How to Create and Design Effective LinkedIn Sponsored Content

November 28, 2016

“We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in.”  — Craig Davis

Native advertising has become the last, best hope of marketers besieged by ad blockers and ad-blind consumers. When properly created and deployed, native advertising provides the same experience for an audience as the rest of the content they’re already reading. It’s not overly promotional. It brings real value. It invites conversation and social sharing.

In a Content Marketing Institute survey, over 80% of marketers agreed that native ads can build audiences, drive action, and help promote other content marketing efforts. Native advertising on LinkedIn combines the effectiveness of the format with LinkedIn’s targeting and distribution capabilities.

The LinkedIn Marketing Solutions team doesn’t just advocate for native advertising. We use it to promote our best content. We have worked to make Sponsored Content a tool that gets results for all marketers—including us.

Here’s how our team creates and designs Sponsored Content.

Sponsored Content Strategy

Before you create the actual native ad, use these tips to strategically create the content you will be linking.

Start with Goals in Mind

Your Sponsored Content strategy should serve specific, quantifiable goals. LinkedIn will help with tracking and analytics to measure your progress. But it’s important to start with a destination in mind.

Sponsor Top-Performing Content

It may seem intuitive to use Sponsored Content to boost content that isn’t finding an organic audience. In reality, the content most likely to be effective is your top-performing organic content. Think of it this way: top-performing content has proven to connect with your target audience, so it’s more likely to find a wider audience once sponsored.

Appeal to the Professional Mindset

LinkedIn members are here to further their professional goals. They want high-value content that will help them be more productive or successful. Make sure the content you promote has an immediate, obvious professional benefit for your audience to compel a click.

Be Mobile-Friendly

Your Sponsored Content will look great in a member’s feed. LinkedIn’s mobile app has that part handled. It’s important to make sure the experience will be consistent when the member taps your link to bring up the full content. Test your content for speed of loading, readability, and display on mobile devices.

Collect Enough Data to Optimize

Optimization over time is a crucial part of a successful Sponsored Content strategy. This optimization is only possible if you have enough data to generate meaningful insights. We recommend including four posts at a minimum in each campaign. Then run campaigns for two to three weeks, giving your content ample chance to appear in members’ feeds.

Sponsored Content Design

Use these design cues to make sure your ad appeals to the audience you want to reach on LinkedIn.

The Visual Component is Key

Sponsored Content with a visual tends to perform much stronger than plain text. Look for an image that is eye-catching but still relevant to the ad copy. It’s a good idea to avoid bland stock photography—clichéd images are almost as bad as no image. For the best appearance, your image should be 1200x627 pixels.

Keep the Copy Short

The window of opportunity for native ads is short—it’s important to grab the reader’s interest immediately. An arresting visual will help. Boost its effectiveness with short, punchy copy that grabs attention and offers an immediate benefit or intriguing mystery. It’s best to keep headlines under 60 characters and your copy under 150.

Ask a Question or Cite a Stat

These are two time-tested openers that are proven to increase click-through rates. Ask a question—one that creates mystery, courts controversy, or provokes curiosity. Cite a statistic that points to the urgent need your content was created to address. Better yet, combine the two. “Only 37% of marketers have a documented content strategy. Are you ready to join them?”

It’s Okay to Be Funny

As I said earlier, audiences come to LinkedIn with a professional mindset. That doesn’t mean that everything has to be bland and corporate, though. You can be professional and still let your brand’s personality shine through. If humor is consistent with your brand voice, don’t be shy about being funny. We’ve enjoyed great success with tongue-in-cheek content. For example, one of our top performing ads is undeniably silly:

The content that this ad promotes was so popular, a year later we’re still in the top search results on Google for “George Costanza.”

Native advertising is a powerful tool for modern marketers, and native advertising on LinkedIn has even more potential. Make the most of LinkedIn’s platform: Strategically creating appealing content for a business audience, then promote it with personality and a compelling hook.

To learn more about optimizing your native advertising, download Native Advertising: What It Is. How to Do It.