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LinkedIn advertising essentials

Author's avatar By Gavin Llewellyn 20 Jan, 2020
Essential Essential topic

LinkedIn has been quietly building a strong presence and reputation within the professional community making it a great social media opportunity

When we think of social media, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are probably the first platforms that come to mind. After all, these are the major platforms leading the way and generating headlines (although not always for the right reasons).

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However, LinkedIn has been quietly building a strong presence and reputation within the professional community. Over the last 15 years, LinkedIn has grown rapidly to create a network of over 560 million professionals worldwide, with 23 million in the UK.

LinkedIn’s stated mission is to "connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful". This clear and relentless focus on the professional sector has enabled them to develop a powerful B2B proposition. Whilst personal social networks are about spending time, professional networks are geared around investing time:

Difference between personal and professional social networks

Professionals are more likely to 'engage with purpose', meaning they use LinkedIn not only to promote but to educate themselves by consuming and creating thought leadership content:

Leadership content

With more advanced audience targeting, new ad formats and conversion tracking, LinkedIn has become a very valuable ad tool for B2B marketers. The data LinkedIn has gathered on professionals from sectors all over the world give brands a unique opportunity to reach and engage individuals with different levels of influence.

Within this post, I’m going to highlight some of the key steps to advertising on LinkedIn.

1. Get your house in order

Unlike many of the larger social networks, LinkedIn still gives brands the opportunity to achieve a good level of organic reach (20-40%) with followers. So before jumping into using paid advertising, it’s worth investing some time into developing your organic presence.

LinkedIn recommends that brands create an integrated organic and paid strategy. The greater your organic reach, the more it can amplify your paid efforts:

Integrated organic and paid strategy

The goal is to continually test and optimize organic content to ensure you’re investing in the highest performing content for your paid campaigns.

We won’t go into the detail of creating a strong organic presence in this post, but the recommendation is to get your house in order before advertising by considering the following:

LinkedIn advertising recommendations

Check out LinkedIn’s page playbook, which provides a detailed, step-by-step guide to creating a really top-performing corporate page.

2. Survey your paid advertising options

LinkedIn’s paid media options can be divided into two main groups.

LinkedIn paid media groups

The choice you make depends entirely on the objective you’re looking to meet. It’s important to ensure that the strategy you devise ladders back up to these objectives as this will ultimately influence the content you create.

Sponsored content

LinkedIn’s sponsored content options give you the opportunity to deliver content directly into your target audience's news feeds.

Sponsored content is a great way to expand your reach beyond what you are already achieving organically. Depending on your objective, you can create a full-funnel campaign, serving top-of-funnel content to generate brand awareness with bottom-of-funnel content to drive leads.

Direct response

If you’re looking to target prospects on a more micro level, LinkedIn offers to options:

1. Sponsored InMail

Sponsored InMail gives you the opportunity to create personalized messaging for specific groups of people. Whilst this tactic could be seen as intrusive, if executed well alongside supporting sponsored content, this tactic can help drive higher quality leads.

2. Lead Gen forms

Lead Gen forms can be used as part of both sponsored content and sponsored InMails. Lead Gen Forms add a call-to-action aligned to your objective, e.g. 'download', 'sign-up', 'follow'. When users click the CTA they’ll see a sign-up form within the app. Instead of filling out different fields, LinkedIn will automatically populate details from their account creating a frictionless experience for users.

3. Follow the proven best practices

Once you’ve reviewed and selected your chosen range of options, the next stage is to put this all into practice.

While I recommend testing and learning, always follow the correct best practices or 'brilliant basics' to ensure you’re seeing the best results.

Below is a selection of tips, tricks and best practices to get the most from sponsored content, InMail and Lead Gen formats:

Sponsored content

Leverage audience demographics

Always start broad, learn and then focus on the audiences that are more likely to engage.

LinkedIn demographics

Use this tool to see what aspects of your targeting is working and optimize accordingly. Focus on audiences more likely to engage to maximize the chances of success.

You can filter out demographic information by a number of different targeting elements, including job function, job title, seniority etc. so you can identify your targeting sweet spot.

A/B test different creative

When you go live, ensure you have at least three to five creatives running concurrently.

LinkedIn ad creatives

Continually test to identify opportunities to improve performance. You have the ability to test multiple different elements, although it’s important to only test one thing at a time, e.g. change an image or the text, but not both at the same time. Otherwise, you won’t know for sure which change made an impact.

A culture of testing will help you define a unique blueprint for each audience - what they respond to and what they don’t.

Think like a silent movie director

Videos autoplay with no sound and 80% of videos are watched without sound. So, by all means, include sound in your content, but ensure that you tell a story that is led by imagery.

LinkedIn video examples

Videos designed with the sound off resulted in a 70% increase in completion rates.

Sponsored InMail

Boost sponsored InMail performance by running sponsored content in parallel

Advertisers gained 37% higher sponsored InMail click-through rates when running sponsored content to the same audience on the same day.

Sponsored content and InMail campaign

Running sponsored content in parallel with InMails gives you ‘air cover’ and primes your audience in advance of receiving personalized direct messages.

Use friendly, low-pressure calls-to-action (CTA)

LinkedIn has discovered that users don’t want to commit to signing up. To counter this resistance, consider using lighter CTAs such as "try" or "free":

LinkedIn example CTA

The top-performing CTAs are:

  1. Try
  2. Free
  3. Today
  4. Click
  5. Apply

Interestingly, calls-to-action should contain either one or three words (nothing in-between). CTAs with one or three words have 13% higher click-through rates.

Make messages short, sweet and to the point

Being concise, personal and relevant achieves better results. Body texts under 500 characters has a 46% higher CTR.

InMail content example

Lead Gen forms

Keep your forms simple

Only ask for info you need. Forms with four fields have the highest form completion rates.

LinkedIn Forms example

Ask a question to hook your audience

Use your form to provide the answer and solution.

Asking a question via forms

Emphasise the value of what you’re offering

Disarm people by telling them in the form that your content is free. No obligation required.

Emphasize the value of what you're offering

Keep the momentum going in the Thank You page

Link to more posts or content so people can continue to engage with you even after filling out your form.

3M LinkedIn example

Test creatives and optimise for CTR or form completion rates

Ensure you’re constantly testing your Lead Gen forms. The smallest change could have a disproportionately large impact.

Testing creative on LinkedIn


LinkedIn is a social platform certainly worth considering if you’re a B2B brand looking to build authority in your area of expertise and reach an engaged, interested audience. Unlike consumer social networks, LinkedIn members are professional and have very specific objectives for using the site. Use this to your advantage by building an organic presence before employing selected paid media to boost reach, engagement and conversions.

Author's avatar

By Gavin Llewellyn

Gavin Llewellyn (LinkedIn) is an independent consultant. He is a Chartered Marketer who specialises in digital marketing, specifically in social media, SEO and online strategy. Gavin blogs at One Too Many Mornings where he offers advice, guidance and ideas on how individuals and companies can use digital marketing effectively to get found online, build engagement and generate conversion. You can Follow Gavin on Twitter.

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