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Show Transcript

On LinkedIn, what’s a boosted post? And how is it different from a standard LinkedIn ad? What is direct sponsored content? When should you use them? We’re going to discuss all of this in this episode of the LinkedIn Ads Show.

Welcome to the LinkedIn Ads Show. Here’s your host, AJ Wilcox.

Hey there LinkedIn Ads fanatics! I get the question from advertisers probably monthly about boosted posts, dark posts on LinkedIn and I think we’re going to be getting it a lot more often with the moves that LinkedIn is making. It really is a pretty simple question with some mostly simple answers, but also a lot to unpack and a lot of nuances. So here we go. First of all, I hope everyone had an amazing holiday season and break no matter what you celebrate. My kids and I had a really fun Christmas where we stayed home and relaxed. I’m really excited to be back sharing all of my favorite tips and tricks on LinkedIn ads with you, of course, and hopefully we’re back to a weekly cadence here. Thanks for your patience with me. And I hope you all have an amazing 2022 advertising on LinkedIn.

All right, let’s hit it. First, we need to define what a boosted post is. Because this is something that Facebook actually pioneered, and then of course, LinkedIn adopted later. What it is, it’s where you create a company page post organically and then you push that post out in your ad campaigns as an ad. When LinkedIn very first released sponsored content back in 2013, it was called Sponsored Updates. And boosting posts like Facebook has, were the only option. I was so proud to be one of the pilot users and in fact, I was so early of a user that LinkedIn actually gave us 1000s of dollars in free adspend just for running them and giving them feedback. Oh, boy, those were the days. At the time, I had launched 32 campaigns. So of course, that meant I had to go and create 64 sponsored content ads, no big deal, right? Well, at the time, I had no bulk tools. So I put headphones on, I locked it in and I just crank them out at about one per minute doing copy, paste, post. Copy, paste post. Not the most glorious work, but let’s be honest, everyone listening here is too highly compensated to do so many of the tasks that LinkedIn’s Ads platform makes us do on the regular. I was very used to it by this time. The ads of course performed really, really well. Surprise, surprise, it was the first time that anyone had seen an ad that looked like this on LinkedIn, because everything was just text ads before it. There was a pretty significant downside to this strategy, though. Because as I went through and created 64 organic company page posts in a row, I realized how confusing this must be to our company page followers. You see a company page post that looks eerily like an ad and you brush it off, you’re not interested. And then a few posts down, there’s another one that looks exactly the same, then another, than another. The most active of our followers, we’re getting inundated by the same message. This was also really problematic for my tracking and attribution. Because like a good technical marketer, I had specific URL tracking parameters in each of those ads, so I could associate their performance with their ad spend. The problem is that this wasn’t a very pure test. A company page follower might see this post and then convert, and then someone in my advertising audience saw it and converted. And you look at both of those conversions, they are at very different stages of the funnel and they are very different audiences. The company page follower already has a high degree of affinity for your brand. They’re following you, they’re fans maybe, and watching them convert, they’re going to convert at a much higher rate. They’re going to be a much more highly qualified lead as opposed to someone in a cold audience who saw my ad and then converted, these are just very different. And of course, this was all before conversion tracking came out on the platform. So by the time that these leads, made it into the CRM, my test results were dirty, I couldn’t count on them anymore. And of course, at this time, Facebook already had a solution for this. Facebook had dark posts where you could create 10s or even hundreds of ads at a time. And they wouldn’t inundate or muddy tracking because these were ads that were not exposed publicly. They were shown only to the users who were being expressly targeted by the advertisers ads. And I gave this feedback to LinkedIn as I’m sure many of the other Alpha participants did, and told him we just couldn’t continue using these boosted posts because it was hurting our brand organically. I’m still shocked that it was less than a year, but in July of 2014, LinkedIn released Direct Sponsored Content is what they called it, or DSC for short. I’m sure that we’re all used to the fact that LinkedIn releases the same features that are found on other platforms. But then of course, they have to give it their own name. So that was DSC or Direct Sponsored Content. That term is very non descriptive of what it actually is. And so I’m really glad about this, but little by little over the years, LinkedIn has started to adopt the same terminology that Facebook uses. I’ll hear LinkedIn reps regularly talk about dark posts, or boosting, which is definitely Facebook’s terminology. Thank you, Thank you LinkedIn for this. When you’ve got a good thing, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. There’s no shame in using Facebook terminology here on these small issues. Alright, here’s a quick sponsor break, and then we’ll dive into why you might not want to use Direct Sponsored Content,

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Alright, now let’s jump into the Direct Sponsored Content versus boosted posts. Okay, so catching you up in July of 2014, LinkedIn released this ability to create dark posts or direct sponsored content. And what that lets us do is now we can publish ads directly within the ad platform. And the only people who will see them are those who are part of our advertising audience. This takes care of all of the issues I had with where I was muddying my tracking, my analytics, as well as totally inundating my organic audience. The one exception is that when rarely, someone creates some sort of a social action on an ad, which causes viral reach of that ad to people who are their first degree network, but this rarely happens. So most of the time, your ads are really only being shown to those that you’re paying to get in front of. Even if it is viral, though, just remember that traffic is free. So it’s It’s gravy anyway, it might muddy your conversion numbers slightly, but usually not very much. Okay, so when someone is using a boosted post, you can go right to their company page, you always have been able to, and you can look right at their ads, right alongside all their other company page posts. But it’s interesting to note that when they are using Direct Sponsored Content, you can still see their ads. You have to visit their company page, and then click on their posts. And then you have to click the ads filter. That will let you see all of their sponsored content for the last six months. Thank you again, LinkedIn, we love this feature. Okay, so those are the major benefits of direct sponsored content. But there can be some really good reasons not to use Direct Sponsored Content, and just use boosted posts instead.

The three reasons I’ve come up with and if you have others, I would love for you to share them in case I forgot something here. The first reason is to preserve the social proof across your ads. The second is simplicity, if you just don’t care about tracking. And the third, they don’t go through the same review process as Direct Sponsored Content.

Alright, so diving in deeply here, the first one about preserving social proof. So LinkedIn ads falls behind almost all of the major ad platforms in feature set. And here’s a great example of something that we advertisers have been asking for for years that LinkedIn still hasn’t addressed. So when you go to create a Sponsored Content ad on LinkedIn, you have two choices, you can either create a boosted post, where your tracking will be messed up, it’ll be dirty, because you’ve got your organic audience and your paid audience seeing the same ad. But you do get to preserve your social proof. So any ad where you can see the likes and the comments, if the same ad is shared by multiple campaigns, or maybe the ad has even run organically, before it became an ad. Everyone who has served that ad gets to see these likes and comment count. That of course is going to give them a little bit of a warm feeling that oh, they’re not alone here. They’re not being tricked. Lots of people are getting value out of this ad. Your other option is to go with Direct Sponsored Content, where each individual ad that you create starts back out at zero social proof. And I’m sure many of us know, getting that first like or that first comment on an ad is really difficult. No one wants to be the first one. But once you have one or two, then it really starts to ramp up. This is a pretty significant downside. But the real upside here is that the tracking link allows you near perfect attribution of exactly which ad and which audience led to that closed deal when it makes it into your CRM. Now because there are significant pros and cons to both approaches, you’re going to have to decide which one you choose.

Here at B2Linked, we’ve decided that tracking is more important to us than social proof, simply due to the power of our internal reporting tools. And feel free to ask me about the reporting tools anytime because I love to geek out on this stuff. The second good reason to use a boosted post is for simplicity if you don’t care about tracking. So if you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say tracking parameters in your URL, or when I talk about UTM parameters, then you should be on the lookout for a future episode, where we’re going to go way deep into tracking. But you should also do yourself a career favor and go and look them up. I’ve said that for years technical marketers are the ones that won’t be replaced by AI, or will be immune to being replaced by their younger up and coming generation of marketers. That being said, if you don’t care about tracking parameters, then the easiest path for you to launch ads will be with boosted posts, or simply using dark posts still, but just sponsoring that same dark post to several different ad campaigns, just that you get to reuse that same ad creative and not have to create a whole bunch of new ads.

And finally, here’s a little ninja tip that boosted posts don’t go through the same review process. This is helpful in one little situation where let’s say you keep launching ads. And LinkedIn keeps disapproving them for whatever reason. We had a client who was advertising a wine industry consortium. Our ads kept getting disapproved because they mentioned wine. And LinkedIn has a rule against promoting alcohol, after multiple attempts at getting LinkedIn to appeal their decision and overturn it. Because obviously, we weren’t advertising alcohol, we were advertising an industry event, we finally just decided to launch the ads as boosted posts. And since boosted posts are already public on a company page, they don’t go through the same approval process and review process, we were able to launch the ads and run. But it is important to note that this isn’t a way to cheat LinkedIn’s ad approval. If we were actually advertising wine or alcohol, or something else offensive or blatantly against the rules, the community would have reported our ads and LinkedIn still would have come and rejected them. But this was just more of a workaround when LinkedIn reviewers were simply not having a follow the spirit of the law and not the letter of the law kind of day. Alright, I’ve got the episode resources for you coming right up, so stick around

Thank you for listening to the LinkedIn Ads Show. Hungry for more? AJ Wilcox, take it away.

All right, I hope you enjoyed that episode. It was short, but sweet. Now, if you are just getting into LinkedIn Ads, or if you have a colleague or a friend who is you’ll definitely want to point them towards the LinkedIn Learning course that I did with LinkedIn Learning. The link is right here in the show notes and it’s incredibly affordable compared to any other LinkedIn Ads course out there. And the quality is fantastic, if I do say so myself. LinkedIn Learning really does a great job. Make sure to look down at your podcast player right now and hit the subscribe button so you don’t miss any of our future episodes. And whatever podcast player you listen to, or service you use, please do rate the podcast and leave a review. If you leave a review. I’ll shout you out live on the episode. Well, not really live, but you get the idea. With any ideas for future podcast episodes, any topics you’d like us to cover, clarification, anything like that, reach out to us at And with that being said, we’ll see you back here next week, hopefully, cheering you on in your LinkedIn Ads initiatives.