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Show Transcript

LinkedIn sponsored messaging, message ads, sponsored InMail, conversation ads. These are the ad formats on LinkedIn that are most confusing, and also intriguing to advertisers. I’m about to demystify them on this episode of the LinkedIn Ads Show.

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

Hey there LinkedIn Ads fanatics. For years, I’ve been getting questions about the sponsored messaging ad formats on LinkedIn. And honestly, I’ve been waiting a long time to do this episode, I was waiting until I found a whole bunch of success with these ad formats. And honestly, I’ve been really disappointed. I was hoping to find a formula for what always works. But I’ve collected all of the opportunities for success that I’ve been able to find on this episode. And I’m excited to finally share them with you. First off in the news, LinkedIn has a little message across the top of every account that says we’ve temporarily changed the design of our navigation menu, learn more. You can click there to see the note in the Help section of LinkedIn, or just look in the show notes down below, I’ve linked to it there. And what they’ve explained is they’ve reverted the new left hand navigation experience that was released just in the last handful of weeks. And it’s been temporarily reverted back to the old top navigation experience. I reached out to a contact at LinkedIn and I got the inside scoop. It turns out, they didn’t revert it because of any bugginess or anything like that. It was actually the second order effects of it. They noticed that the new experience adversely affected advertiser behavior on the platform. I won’t go any deeper into that. But just I expect that after they make some minor adjustments or improvements, we’ll get it back, there wasn’t a problem with the navigation experience itself. It’s more about what us advertisers did after getting that navigation experience. Alright, with that, let’s jump into the actual content. Let’s hit it.

So first off, you need to understand what the different ad formats on LinkedIn are. It’s the whole class of ad formats that are pushed right to your messaging box. Rather than being seen somewhere else on LinkedIn. These are called sponsored messaging. And there are two different kinds of ad formats that fit underneath that umbrella, we have message ads, which used to be called sponsored InMail. And then we have conversation ads, which are one of LinkedIn’s newest ad formats. And it’s that choose your own adventure kind of chat bot experience. And the way that they work is they show up directly inside of your message box when you’re on LinkedIn. And the only way for you as an advertiser to pay is to pay per send. Now LinkedIn is only going to send these to people who are actively logged in. So thank goodness, you’re not going to be paying for all of those inactive users who haven’t opened their message box in a year or more. Now, I did get to use the message ads format back when it was sponsored in mail back before it even came to campaign manager, it was when you used to have to work directly with a LinkedIn rep. And here’s what it was like it was probably the worst investment I’ve ever made. It cost $3 per person you sent to. And so it landed in a bunch of inactive accounts. When I ran these years and years and years ago, it was, like I said, the worst investment that I ever mad and we promptly stopped as soon as we saw that there was just nothing good coming from these. But thank goodness back in November of 2016. It was released as an ad format that you could access within campaign manager. And as soon as they did that, they made it so it could only show up when someone was active, which is fantastic. They also lowered the price you could pay all the way down to I think I’ve seen as low as like 25 cents per person you send to. So those were the message ads. Then we got conversation ads back in March of 2020, when it was released on campaign manager as well. We were part of the beta. It’s a really good ad format. But it suffers from a lot of the same issues that message ads do. And one of the things that I always talk about when I talk about this ad format is how these are the most expensive ads on LinkedIn. And a lot of people are shocked when they hear me say that because they think that it’s one of LinkedIn’s cheapest ad formats. So here’s the logic around it. So an average cost per send of one of these ads might be somewhere if it’s in North America between about 50 cents to $1 per send. So say for example that you sent these messages to 1000 people, that means that you’ll be paying between $500 to $1,000 in total. And in this case, the average open rate is about 55%. So of those 1000 messages that you sent, you can expect about 550 opens. Now an average click through rate on these ads is around 3.2% And that’s for message ads. Conversation ads, it’s significantly higher. But at 3.2%, that would result in about 17.6 clicks. So all of this calculates out if you do that division of 17.6 clicks with your $1,000 in spend, you come out to a whopping cost per click of between $28 and $57. It’s pretty wild. That is per click, that is not per conversion. I will say though, don’t let the possibility of the high costs dissuade you from using sponsored messaging because with the right offer, and it does have to be the right offer, that is the key here, you can drastically reduce those costs to the point where this ad type can even be more effective than sponsored content, or any of the others. For instance, we had a client who instead of getting the normal 55%, open rate, they were getting an 80% open rate, and instead of the 3.2% click through rate average, they were getting a click through rate of about 20%. And that means we were getting costs per click in between about $3 to $6. All just depending on how much you were paying per send. And of course, for sponsored content, most of the time we would kill to get costs that low. And that’s why these ad formats are so special. If you have the right offer. If you don’t know what I mean by offers, go back and listen to episode 10. We’ve linked to it below in the show notes as well. It’s all about offers. But here’s what you need to keep in mind for these message ad offers. It has to feel very much like a personal invitation is how I like to think of it. The reason why is when you send one of these ads, it’s going to look like it came from a person. And it shows up as a message rather than just a banner ad, which feels a lot more invasive if it’s spammy. But if it’s not spammy, it feels a lot more personal and inviting. If you’re gonna send one of these and just say like, click here to talk to our sales rep, or click here to sign up for our webinar. And these are to cold audiences, chances are these are going to be the most expensive clicks you’ve paid for on the network. It’s not going to turn out well in your favor. If however, your offer is really good at either fluffing their ego with something like because of who you are in the industry, we want to offer you a sneak peek or early access to something that your peers are going to be jealous of. Or maybe it’s an invite to an in person swanky event where you’re going to get to rub shoulders, with important people in the industry just like you there’s going to be hors d’oeuvres and drink served and all that, that works really, really well here as well. We’ve also found these to work quite well for hiring. You can essentially send someone a message that says, here’s what we’re looking for, you look pretty qualified, are you interested in applying, and we can get people to show interest that way. We’ve also found some recent success with offering something like a gift card in exchange for someone being willing to take a demo. So that’s pretty cool, too. Hopefully, these types of ideas are getting your brain spinning. So you can be thinking about ways that you can utilize this. New offers you could come up with that feels special enough to be sent out through a message ad or a conversation. Some of the times that we’ve seen these ad formats work out really well. We of course had the one client I was telling you about the head 80% open rates and 20% click through rates. That was for an in person event that worked really well. We’ve worked with many of the largest hiring services on LinkedIn. And we also had a client who was offering a gift card through conversation ads that ended up converting really well. Okay, here’s a quick sponsor break. And then we’ll dive into the differences between message ads and conversation ads.

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Alright, let’s jump into the differences then between these two ad formats that you get underneath the sponsored messaging umbrella. So first off, you have message ads, which is like getting an InMail message from a person and it’ll say promoted or sponsored. It’s a single message. It has both a headline and a body. But it doesn’t work exactly like an InMail message would because the person can’t actually send a reply back. The reply is all grayed out. It’s basically like, click on one of these options that I’m giving you and if not, there’s nothing else you can do and they just click on the next message. Conversation ads, on the other hand, is very, very different. We talked about them being a choose your own adventure are more like a chatbot experience. They are quite similar, they show up in your InMail the same way, but they don’t have a subject line. Instead, it’s just the body copy opens immediately to multiple calls to action that you can thread together like a conversation. And then recipients can interact by selecting calls to action that you’ve put together. And then they receive an automated message back along with an additional call to action that they might want to select. The way you could think of this is like, let’s say there’s a big trade show going on in your industry, you can send out a conversation ad asking someone, are you going to be at this big trade show next week or next month? And if they say, yes, you could say great, come by our booth, we’ll give you swag, and we’ll treat you really special. Or if they say no, you can say well click here to get on our list for when we come back, we’re going to be teaching a webinar all about everything we learned at this show this year, and about how the industry is changing and all that. So you can see how depending on someone’s response, you can give them a different pathway that they might be interested in responding to. And we have found conversation ads to be about 30% more efficient than message ads. And I would chalk that up to basically a message ad, if you’re not interested in the one thing that’s being offered, you just shut it off, and you just move on to the next message. But a conversation ad, there are multiple chances to convert there. And the chances are a lot higher that you’re going to find one or two that are actually interesting to this prospect. And so you’ll end up with about 30% more conversions, which is great. That being said, they do take a lot more time to build. So keep that in mind, it’s a lot harder to actually build those ads, but they do perform well. I mentioned at the beginning about how some people think that these are some of LinkedIn’s cheapest ads. And the reason for that is definitely fixable. And I really wish LinkedIn would fix it. When you’re inside of your campaign manager dashboard. And you’re looking at one of these campaigns, the columns that you’re used to looking at like average CTR and average CPC, these metrics are just going to be straight up wrong. And the reason why is campaign manager calls it a click when someone opens one of these ads. But I have a very different opinion on what a click actually is. In my mind, a click means that a prospect should be then presented with an opportunity to convert. But according to LinkedIn’s definition of a click being an open, you can’t convert right from there, you have to do one extra step. So here’s what you want to keep in mind, you’re looking at campaign manager, you see average click through rate and you think, Oh, this says 65% click through rate. That’s amazing. Well, that actually is pretty good, but that’s only your open rate. That means of all the people you send it to 63% clicked to open it. Now what we don’t know, we don’t know how many people click open, just to market is read so it’s not standing out in their inbox as a message that needs to be read. So I don’t necessarily think that an open is a high vote of confidence of whether something had a good headline or good initial like hook. You also look over and see average cost per click is 57 cents. Well, that is not what it is per click, that’s your cost per open. So if under columns, if you move away from performance, which is probably defaulted to, and moved to sponsored messaging, some of the metrics in here are still wrong. If you scroll all the way over to the right, average CPC is still says the exact same thing as cost per open. But you will notice that there’s a column there called sponsored messaging clicks. This is your actual clicks, when someone clicked on one of the calls to action that you put inside of your sponsored messaging ad, you’ll see your open rate was also called click through rate for before, but now this is the proper definition for it. And then you’ll also see a column for click to open rate. That is your actual click through rate. That is the sponsored messaging clicks over the number of opens. So basically, if you’re using this ad format, make sure that you are looking at it through the columns sponsored messaging, rather than just ad performance, because otherwise it’ll throw you off. I’ve had so many people tell me that, oh, we’re using these sponsored messaging ads, and we’re getting like $1 cost per click, and they’re way outperforming everything else, then we dive in and find out like as soon as we can see that their cost per conversion is significantly higher than any other ad format. And they realize, Oh man, I got tricked. My cost per click was actually $25 to $50 rather than $1. And we as advertisers should know this better. And I do think that LinkedIn should do a much better job of educating that and make it very, very clear for us. If you end up exporting this data. When you pull it out into Excel, you’ll notice the column AO is called clicks sponsored messaging. And that’s when generating a campaign level report. That’s the one you’ll want to use in all of your calculations for a click. Now, these are a very special kind of ad format, because they have incredible capabilities. The first one is that you can use what LinkedIn calls macros, or dynamic fields. That means inside of your message, you can insert dynamically, someone’s first name, their last name, their company name, their industry, or their job title. So imagine you had a message like hi, first name, I see work at company name, we found other people with job title have found this really interesting, we thought you’d want to take a look. Something special to note is this is one of the ad formats that is eligible to be used in conjunction with LinkedIn lead gen forms, and we would highly recommend it. Because the cost on these are so high, you definitely want your conversion rates to be as high as possible while you’re evaluating them. So you can make sure that it’s it’s going to be an ad format that works well for you, there isn’t a way to preview these ads as you’re writing them. So what you do is you can send a test message as you’re crafting it. And that way, while the message is still in draft, it’ll send directly to your LinkedIn account. And you can go look in your own messaging box to see exactly how it looks. I mentioned that it comes from an individual, if you work with your LinkedIn rep, they can turn on the ability for it to come from your company page instead. But I highly, highly want to discourage you from doing this. When it comes from a person, it generally gets a much higher open and conversion rate. When it comes from a company, it definitely feels like an ad. Something else special about these is that it will allow you to create a 300 by 250 pixel banner image that it says it’s optional, but I would not call it optional. This is ad inventory that when someone is on desktop, and they open up your message, you get a free ad that accompanies your conversation ad. I think this is huge. Don’t bypass this just because you think oh, I don’t have the creative, it’s worth it, go into Canva, create a quick 300 by 250 pixel image and be done. Imagine what this would look like if you sent someone a personal message. And then an ad for your top competitor happened to show up on the page at the same time, it’s not a good look, you will notice that there are some limitations along with these ad formats. The most noticeable one is that there is a tight frequency cap. And this frequency cap is a person on LinkedIn can only receive one of these ads every 30 days. It used to be every 60 days, then they lowered it down to 45. Now it’s 30. I wouldn’t be surprised to see LinkedIn open this up to being once every 15 days in the future. But for right now, it’s still one every 30. And that’s not one from you every 30 days, that’s one of these period. So no one else can send someone one of these, you’ve essentially monopolized their inbox for the whole month, which is kind of a cool feature. LinkedIn says that they do this frequency cap because they really care about their member experience. And they feel like if they sent any more than this, they would get annoying. But that seems really silly to me. Considering that people on LinkedIn who are popular, who are in high positions, they end up getting Sales Navigator InMails, like three, four or five a day, some of you may be getting considerably more than that. So one of these every 30, I don’t think people can even tell that which ones are sponsored, versus which ones are sent by someone with Sales Navigator just trying to spam their inbox. A big downside here is that when someone sends you a Sales Navigator InMail, it actually sends a copy of that InMail to your email as a notification so that you can click to open it right there. But when you send one of these as a sponsored message, LinkedIn is not going to send an email to notify them, it’ll just appear in their box when they’re logged in. If you are a large advertiser, these are very hard to budget for because that inventory is unpredictable. You might run for three or four days with a large budget and say, Oh, this doesn’t make sense at all, we’re not spending anything that we want to. And then all of a sudden, a whole bunch of your inventory opens up from people who haven’t received one of these in 30 days. Now they’re open. And then in one day you spend 17 grand, that actually happened to us. So make sure when you use these, you’re probably going to want to use them for a month or more just to make sure that you’re taking advantage of all of your audience who may have already received one of these before and they’re going to open up sometime during your campaign where you can send them. As you go to evaluate these, realize that there’s going to be a lag in performance because oftentimes people will receive the messages and end up opening or clicking on them. days or even weeks after the initial send. So you don’t want to run this for two days, look at the performance and say, Oh, this obviously isn’t gonna work for us, because it still could. Give it some days for those sends to mature into opens and clicks. Unfortunately, these don’t have any sort of retargeting that you can do, except for just lead gen form opens, I really wish we had the ability to exclude someone who had received multiple of your sponsored message ads without opening them or without clicking. I hope we get this kind of functionality in the future. We mentioned that you can’t really respond to these, but if you are sending these in mass, there are going to be people who want to respond to you and want to get in touch and have a real conversation. So tell the person whoever this is coming from their account, that they might expect additional people sending connection requests, sending InMails, and maybe otherwise trying to get in touch. And here are the specs for these. So first off, we have message ads, where the name of your ad, because you can of course name most ads on LinkedIn, you get 255 characters there. You get to select from any sender that you’ve gotten permission to send from their account. Your subject line gets 60 characters, but it’s truncated on mobile so I would suggest going shorter than that, if you can. The text section will let you have up to 1500 characters here. But again, if it’s a giant wall of text that’s daunting to read, chances are people are going to just move on to the next message. So I would recommend keeping these really shortened to the point. You can put links, you can put a main call to action that’s up to 20 characters. You can put hyperlinks inside of your actual text, and you can’t insert anything like video or other types of media. I would absolutely love it if we could put like animated GIFs and embedded audio into these, hopefully in the future. Then we have conversation ads, and again, these have names that are up to 255 characters, the same options with adding senders and having that 350 by 250 pixel banner image. Your intro message is shorter, it can only be up to 500 characters, then it will show your calls to action and each one of those can be up to 25 characters. You can have up to five buttons per message. So what I want you to take away from this episode is I want you to understand that these are ad formats where if you have a special, a VIP, a personal invitation kind of offer, then these are the right ad formats for you. If you don’t, they’re probably going to be too expensive so I would still recommend test out your offers on sponsored content first, maybe even text ads and dynamic ads, and come and test into sponsored messaging when you have an offer that you feel like could work really well. All right, 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.

Okay, here are the episode resources. First of all, if you go down into the show notes, you’ll see a link to the announcement about the left hand navigation being reverted. So you can go and read LinkedIn’s whole answer in their help section. Also, check out our episode on offers, episode 10 if you haven’t already. It’s one of our tried and true episodes, it’s definitely one you’re going to want in your toolbox. If you or anyone you know, is looking to learn LinkedIn Ads, definitely point them towards the link that we have down below for the course on LinkedIn Ads. This is one that I did with LinkedIn Learning. It’s about an hour and a half long and it is by far the highest quality and the lowest cost that you’ll have for a LinkedIn training. Look down at whatever podcast player you’re using and hit subscribe if you haven’t already. Please do rate the podcast on whatever player you’re using. Please, please, please, and I mean you, please go and review the podcast if you like what you’re hearing. People reach out to me all the time saying that they love the show, but I’m not saying the reviews come in and that will help more than you know. So please, please, please, I’m begging, leave a review. With any comments suggestions, questions for us about the show, reach out to us at And with that being said, we’ll see you back here next week. Cheering you on in your LinkedIn Ads initiatives.