Welcome to the LinkedIn Ads Show
On this episode, we’re going to be talking about the history of LinkedIn’s ads platform.
Resources for this week:
Webinar LinkedIn released recently talking through the 2020 product roadmap: https://business.linkedin.com/marketing-solutions/webinars/20/01/linkedin-marketing-product-roadmap
Infographic LinkedIn released about the history of LinkedIn Ads: https://business.linkedin.com/marketing-solutions/blog/linkedin-news/2019/introducing-_a-brief-history-of-advertising-on-linkedin–infogra
Contact us at Podcast@B2Linked.com with ideas for what you’d like AJ to cover.
Hey there LinkedIn ads fanatics. Oh man, I hope this isn’t gonna be a boring episode, we’re going to be walking through the history of LinkedIn ads up until this point, as well as the roadmap of what its development is going to look like here in the next quarter, half and even the whole year of 2020. Now, I super geek out over this stuff. And I’m not sure who else in the world even cares about this like me. So I’m guessing this will either be the least downloaded episode of the entire podcast, or one of the resources that everyone ends up linking to and citing later on. So hopefully, it’s the latter. But if this is not interesting at all, just skip to the end where we talk about the future roadmap as I think that’s going to be interesting for sure.
Now, I’ve kept the history of all of this going back as far as I can remember. And I was also really helped by an infographic that LinkedIn created in 2019, that I’ve linked to in the show notes. So definitely worth having a check at that. And also check out the roadmap webinar that LinkedIn released recently. I’m a LinkedIn partner. So I get, you know, pretty good access to the roadmap coming up. But I’m also under a pretty strict NDA with them. So I don’t ever know what I have permission to share and what I don’t so because it’s been shared in the roadmap webinar here, I feel like I have an open license to go ahead and talk about it. So I’m hoping that I’m accurate there. And you guys should be really excited about what’s coming up. All right, let’s hit it.
Alright, so we’re going way, way back here. May 5 of 2003 is when LinkedIn as a company launched that was when the network was open to the public. And it wasn’t until 2005 when LinkedIn released their first ad product. They call it LinkedIn display ads, (I think it might have actually been called direct ads). And they are what we see as a 300×250 banner image on LinkedIn. Still, it’s not inventory that LinkedIn owns its inventory that LinkedIn has leased out to the programmatic exchanges. So you could go through programmatic and buy really limited audiences on LinkedIn now. And back when this was its own thing you had to do as a direct buy from LinkedIn. And this was the only option. So you’d go to a LinkedIn Marketing Solutions rep or consultant, you’d sign a quarter long insertion order or an IO, and you get access to those.
Then in July of 2008, LinkedIn launched their text ads product, which is fundamentally the exact same text ad product that we have today. And this was in a self service platform. So you didn’t go right to a LinkedIn rep which is fantastic. Although this whole time you could buy through a rep if that was Something you wanted to do. Not a whole lot interesting happened until April of 2010, when LinkedIn released the ability to follow companies. And then in October of 2011, companies could release their own status updates, which is what they called them. Now, we would just call that posting from your your company page.
And the reason why these are interesting is because you can see the evolution of how company pages become what we rely on for advertising on LinkedIn, through the sponsored content product, but we’ll get there. In September of 2012, LinkedIn came out with a skills endorsement, which allows us to start endorsing each other for skills that someone has. So if I had the skill of LinkedIn advertising or social marketing, you could come and hit plus on that. And it’s a little bit of social proof just showing that I know something about that topic. And certainly it wasn’t the end all be all. A lot of people still have questions about skills, but the reason why that’s near and dear to my heart is skills is one of the top types of targeting that I like to do on LinkedIn. I know it’s not super specific about someone. But if I’m trying to reach, let’s say, digital marketers, I can’t do that very well through job function that’s going to get me too wide of an audience and job title. I’m not going to be able to get people by titles like PPC, but for paid search, paid media, those types of titles don’t exist on LinkedIn. There is some work on that behind the scenes that you can’t see, but you don’t have a whole lot of trust knowing something’s happening there. But skills I can target those types of skills. And so I’m glad back in 2012, that we started to get access to these skills.
Just the next month in October of 2012. LinkedIn released their influencer program and anyone who is an influencer, you can see because they have the little “In” symbol next to their name on their LinkedIn profile. These were essentially what I call business celebrities. These are people like Richard Branson. Bill Gates, Barack Obama – he types of people that you would really look up to in business. LinkedIn reached out to them and said, Hey, we want to make you influencers, we want to give you access to this thing where you could actually write a blog post an article that’s on your LinkedIn profile. And this became something that the rest of the public, all of us would get access to a couple years later in 2014, but we’ll get there as well.
Now, this is one that many of you may not know, in October of 2012. LinkedIn also released video ads. Yes, they beat everyone to the video ads game. LinkedIn had video ads within their text ads. So you would click on the text ad itself, and that little 50 by 50 pixel image would open up and turn into something that took up the whole 300 by 250 block of ads, and you could watch that video. I am unable to find the date that they sunsetted that it was very quiet. It was just one day you stopped being able to buy video ads on LinkedIn. And obviously it didn’t work very well. And I’m sure it was a heck of a lot cheaper than it is today. But it just didn’t catch on. I think LinkedIn was way early to the game. I do wish they would have continued that so that they could have been absolutely killing the video ads game by now, you know, eight years later, but that’s what happens. But hey, I wasn’t part of those conversations.
At some point in 2012, LinkedIn released their ads API to some very core partners. And I believe I could be wrong here. There might have been a couple more, but I believe it was only a slate of four core partners to begin with: AdStage.io, salesforce.com, Adobe, and a company called Brand Networks were the only API partners I was aware of at that time.
Now, this opened up the network, I think Salesforce and Adobe, were using it all for internal stuff, AdStage is a platform that lots of advertisers used and use to help manage their spend and manage their reporting. So this became the beginning of tools that we actually get to use, we’ll do an episode all about tools, because I’m just I use every single one and absolutely love them. But that was the beginning of this.
Okay. In April of 2013, LinkedIn acquired a little company called Pulse. And what that allowed them to do was to start putting content and news in your newsfeed based off of who you are. So pulse was a news network, they would tell you the headlines of the day. Well, when LinkedIn purchased them, they said, Hey, if you are a marketer, we want to start showing you stuff that’s about marketing. And we’re not going to show you world headlines about what’s happening in Syria right now. So that really put LinkedIn on a trajectory to become a content sharing network, a social network, rather than just a place that you go to update your resume and when you’re looking for a job.
Then in July of 2013, just three short months later, LinkedIn launched an ad format called Sponsored Updates, which is now called sponsored content. Now, this one is especially near and dear to my heart, because not only are sponsored content my favorite ad format, it’s the most versatile, it’s by far the best for most people. I was also the very first one to ever launch one of these ads. I was in the early early pilot program. And I stayed at work really late one night working with a LinkedIn engineer to make sure that I got to be the first one who could launch one of these things once they are on the ground. So super excited about sponsored updates, which has now been rebranded as sponsored content.
Later that month, LinkedIn released the ability for company page admins to actually be able to comment as the company. Before that when you shared something as a company, and then tried to reply it would come from you personally.
Okay, then we fast forward several months to February of 2014 when LinkedIn released this long form content publishing to all so it wasn’t just the influencers, the business celebrities who got access to this. Now all of us can do it. And I highly encourage you to do this because as many of you I’m sure know, the content that you share on LinkedIn as a post has high virality right now a lot of reach, but it’s like a flash in the pan. You get a lot of virality, you get a lot of great interactions very quickly, and then it just dies out. But these articles, they really have a long shelf life. And especially early on, they went viral. They don’t really as much anymore. But certainly it’s worth having one or two in your repertoire.
In July of 2014, LinkedIn sunsetted, two really interesting features that I’m sure you’ll understand why they are interesting. So first of all, LinkedIn had something called LinkedIn Audience Network (LAN) before this. And this was a partnership with sites off of LinkedIn where you could show your content, you can show your ads to people who were LinkedIn members, highly targeted, but they were not currently on LinkedIn. And this is great for reach because people did not go to LinkedIn super often. They didn’t spend a lot of time there, like they did on Facebook. So LAN was cool. But apparently people weren’t using it or they were having troubles with it, whatever that was in July of 2014. They shut that down.
They also had something called lead capture from their ads, where at that point, you could have someone fill out a form right within the ad itself, and it would be delivered to the ad account. I never got a chance to use that. And so I’m not quite sure how it worked. But this is vaguely reminiscent of a current feature called LinkedIn lead gen form ads, which it seems like LinkedIn really adopted this because it was so successful on Facebook, it was pretty successful on Twitter before Twitter, for some reason, took it back down, but realize that LinkedIn was the original here back in 2014 they had lead capture and because it wasn’t being used, or whatever that reason was in 2014, in July they sunsetted it so we lost access to audience network, as well as this lead capture feature.
Also that month. LinkedIn announced that it was acquiring a retargeting company called BIZO, this was really exciting. I remember Jeff Weiner, the CEO talking about how he was certain that by acquiring biz, oh, they were going to have a technology that would take them to their goal of $2 billion in ad revenue per quarter. This was really the beginning of some great things. And also some bad things, which we’ll get to here in just a moment.
A few months later, in November of 2014, LinkedIn released their field of study and degree targeting, which is fantastic for those who are in higher ed. They realized that when people come and fill out their profiles, they’re telling them where they go to school, and what they studied and what degree they got. And LinkedIn said, hey, for these higher ed advertisers that make a lot of sense, who have large budgets, we’d love to give them some new targeting features. And so that was the first new additions in a long time.
In February of 2015, LinkedIn rolled out their what they called LinkedIn. Lead accelerator and the LinkedIn network display. These were just rebranded versions of Bizo so if you were a customer of LinkedIn where you work directly with their sales reps, you could get access to lead accelerator and network display. And nothing had changed from Bizo, they were just rebranding it and trying to work through it.
At the same time, they came out with audience expansion that was available for both sponsored content and text ads through the self service platform. Audience expansion, even early on was something I was not a fan of. I liked the idea behind it, but the way it was executed, did not make it something that I could use on a regular basis.
Then about half a year later, September of 2015, LinkedIn released their new campaign manager, it became publicly available. So I was actually part of this early on back in 2014. They were talking about this new interface redesign that they were calling MadMen and I followed the project very closely. LinkedIn was asking for my feedback on it. And it was so funny because all the way through 2014, all the way almost to the end of 2015, we were talking about this redesign called MadMen. And it finally released. LinkedIn moves a lot faster now, but you have to imagine after two years of waiting how elated I was to see this come to fruition. This was a redesign that fixed a lot of things, but also broke quite a few things, which is kind of what we are used to expecting with rollouts of new campaign manager updates.
Then we get into 2016. Not a whole lot happened until May. But in May, they released the years of experience targeting filter, as well as age, these are inferred targeting methods, meaning that they look at when you started your first position, and they do the math and say, Oh, this person is probably about this age, and they probably have this many years of experience. So I don’t love it, but I’m also a huge fan of any new filter criteria that they give us and you know, back in the days, and even really now, they don’t give new targeting all too often. So I’m sure grateful for what I get.
A few months later, in September of 2016, my dreams came true Ladies and gentlemen, LinkedIn released conversion tracking. This is something that I just begged them internally for four years. Please, please, please, we have low-rent affiliates that work from their basement who have built their own conversion tracking, please, please, please build conversion tracking. And all of those pleas fell on deaf ears.
LinkedIn early on recognized the vast majority of their very sophisticated partners “didn’t need conversion tracking”, because they were already doing it themselves. They were very technologically savvy and didn’t need the platform to increment a number for them. That of course was short sighted, and I’m so glad they corrected this in 2016. Ever since then, we’ve had the ability to see conversions within the platform, not having to rely on bringing in outside analytics and it has saved a combined hundreds of hours for me and my team over time. So thank you. Thank you LinkedIn for finally coming to your senses on that one.
A few months before that, though, LinkedIn had a little bit of an issue. They came out with a quarterly announcement about their earnings. And whatever they said, drastically reduced LinkedIn stock price in the stock market, it lost half of its value overnight, which is crazy. So what happened because of that is Microsoft then decided to purchase LinkedIn. So this was June of 2016. Microsoft announces that they are purchasing LinkedIn.
Now I was really curious why Microsoft why Microsoft is buying LinkedIn. I don’t understand that that relationship when Salesforce, Facebook and Google who all would have been amazing partners for LinkedIn advertising, when they were all overlooked and Microsoft was chosen as the purchaser.
It came out that Microsoft gave an all-cash offer of $26.2 billion dollars. From what I understand Salesforce, Google, and Facebook were all in the running, they all offered less and often with a combination of both cash and stock. And so Microsoft really came to the table with a strong offer of all cash and more money. So for years, I wondered why why Microsoft and we’re starting to see the synergies there that are really exciting, and I am glad it was Microsoft.
If you go back and listen to the earnings report that tanked their stock, it really came back to the fact that LinkedIn had decided to fold the Bizo platform out. It was not successful, it was costing too much to maintain, and they decided to drop Bizo. So this acquisition, they made of Bizo that brought some amazing talent to LinkedIn.
I mean, the reps before the Bizo acquisition, were not the quality reps that you get to deal with today. They were essentially selling sales people who have never run an ad in their life, and very few had a real understanding of LinkedIn’s ad platform.
When Bizo was acquired. This is a whole team of engineers, and sales folks and account managers who all understood advertising very technically. And all of those employees came to LinkedIn. I’m sure there was some fallout, but it raised the quality of employees at LinkedIn significantly. Now, you’d have reps who actually knew what you were talking about when you use terms like CPC and impression. Things improved significantly. Not saying that any rep who was there before was a total dummy. Certainly they they weren’t. I got to deal with several really intelligent reps. But I would say that the vast majority of them were not nearly as up to snuff as the Bizo team.
So when that team came in LinkedIn fully invested in the Bizo platform. They then kind of talked about it like it was a failure, they were folding it because it wasn’t going to get them to that $2 billion per quarter goals. And this seemed to me like a real stumble from LinkedIn executives. Because I didn’t see this as being a bad thing at all that they were folding Bizo, because they were essentially taking all of this retargeting technology that Bizo had built, And they’re integrating it into campaign manager for all of us to us who don’t have direct relationships with LinkedIn, where we’re signing IOs every quarter, and having an account that we don’t get admin access to. We don’t get to own. The vast majority of ad accounts out there for LinkedIn, are self service, and so I think this was ultimately a really good thing. The fact that they messaged it as a failure really tanked their stock price and open them up to being purchased, which seems crazy to me. I could have made really good news out of this, but that’s okay. I’m actually really glad that this happened.
Okay, then almost to the end of the year in 2016 in November, LinkedIn released sponsored inmail to campaign manager. So up to this point, you had the ability from campaign manager to run text ads, and single Image sponsored content. That was it. And so the availability of a new ad format to advertisers was really cool.
Now sponsored inmail early on was an absolute joke. This is it’s still paid on the same model. So it was a, you know, you pay a certain amount per send, with no guarantee that someone would see it or open it or click on it. So I was really really down on sponsored inmail coming into the platform because I knew it had been horribly unsuccessful for me earlier on.
To give you an idea sponsored in mail when it was purchased directly through a LinkedIn rap was $3, in order to send it to someone, and the vast majority of people on LinkedIn, were not active at the time. I don’t know if that’s still the case. So you would pay $3 to send it to someone’s inbox and it would live there for 60 days. And because most members were not active,they never even saw it. They didn’t even log in to see that they got something, let alone open it, let alone click on it.
So you can imagine at $3 a pop that was a giant waste of money. It was the only time I ever broke a contract with LinkedIn I was contracted to spend, you know, $10k or something on this pilot. And after the first $2k was spent, I told them cut the contract please – this is absolute garbage – it’s the worst investment I’ve ever made. This was of course fixed later, which is fantastic. Not only have prices been lowered, so it’s no longer $3 to send to someone, it’s oftentimes between about $.35 to $.85 here in North America. We’ve seen audiences as low as $.20, because this floor has actually been lowered several times now, because LinkedIn’s realizing that there are certain audiences, it just doesn’t make sense to charge as much for this.
It’s also only delivered to you if you are currently online. So if you are logged into your LinkedIn account, that is when you become eligible to receive one of these sponsored inmail message. And so it wasn’t hitting inactive members, and it actually became a decent ad format. Now, I certainly don’t recommend it the vast majority of the time because if you hold everything average, the cost per click on them is usually between about $22 to $58, which is very, very high, especially when you consider you can probably get traffic pretty reliably from sponsored content, for $8-11. So very high, but certainly has its place. And I was glad to get one more ad format, in our holster in our quiver.
Then we come into 2017. And in March of 2017, LinkedIn released something called lead gen form ads. Now this is what we mentioned earlier with the when they sunsetted lead capture, they were early to the game. This was years after Facebook had had a Facebook lead ads, they’ve been incredibly successful over there, advertisers love them. And so LinkedIn follows suit again, brings back the other product. And this time it was much, much more well baked and in fact, to the point where it’s taken now several years years of them being available. But I have on pretty good authority that LinkedIn sees about half of their customers are now using these lead gen form ads who are running sponsored content. So that’s half adoption, which is pretty incredible. On our side, we actually see about 60% of our, of our customers are relying on these lead gen form ads. So certainly this was a an incredibly successful release.
Then just a month later, LinkedIn releases something that was monumental called matched audiences. Now you probably understand matched audiences as being the email upload feature that Facebook had that Google had that Twitter had pretty much everyone already had this feature. They also released retargeting, which again, every other platform had retargeting. And the showing of retargeting wasn’t super well baked, but the one feature of matched audiences that was so cool and still is today is the account match. This is where you can upload company names. No other platform on the planet allows you to do it like this at this scale.
With LinkedIn, you can be so specific with your account based marketing. Now, let’s say even if you took the fortune 500, or the Inc 5000 list, you can now advertise just to them, which is super cool. So this was a very successful release, matched audiences continue to be a really big deal on LinkedIn. And they’ve even been upgraded a bit since.
Three months later, July of 2017, LinkedIn releases a refresh of the LinkedIn ads campaign manager interface. There were some things that got better, like the reporting interface got better. It was absolute garbage before it improved slightly. But what they got rid of that I’m really not excited about. I call this the Facebook refresh, because they got rid of the chart that was at the top. It used to be that in campaign manager, you would log in and you had this performance chart above at the top of all your campaigns. And you could always see how your ads were performing over time. was a customizable chart, you could choose to see by, you know, how much spend every day, how many conversions, how many, whatever. Very, very helpful. And in fact, in all of my experience with Facebook ads, that was one of the biggest asks I had for Facebook, which was, please, please, please give us a chart that makes it easy to actually see what how our performance is. A graph is great. If you’re looking at just the data as a snapshot, it doesn’t tell you the whole picture, and makes it really hard to understand without exporting to like a CSV and charting it in Excel.
So LinkedIn had this feature, but then when they refreshed campaign manager to look and act more like Facebook, unfortunately, they got rid of that chart. Now the chart is still there. It’s now just two or three clicks deeper, you now go into campaign manager, select the campaigns or the campaign group, or even just individual ads, and you click on performance chart and this will give it to you you’re not in, you’re not in the interface anymore. With all the rest of your campaigns. It’s a very separate kind of interface, you can’t see them all at the same time. But at least we still have access to the chart. And it is still useful. We use it really regularly.
That same month, LinkedIn also released something called website demographics. Now, this came out with very little fanfare, but it’s still one of my favorite features of LinkedIn ads platform. It’s really similar to what you’d expect from something like a Google Analytics or Facebook analytics. It’s a install the pixel on your website, and we will analyze your traffic and tell you something about it. But this is so different from Facebook and Google, because it’s this is who people are professionally. It’s not just where they’re located or what they’re interested in. We get to see, hey, of my traffic, how many people are C-level people, how many are CEOs, how many are in a sales department, how many are representing small companies or large companies. This is such a cool release. Very few people talk about this, but anyone without spending a dime can install website demographics on their their website and see what LinkedIn is showing them about who their website users actually are very cool, super underappreciated.
Then a couple months later, they relaunched LinkedIn audience network (LAN), so this was September of 2017. And we’ve had access to this ever since. It’s been upgraded a few times. It’s just about to get another big upgrade. And I don’t always recommend it, but certainly I’m glad we have access to it especially with small audiences or really competitive audiences.
Then in November of 2017, right there at the end of the year, they released lead gen forms for inmail. So when they very first released it, lead gen forms were only available for sponsored content ad units, and now they could be attached sponsored inmail, which made a lot of sense. This was a beautiful release.
Then we hit 2018 – ladies and gentlemen and are getting more and more modern here. In February of 2018. LinkedIn gives us the ability to edit sponsored content ads, this doesn’t sound like a big deal. But boy, if you were an advertiser back then it was a big deal. It took the entire year for them to roll out this feature to everyone. Some people got it in February, and then it kind of kept rolling out really slowly. But How cool was this to actually be able to edit an ad, I can’t tell you how many ads that had a wrong comma or something that a client caught. And all I wanted to do was just go in and remove the comma. But instead, I had to pause an ad, launch a brand new ad, that was just a copy that took up space, and then had to merge the data from the last one. Anyway, huge pain to not be able to edit things. This has been kind of an issue with LinkedIn over time, the ability to edit, but I’m really glad they’re moving in this direction.
Then in March of 2018, two cool things happen. First of all, we got the ability to target members who live in a location versus where they are currently located. So if you are on your mobile device, LinkedIn knows where you’re located because of your IP address, and this allows you to start targeting people by like, hey, if you live in Chicago, but you’re in San Francisco right now, we want to show you offers that you might still be interested in because you happen to be in San Francisco right now. Whereas before it would be, you know, if you were in London, but you lived in Chicago, even when you were in London, you would still see ads that were targeting you because you live in Chicago. So not a huge deal. But this nuance has been really helpful to us in several of our different ad initiatives.
We also later that month, got video ads on LinkedIn now video ads, I’m not super hot on them. But I’m excited to tell you at the end, the reason why I’m getting hotter on them. Video ads were late to the game. They had been so successful on Facebook, so successful on Twitter, so successful on YouTube, obviously, and LinkedIn just came late to the game. So March of 2018. We got those.
Then in May Just a couple short months later, LinkedIn released lead gen forms for desktop. The reason why this was interesting is when lead gen forms first came out, they only served to mobile devices. This was kind of cool, we had a little bit of a hack that we could use to try to hit desktop users only with sponsored content because of this, where we still don’t have access to bidding by device. But this was great that we had access now to show lead gen forms to everyone. It wasn’t just a helpful thing where on a mobile device, we’re saving them keystrokes – on desktop, we’re making it easier too. They also introduced integrations with Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics CRMs. So this is great because before this, and I don’t know how many partners they had at this time, but before this, it was really difficult to get your data out. So you’d go in every day to a CSV and download your list of leads. And by the time you reached out and contacted them, they’d already forgotten you existed. So your leads were really, really cold. So anytime you can get an integration with someone, especially that have a lot of users like Salesforce and dynamics, it’s a huge win.
Four months later, LinkedIn releases a new ad format. Yes, I’m always excited about new ad formats. So this is September of 2018. LinkedIn gave us dynamic ads, which were always something you could purchase from a LinkedIn Rep. But now we get them inside of the self service platform.
Dynamic ads came from the talent solutions side of the business, because they’re really good at getting people to want to apply for a job with you. They take your face, and they stick it into the ad and they say something like, hey, imagine yourself at HP. And it worked so well on the talent solutions side, that marketing solutions said, hey, let’s try using this as an ad format that marketers can use to try to get people to engage with their content or with their companies. So they bring it over. But the difference is the dynamic ads they take up all three slots of a text ad. So as in a block of text ads, you have three ads that are all, you know, a third of that block, essentially. And dynamic ads take up the whole 300 by 250 block. So they essentially have to be worth when they’re clicked three times what you’d pay for a text ad. But they’re in this inventory that’s over in the right rail that so few people see. So few people engage with that they have really low engagement rates, but then they cost a crap ton. I think that’s a technical term. So dynamic ads, I’m definitely not hot on but again, I’m grateful for any sort of new ad format or anything we get that we can start playing with.
Then LinkedIn finished out the year in November of 2018. They started putting everyone on a public beta for the new objectives that they called objective based advertising or OBA. Now I’m going to be releasing some interviews with LinkedIn product folks here in the next little bit, and we will use the term OBA quite a bit. So make sure you understand, OBA just means their objective-based new platform, this was an open beta, so it automatically enrolled you in it. But you could at least for the next three months, you could opt out and go back to the old version of the platform.
Part of this release was a whole overhaul to how campaign manager looked. And we also got some bulk actions, which is really cool. You could select multiple campaigns or multiple ads, and bulk pause or bulk activate. 2018 was a pretty big year for LinkedIn ads all in.
In July, I forgot to mention this one July, we got access to carousel ads, which was a variant of sponsored content, where you can put multiple images in the same ad. There’s very little value, I feel like from a carousel ad on LinkedIn, but again, it’s nice to have that flexibility to be able to use something else, something that’s different. They did like it because it was from Facebook and Facebook seem to be having success with it. So it was an easy rollout, I think for LinkedIn.
And then right there at the end of the year. They also released a new pages release where the pages became not so limited, they used to be called company pages, you were only allowed to have one if you were a company. And you only had a few fields really, you could fill out you had your logo, the name of your company, a small description, how many employees you had, and where you were located. That was pretty much it. And so you couldn’t screw up a company page at that point. But at the end of 2018, they released pages as something where Hey, you can actually make this a little bit more yours. There’s a lot more fields, you can fill out a lot more flexibility here. So 2018, fantastic year for LinkedIn.
And then we get into 2019, which is a lot more recent in my memory, and we’ll get to talk about these things in a little bit more detail.
All right now we’re on to 2019, which is getting pretty recent, really easy to remember all these things. So first is right at the beginning of the year, we got interest targeting. Interest targeting as we discussed in the last episode is pretty broad. So I may not use it as a primary targeting characteristic, but it’s pretty good to layer on to things. There might even be a specific interest that you’re wanting to target around. So it could be really useful.
And then just a month later, LinkedIn released LinkedIn live. Now LinkedIn live is really interesting because it It has been an application process, and will seemingly always be an application process to get access to LinkedIn live. So why are we talking about this on the LinkedIn ads show? Well, right now, it is something that you can apply for personally. And if you’re spending money as a company and you have a rep, you can request that your company page gets access to LinkedIn live as well. And we have no monetization around this yet. But I have to imagine at some point, LinkedIn is going to give us an ad format that would allow us to promote or boost our LinkedIn lives. So that’s interesting from a future perspective, but certainly, I’m not aware of any plans to do that, yet.
Then a month later in March of 2019, LinkedIn forced everyone over to the new OBA or objective based advertising layout, you couldn’t switch back to the old interface anymore. And that was a very sad day for me. The lookalikes though, they released look alikes, which is pretty cool. I was part of the beta for probably six months before that. And look, I don’t think that there’s a really good reason for LinkedIn to have lookalikes other than just to have the feature for those who liked it on Facebook. When your targeting is so good like LinkedIn’s, you don’t really need look alikes all that much. They don’t provide a whole lot of value. But we do certainly use them in some cases where maybe we don’t have a great targeting facet around who it is we’re trying to go after, and I look like gives us some semblance of that.
We also got audience templates. Now this is interesting. I like to call audience templates, a bit of a yard sale or a garage sale, as you might call it. You know, you look in the audience templates and you might see one that’s like, oh, if I want to target nurses, there’s one for that. If I want to target event planners, there’s something for that. So really go take a look at the audience templates, just see if there’s anything that really is a good fit for your audience. You never know what you’re going to find. You just have to read through them and and see what’s there. There’s not a whole lot of organization.
Okay. And then in May of 2019, LinkedIn released the ads tab on the company page. And this was all in the sake of transparency. Oh, I got so excited about this release. And the reason why is because I get asked all the time by people, hey, what are my competitors doing? Are my competitors advertising? And my answer was always actually, I can’t tell you that. I don’t know. Unless I am in the profile that they are looking to target, then I wouldn’t ever see their ads, I wouldn’t know. But then after Facebook got drug before Congress, and LinkedIn looks at that and goes, ooh, we never want to get drug in front of Congress and have to testify. They preemptively added the ads tab for transparency. So now you can go to anyone’s company page. Click on ads and see the last six months of ads that they’ve run that are sponsored content. Now you won’t see anything that’s text ad, dynamic ad, or sponsored inmail. But you will see anything that’s sponsored content, which is probably the most of the majority of the ads out there.
A little bit later in that month, we saw the announcement that LinkedIn acquires a company called Drawbridge. They made not a very big deal about the acquisition. But I went and looked at it went, holy cow, this is really cool. Drawbridge, for those of you who don’t know that they make a big deal about stitching identity together between mobile and desktop users. And in talking to LinkedIn, it was very much a talent acquisition. This is a company who they have smart engineers who understand ad tech, they understand identity. And the way I took this is LinkedIn has already been working on their engagement retargeting. This ability to do really good retargeting that’s engagement based across both mobile and desktop. And so I think they acquired them purely, not purely, I think mostly as a ploy to grab engineers. And hopefully that it was also to grab tech that would help them roll out their next slate of features, because these are people who really understand how those features are supposed to work. So that was May of 2019.
Then not a whole lot happened until October, where LinkedIn released the three cool updates. One was audience intelligence, which we’re going to have an episode more specifically about this. But this is where as you’re building an audience over in the right rail, you can click on segment breakdown. And you can start to see how the targeting that you’ve selected, how it measures up in some of the other targeting. So for instance, if you choose the job title of doctor or attorney, you can go into segment breakdown and say, Hey, when I’m looking at these folks by seniority, What is the breakdown? Where do most of them end up? And you look at it and go, Oh, their seniority says senior, like an individual contributor. That’s interesting to me. Because now we get a little bit of insight into how those things were built. So I was really excited about the audience intelligence.
We also got Boolean targeting. And then that’s the AND/OR – this is kind of interesting. I’ve used it a couple times. Most of the time, I’m all about creating a really tight segmented micro audiences. And so I would never use a Boolean like, like, you know, this skill or this job title, because I would rather split them up separately and be able to to have two separate measurements. But I have had a few cases where I thought it made a lot of sense to do like if your audience was too small, you could combine two similar audiences to make it large enough to run I thought that was a cool idea. And one of the things that I thought would be really cool if we could do I went and tried to build it is a if you are on this email list. I want to target you. Or if you fit this criteria like you’re this seniority at this list of companies. And what I found out very quickly as you can’t do that your ANDs need to apply to both of the ORs. And this probably makes no sense to anyone who’s listening. But I tried to build that targeting and found out that in order to do both an email list and a company list, you would have to apply the company size, the company names the seniority to both of those features, the company list and the email list. And of course, the email list. You don’t want to match with anything else. So the Boolean targeting is a little bit limited. But certainly, like I’ve said before, I’m glad for any sort of feature we get that we can get a little bit ninja with.
The third release in October of 2019, were the additional metrics that you could see in Ad Demographics. So when you go in and look at your your demographic reports, you used to be able to see all of the engagement stuff, impressions clicks, etc. Well, the cool thing is now they’re giving us a lot more of that breakdown data going all the way through all the video metrics, all of the lead generation metrics, pretty much now you can break down by about any of the columns that you could get before. So when you go in and look at your demographics, now, you’ll see performance, which is going to give you all the click through rate, cost per click, all of that. There’s the lead stuff, that’s all based off of lead generation forms. There’s sponsored inmail specific metrics, and there’s now video metrics. So this makes your demographics a lot more powerful, because you can now see all the way to the initial conversion, how each of your segments work. And this is really powerful from a an adding exclusions perspective, because now you can go in and say, Hey, it looks like managers and above have a really low conversion rate on this audience. Maybe I should think about excluding them or just tightening my audience not to target them originally. So I thought that was super cool.
And that takes us to the end of 2019. So now this is recorded at the beginning of 2020. We’re going to take a quick sponsor break, and then we’ll dive into what you can expect from LinkedIn coming up on the 2020 roadmap. Standby!
Alright, let’s jump into the roadmap for 2020. I have to thank LinkedIn for releasing a webinar about this recently. I will link to that here in the show notes, so you can go and watch it if you’d like. But I’ll pull out all of the highlights everything they talked about that they’re releasing, I’ll give you a run over and a little bit of commentary.
So the very first thing they showed was what their plans were for the first half of 2020. So no specific time or date on any of these, but this is just the first half. The first is they want to do some deeper Audience Insights, the audience insights we have now over there the right rail that I showed you, or I told you about, those are pretty weak, I mean, they only have about four or five options of things you can break down, and LinkedIn is going to be releasing a lot more, which is really cool. I love the audience insights. Again, this is stuff that I’m probably going to use to tell whether or not I’m hitting an effective audience that I thought was effective, or to use as exclusions for if I’m just not hitting it with a certain segment of my population. So the deeper Audience Insights I am super excited about.
Then LinkedIn has already renamed what used to be called sponsored inmail to message ads. And what that does is allows them to now have two different ad formats within that umbrella. So they’re still going to have sponsored inmail that they’re going to be calling I think, the message ad, and they’re also going to be releasing the ad called Conversation Ads. Now this is really the beginning of chat bots. Right now we’ve been in the pilot for a long time here. We’ve had good success with them. It’s all about it comes across like a sponsored inmail message. But based off of what someone says it goes very conversational, you can give them two options. You can say, Hey, are you interested in attending this event that we’re putting on? And someone types? No, or clicks? No. And you go, Well, hey, what? How about you want to download this white paper? And they might say, yes, you’re giving them a little bit more conversational have a feel, and multiple calls to action based off of what you’re asking them to do. So I think conversation ads are going to be really cool. I hope eventually, this integrates with things like MobileMonkey and Drift, so that you can actually, you know, build the same kind of chat bot experience that we can’t on other platforms. But this is the bare bones beginning. Like I said, I’ve been in the pilot for a while they’ve been successful. So I’m excited for these to come out. Building them experience is pretty janky. You can imagine if you have to build out an Excel like, Hey, here’s how I want my flow to go. It can be pretty confusing. The platform’s not helping a whole lot on that at least yet, but but I hope that flow that builder starts making a lot more sense.
LinkedIn is also releasing products on pages. So as part of your company page experience, you can list products that you have. And there will even be kind of a community, a knowledge hub around your page where the community can get involved. I believe they’ll be able to rate your products, and you’ll be able to list your whole product portfolio. So this is really going to strengthen the the whole pages experience. And I would imagine that there’s going to be some kind of interplay here with advertising at some point, which is why I wanted to share it with you.
Next thing on their list was sales impact reporting. So this is like a CRM integration, hopefully with all the major CRMs to show the business impact of your LinkedIn advertising. Now, this is where LinkedIn has always had a big challenge because since costs per click are higher, it means your cost per lead is going to be higher than about every other network. And so those advertisers who jump right in and say oops, Our cost per webinar attendee is like $50 on LinkedIn. And it’s only $12 on Facebook. So we’re going to drop the platform we’d rather play pay $12 than $50. And what LinkedIn’s strength has always been is, wait, wait, wait, the targeting that we give you is so much better. So that that attendee that you’re getting on LinkedIn should be worth way more than four or five times what your Facebook one is worth. And, you know, this is perfect when you put CRM integration into it, where you’re showing people at a very simple, not a whole lot of pain level on how they can plug their CRM in and see what lead quality looks like, objectively.
So this is a great plugin. I’m excited to see what this does. And part of this is actually going to be I think this is actually in the same vein, they have their account matching and engagement scoring. So you can imagine this as being like an account based marketing or an ABM dashboard. This is going to show you how you’re scoring with each of the companies that you’re purposely trying to get in front of, and this is something LinkedIn does so well, and I’m so excited for this dashboard to see, you know, going down hopefully all the way into the CRM, how each company is interacting with your ads, how they’re, how they’re converting, and eventually how they become deals.
The next is engagement retargeting. Now I’ve been told that this is probably targeted for about March. And so I I always say, give LinkedIn a couple months, so might be more like April or May. But engagement retargeting is going to be so important, because right now LinkedIn’s retargeting is 100% based off of dropping a cookie on someone’s browser. Well, all iOS devices, Safari browsers, and Mozilla browsers just ignore the cookie and that’s half of your traffic. So immediately, half of your traffic doesn’t even fit in a retargeting audience and LinkedIn understands your identity. They see that you’re logged in. from either the app that they can recognize, or on the desktop computer, they know who you are. And so it’s really easy for them to say, Hey, I know you clicked on that ad, because you clicked on that ad from this advertiser A. Now I want to qualify you to be in the audience of advertiser A, and it’s really easy. It involves a lot of data storage, but it’s really easy for LinkedIn to know what you’ve clicked on what you’ve engaged with and what you haven’t. And so this engagement retargeting is going to be the most powerful version of retargeting as cookies are going away.
At the time of recording. Just about two weeks ago, Google actually announced that Chrome is going to be getting rid of third party cookies, just like Safari and Firefox already have in about two years. So with that sunset date, what that means is everyone who’s relying on cookies is now going to their plan B. So yeah, LinkedIn we need this engagement retargeting. It’s not even just the cookie issue, engagement retargeting is something that we’ve needed since the beginning of video ads on LinkedIn. Because with video right now we’re paying a pretty high price I’m seeing like, let’s call it $.09-$.20 cents per person who views at least two seconds of your video. So it’s a lot of cost to get someone to watch your video clip. And then if they don’t click on the link, they don’t click on the call to action. We’ve lost them. They’re totally into the abyss, we have no idea what they’re doing. So engagement retargeting will allow us to do things like, hey, if you’ve watched at least 50% of one of these videos. Now I want to show you the next one in the sequence. And I am so excited about that, that takes our LinkedIn advertising up to at least the right century where we’re already doing this with Facebook and YouTube.
The next feature was pages messaging, where basically from the page from your company page, you can have conversations with people. I’m interested to see how this plays out if it’s going to be very much a you know, the company is talking to you. And maybe that opens up the whole chat bot experience. Or if they will be able to reveal the identity of who it is at the company who’s talking to you make it a little bit more personal because LinkedIn just does so much better with things that are personal. I’ll be interested to see how this plays out. And I think because pages messaging and conversation ads are two ways of monetizing probably a very similar conversation. I think this plays well into our advertising conversation.
We’re also getting a new bidding type one called target CPC. So I imagine this is going to be like, we only want to spend $10 per click, and LinkedIn can look at it and go, ooh, I found one of your people for $6 over here, oh, but at 11pm to get in front of a CMO of a giant company, I had to bid 12 and it will average it out to get you the CPC that you’re looking for. So interested to see how else you know more details on target CPC bidding, but and I’m not sure how I’m going to get to use it, but certainly, it’s a feature I’m excited about, because I really want to make sure that we get any new tool in our tool belt.
Part of the challenge with LinkedIn live is as soon as you go live, you are going and a lot of people like to hem and haw and wait at the beginning because they’re saying all of their followers start to get notified and people start to trickle in, and they don’t want them to miss anything. Well, the majority of live viewing comes after and not during your initial broadcast. So what they want people to do is immediately get right to the meat so that people aren’t watching you hem and haw and then jumping off. And so part of what they’re doing here is they’re giving us live. It’s it’s not live trimming, they’re giving LinkedIn live trimming and simple editing. And this will allow us to have restreams or at least the file available for other people to watch and consume in ways that you’re not going to be embarrassed by it like the Oh my mic isn’t working. Hang on, let me get this going, that kind of thing.
They’re also giving us test streaming. So those of us who are LinkedIn live users, we will be able to go on test on a service and make sure that our mic is working before we go live and make idiots of ourselves.
K, and then the last one on the H1, the first half of 2020 roadmap is LinkedIn events. So this is something that we had quite a while ago. It was never on the ads side, it was always organic, and it went away. Now it’s back. Not everyone has LinkedIn events yet, but certainly a few people in the pilot group have been using it. And I’m really hopeful that this turns into not just an event that is for physical events. First of all, when that happens, I hope we’re able to sponsor those I hope we can put adspend behind a LinkedIn event as an ad format. But I’m really hopeful that this works with digital events as well like webinars and digital summits, so excited for the LinkedIn events. If it’s an ad type, if it’s just maybe like an extension to sponsored content, either way, super excited about it.
Then in the webinar, they got a little bit more specific, they went into Quarter 2 specifically so not here in the next couple months. They’re going to be doing a relaunch of LAN or LinkedIn audience network, it’s going to be very similar. I think, you know, we’ve had the audience network for a while, LinkedIn has built out all of these third party relationships with popular websites and apps, but they’re going to be launching it with some awesome enhancements. So even as we speak, I’ve got some pilot access to some of the LAN features, and some of them will be around brand control. And I’m excited about that. Where I mean, LinkedIn is only going to choose the most high quality sites anyway to show your ads on but you can now specifically say the only types of categories that I want that are brand safe for us are this category and that category, so that should be cool. Really, any improvements they make to LAN are great.
We talked about the cookies going away and how LinkedIn current retargeting solution is pretty weak. And what that means is LAN is going to be really weak for desktop as well. As soon as cookies go away, a third party site isn’t going to be able to see who you are on LinkedIn, and won’t be able to trigger an ad. That’s from desktop. From mobile, the technology goes, we have a mobile device ID associated with our devices. And that is really easy to pass a site can say, hey, this device ID showed up, LinkedIn can look at it and go cool. We know who that person is. Give them an ad here by IBM. So this is possible. You know, this won’t be taking such a hit when cookies go away. On desktop, it sure will. But that’s probably only at you know, probably only 20% of the traffic.
The other one in Q2 is sponsored stories. So imagine your same like snapchat or Instagram stories. LinkedIn has a format like this, they actually release this organically to people in higher education first. And if it if the pilot goes well there, which it sure looks like it is, they’re going to release stories to everyone. It’s a format I’m not super familiar with because I’m not an Insta or a snapchat guy. But certainly I’m excited to try it out. And that has some real playability behind it with ads where we can do sponsored stories. So really cool. I’m excited for that.
Then we get a little bit further into Q3. So these are a little bit further out. They’re going to come out with multi format ad campaigns, which I am just cheering for, how many accounts do I have with hundreds or thousands of campaigns, when it would be at when it’s all broken out by each different type of ad type each minute audience? I can’t wait until I have a campaign that represents the audience. And then I can put a video ad and a normal single Image sponsored content and sponsored inmail, all within that same campaign. I’m super stoked about that. This couldn’t come soon enough.
Then they also announced the LinkedIn Sales Navigator integration. This is one that has actually been around for years. And inside sources are telling me that the slow down here is it’s really the sales side, the Sales Navigator side of the business, this just isn’t a high priority to them. But on the ad side, oh man, every client we talk to who has a sales team who uses Sales Navigator is absolutely excited by the fact that their sales teams can go and individually tag people they think are awesome. And regardless of what their title is, or what skill they have, or what group they’re put into an audience that you can then go and advertise to just as a matched audience within your ads account. So they’ve had pilots going like this for now a couple of years. We have several clients who use it you It’s a little bit limited, but boy, it’s such a an awesome feature. So I’m excited for, for this to come out fully to everyone. I think once this comes out, every sales team who uses Sales Navigator will be super stoked about it.
Next is buyer group targeting. Now this is really an interesting problem that LinkedIn is looking to solve. Because we as marketers know who is feeling the pain that we’re trying to solve. So if we’re selling software to marketers, we know that the person who uses that software probably needs to see our ads. But what we’re missing is that whole buyer committee. There’s oftentimes someone from finance who has to sign and, and in smaller companies, the CEO is going to sign off on it. So the buyer group targeting this is LinkedIn is attempted understanding, hey, when we target someone, we can target their whole buyer group, and I’m interested to see how this plays out as well. This could come off really good or it might just be a way of targeting more broadly that, you know, I might suggest just tightening up targeting and doing a whole bunch of smaller micro segmenting anyway, but really interested to see LinkedIn come to the plate on that one.
The final item on their roadmap here in Q3 is the sales impact reporting. Now, there’s not much information on this, but just going by the name, I’m imagining that this is better reporting so that they can show what’s happening down funnel or maybe in your CRM, passing it back to you as an advertiser for some better info. So certainly excited to see what they come up with there. Q3 is a while out, and certainly the usual caveat of priorities and roadmap can shift. So we’ll see if this is actually something we see in Q3.
There were a few features that our team is involved in pilots and things with that I’m not allowed to talk about, but certainly I’m excited about some of those things that I hope to be able to discuss on a future episode.
Alright, coming up after the break, I’m going to drop some great resources on you stand by.
Okay, as promised, the great resources that you can check out on this one are in the show notes. The first is the brief history of LinkedIn advertising infographic that LinkedIn released back in 2019. Good resource, it doesn’t go into nearly as much detail as we’ve gone over here. But certainly it’s a cool infographic. It’s worth keeping around just to see what the history of LinkedIn advertising has looked like.
There’s also the webinar that I just talked about with the future roadmap on it, so feel free go watch that get a little bit more in depth on any of these releases.
And the usual the usual applies here. I certainly want you to subscribe. The podcast is brand new, so any love you could give it would be great. And you may be the first one to rate or review this podcast on your player that you listened through. So I would implore you please, please, please leave something so that this podcast gets in front of more listeners because I think there’s gonna be a lot of value and I hope you great. Alright, see you back here next week.