve worked if only the right people would’ve seen it at the right time. And then there are the somewhat successful campaigns that could’ve been blockbusters if only the team would’ve explored and tested more targeting options.  

With so many ways to reach the right people these days, it’s time to give our targeting strategies the attention they deserve. Here are five LinkedIn targeting tips and tricks to start using today. 

Stack Your Parameters (But Not Too High)

There are a few rules of three out there, such as those for presentation layout, solving math problems, even making people laugh. For whatever reason, the number three seems to have been blessed with magical powers. So it should come as no surprise that it’s a good rule to follow for targeting on LinkedIn as well. 

Once you’ve selected your location (targeting parameter #1), shoot for two additional targeting parameters. At the very least, select one additional parameter as to not target too broadly. At the very most, limit yourself to two additional parameters (three total) as to not hyper-target. Using every targeting feature may feel right when you’re doing it, but time and again we see campaigns hampered by limited scale. The better approach is to target broadly enough where you can see what’s working and then refine as you go. 

As for targeting combinations to try, here are a few visual examples from our latest guide to LinkedIn’s targeting capabilities

By stacking job function with seniority, Campaign 1 will reach all sorts of senior leaders across the marketing job function, as well as media and communication. When the real-time campaign performance and demographic data starts to roll in, the campaign owner can use the results to prioritize and deselect targeting parameters with confidence. As you might imagine, beginning this broadly gives you the opportunity to engage relevant leaders whose titles you may not have otherwise thought of. 

As we look through the next two examples, let’s try to figure out what the goal of each campaign might be based on its targeting parameters. 

The targeting parameters for Campaign 2 might be ideal for a brand awareness campaign run by a company whose ideal customer profile is technology companies with under 200 employees. 

The targeting parameters for Campaign 3 might work great for a company whose offering appeals to a broad base of B2B marketers. This could work for an awareness campaign, or perhaps a consideration-stage campaign in which the goal is to get the most possible B2B marketers with specified skills to view your video. 

Expand Your Targeted Reach through Audience Expansion and Lookalike Audiences

No matter how well you understand your audience, it’s nearly impossible to create targeting parameters that include everyone you want to reach. While the accuracy of the professional data on LinkedIn is unmatched, there are variables (like creative or unknown job titles) that might cause us to exclude important people from our campaigns. 

By using Audience Expansion and lookalike audiences, you make it possible for your content to be seen by people who are similar to your target audience in their demographics and interests. As a result, your ad gets seen by more members who are likely to be interested in your content, thereby increasing the scale and effective reach of your campaign. 

Here’s how to use both features:

  • Click the “Enable Audience Expansion” button when you’re selecting from the profile-based targeting options. Doing so will help you reach similar audiences to your selected options. 

  • Lookalike audiences work best when you already have a high performing audience. This might be a list of people who’ve already been to your website, people who’ve downloaded something from your site, or it could just be a tailored account list. The lookalike audiences feature automatically finds LinkedIn members who fit right in with the rest of the people and companies on your high-performing lists. 

Use Content Suggestions and Groups to Inform Interest Targeting

Interest Targeting lets you target your ads to LinkedIn members based on — you guessed it — their interests. You don’t need help pointing out the obvious interests – if you sell sales training, your audience is into sales – but there may be hidden interests which, if discovered, allow you to reach more of the right people in creative ways. 

Discovering these latent interests can be fairly easy when you use two free features: Content Suggestions and Groups. 

Content Suggestions is built right into the admin of your LinkedIn Page – it surfaces content your audience members have shown a desire for. The main purpose is to help you engage your target audience across LinkedIn, but an added benefit is that it gives you insight into audience interests you may not have known about. 

Groups can also be leveraged a few ways for strategic targeting. First, you can select groups as its own targeting parameter. If you’d like to reach entrepreneurs, there are several entrepreneurship-oriented groups you can select to do so. Examining Group activity, particularly the popular threads within each group, can also clue you into corollary interests you’re not currently aware of.

Suppose you learn that a surprisingly high percentage of your audience is talking about Adobe Photoshop and have been clicking, liking, and sharing content about it. Knowing this, you might create an ad campaign that highlights a connection between your offering and this product. To find new audiences and build awareness among the right people, you might be wise to select the “Adobe Photoshop Group” as a targeting parameter, or to consider targeting by the interests, “computer graphics” and “special effects,” as well. So many possibilities… 

Use Account Targeting to Run Account-Based Marketing Campaigns

The basic idea behind account-based marketing (ABM) is to increase brand awareness and share of voice among key contacts, and overall buying committees, at the specific companies on your list. It’s a strategic targeting approach in its own right. It becomes even more strategic when you reach key executives and other decision makers with personalized content. 

If you have a target list of accounts, use Account Targeting to run ABM campaigns, reach decision makers, and drive more qualified leads. Does your account list feel incomplete? Account Targeting will match your target companies against more than 13 million LinkedIn Pages to surface new prospects. 

A/B Testing = Always Be Testing!

The key to reaching the right LinkedIn members and making it count is to adopt an “always testing” mindset. Again, this is why it pays to target your campaign more broadly at the start and then refine as you go. None of the recommendations we offer are one-size-fits-all. That’s why it’s so crucial to test and figure out what works for you. 

A/B test your targeting by running two similar campaigns with a single variation in your targeting options. Anything more can skew the results. Do this by creating your campaign, duplicating it, and then making that one tweak to your targeting parameters. For instance, you could see if your results improve when you target based on interests instead of job titles, or target by industry instead of function. 

Starting today, try to invest a little more time and mental energy into your targeting strategy and testing. I think you’ll find these investments to be more than worthwhile. I also suggest beginning with our latest guide, Reach Your Audience: Targeting on LinkedIn. It’s jam-packed with knowledge and examples, and because there’s no form to fill, you can start reading it in two clicks.