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Small Business Win: Advertising on LinkedIn

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By Townes Haas   |    February 17, 2015   |    12:00 PM

It is hard to believe that LinkedIn, the premium professional social networking site, is more than 10 years old. In 2014 alone, the company boosted its number of users to over 300 million. Perhaps just as surprising is that the company, with profits that jumped over 30 percent in 2014, reported that company page use went up from 24 percent to 57 percent. Just having a company page—which doesn't cost a penny and frequently appears at the top of many Google searches for companies—is virtually free exposure. But why stop there? LinkedIn has rapidly become one of the hottest markets in the world for advertising, with some industry experts predicting that it could very well become a one billion dollar marketplace in the near future. That makes the social network an ideal target for business-to-business (B2B) advertising. Let's take a look at how to get started advertising on LinkedIn.

First, Define Your Campaign

As with most major advancement in business, one of the most common mistakes companies make is not planning their approach. Just throwing up an ad without aligning your exposure with your business goals and market model can quickly lead to wasted effort and misplaced investment. There are a couple of choices to be made here. First is to look at the difference between straightforward advertisements for your business and sponsored content.

An advertisement is just what it sounds like: a way to reach a targeted audience with messages that feature text, images or videos that are designed to drive your potential clients and customers either to your LinkedIn page or your company website. Note that this also means time and effort that needs to be invested in creating and editing a robust company page as well as a personal page in order to edit it. There are several other requirements for setting up a company page on LinkedIn, so you will want to study those as well.

An alternative to traditional advertising is to access LinkedIn's Sponsored Updates and Direct Sponsored Content. Through these channels, companies can distribute more complex material like blog posts, videos and white papers, which is more of a strategy to pull the appropriate customers to your site by engaging them with genuine content rather than messaging. This also allows your company to target your audience not just by geography or type of industry, but really drill down to identify specific companies and their size but also to engage individuals based on their job title, job function and seniority level in order to reach the real decision makers.

Next, Create your Advertisement

Now it's time to create your ad, but there are limits, so you will want to be very careful as to what you say about your company or product. LinkedIn limits your ad to just 25 words for the headline and 75 words of body content, so that means you want messaging that conveys a sense of urgency but is also useful, unique and delivers its messages in a precise way. Keep in mind, too, that social media is often a very visual medium, so a picture or a video may be a more powerful medium by which to deliver your advertisement. LinkedIn suggests at least three variations of your advertisement, and allows the creation of up to 15 variants. You can look over LinkedIn's advertising guidelines to learn more about the kinds of language, photos and other content is recommended by LinkedIn.

Set your Budget and Turn Your Ad Loose

For each campaign you run on LinkedIn, you pay for clicks using one of two methods, either Pay per click (PPC) or Pay per impressions (CPM). You also set a bid, which is the amount you are willing to pay for a click or for 1,000 impressions. The minimum cost per click is currently $2.00.

Finally, you definitely want to measure the performance of your advertisement on LinkedIn. A good indicator of your ad's performance is its click-through rate (CTR). As a rule of thumb, well-performing ads on LinkedIn have a CTR better than 0.025 percent. You can also tweak your ad's performance by experimenting with different variations of the ad, narrowing your target audience, and refreshing your ads regularly.

Are you a small business owner? Share your own LinkedIn advertising tips in the comments!

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