The end of the beginning for LinkedIn as a marketing channel?

The end of the beginning for LinkedIn as a marketing channel?

LinkedIn is no longer just about jobs. With revenues up 42% and ad revenues up 61% year-on-year, its Marketing Solutions business is in a great position to evolve the platform. But the cost of marketing on LinkedIn, especially in the UK and US, is spiralling. So is this the end of LinkedIn’s beginning and does it still represent value to marketers?

Although originally set up as an ad business, LinkedIn’s Marketing Solutions is moving away from job listings and towards being an engagement platform for professionals with jobs at the centre.

This has partly been sparked by the pandemic, says Kinda Jackson, MD of Social, Digital and Influencers at Brands2Life, LinkedIn’s long-term PR agency and the team behind LinkedIn’s now global Changemakers campaign (see video).

Kinda says, “People are now sharing a lot more of themselves. The platform is attracting around 130 new members a minute. And all of this is because work and home life is now intertwined.”

Changes in other social media, such as when Facebook removed the ability to target by job title, are also driving demand on the platform.

Firuza Shukarova, Head of Media at B2B marketing specialists Octopus Group, says, “Job titles are public information on LinkedIn.

“I don’t think it’s over-priced either. LinkedIn is one of the few channels on which you can target people yourself, without third-party data. And even though it’s a high cost-per-click the value is so high that cost per connection is not really that expensive.”

A growing B2C opportunity?

With 706 million professional members – and engagement rates rising continually since it was bought by Microsoft in 2016, the opportunity would appear to be greatest for B2B marketers.

Firuza argues this remains the case: “It’s a business focused environment so when you see an ad targeting your day-to-day job, it’s more likely to resonate,” she says.

But with investment into LinkedIn Audience Network, which helps advertisers extend reach with sponsored content campaigns, the B2C opportunity is growing. LinkedIn Audience Network works by reaching professionals off platform with content on a range of high-quality third-party publishers.

“A lot of high net worth individuals use the platform so luxury brands in particular do well on LinkedIn,” says Kinda.

Surpassing US$1 billion in ad revenues for the first time in 2021, 15% of that was derived from brands such as Louis Vuitton, Cartier and Mercedes-Benz.

LinkedIn marketing tips

So what do brands and individuals need to know to make a success of LinkedIn in the year ahead? First, the algorithm will inevitably change.

Kinda says, “LinkedIn is moving to a more human, ‘real world of professionalism’ approach. So for example, the algorithm now rewards real-life images not stock photos. And it is becoming way more visual, video-based, human and authentic, including through the use of more human panels.”

Company engagement is also up by almost 50% on last year.

Employees are posting on Company Pages and this is being driven by the pandemic; as in-person business disappears, online business grows. So companies are engaging their employees, building followings, and professionals are keen to understand companies, their products, services and cultures, as potential customers, suppliers and employees. The drive for talent acquisition is also growing at a steep pace.

All of these dynamics are making the year ahead look like it could be a milestone for the platform.

On this point, Kinda says, “Getting engagement early will help beat the algorithm.”

New tools

Part of the armoury that will deliver a great year for the platform is a suite of new tools that has been added to help advertisers take advantage of rising engagement levels. Options include a tool to boost posts with paid reach, a new Learning Hub aimed at professional development, and long from posting tools for company pages.

And for thought leaders looking to boost their presence, new creator tools and funding initiatives have also been added.

For brands looking to tap into the growing professional and increasingly engaged LinkedIn audience Firuza advises preparing the fundamentals first.

“Understand your target persona because it can be expensive to test your audience on LinkedIn,” she says.

“If you do your persona workshop, audience segmentation, key pain points, the more ready you will be to target that persona so that all tweaks and optimizations will be focused on messaging and target companies instead of needing to change the whole targeting hierarchy.”

Kinda advises simply: “Get in now, get organic right, dabble in paid and get your following established.”