LinkedIn Sponsored Updates: Tips, Tricks & Annoyances
The good and the bad aspects of LinkedIn Sponsored Updates.
At Cantina we’ve been using LinkedIn Sponsored Updates for about a year, and liking the results we’ve been getting. We are a digital product and services agency in Boston of over fifty people. My role is to promote the agency, so I’m using LinkedIn to reach a B2B audience, in a regional geographic footprint, with two or three target personas.
We generate interesting content: case studies, white papers, technical blog posts, business blog posts, upcoming events, videos, awards, and presentation decks. LinkedIn Sponsored Updates have been a good paid channel to put that content in front of people we think will be interested in it.
There are things I really like about Sponsored Updates, and there are things that are quite frustrating; I thought I would share with you some of my tips, tricks and annoyances.
What’s to Like
I really like that LinkedIn has evolved into a robust business-thinking exchange platform. It wasn’t that long ago LinkedIn was a basically a resume exchange and connections collector, but now it also functions as general clearinghouse of business news, and their Sponsored Update offering is a way to market your content into that stream.
- Your content in the news feed. The best thing about LinkedIn Sponsored Updates is that your update will appear in the target’s newsfeed, labeled as sponsored content, along with the rest of their organic content. In social platforms like Facebook this feels intrusive; you’re interrupting relationships with friends to insert commercial content. But LinkedIn is all about commerce, so if you have properly targeted your post it won’t seem interruptive, but will be of interest and use to your audience.
- Targeting by people. Sponsored Updates are targeted based on the parameters of the individual: location down to metro areas, industry, company size, title, function, seniority, company and school (I have included the full list of parameters in a separate post). As you make targeting selections you get instant feedback as to how large an audience the selected parameters will produce. You can also target individual companies to support particular sales/marketing initiatives. Compared to Google Adwords this seems so much more direct and manageable.
- Uplifts: impressions, clicks & followers. For your money you’ll get impressions (helps branding and visibility), clicks (to drive traffic to your content) and followers (who will get all future updates in their news feed making them the equivalent of an email double opt-in contact). Viewers can also Like and Share content, but these numbers are not broken out in reports, although you can look them up in the interface.
- Self service. Like Adwords, you can do it all yourself. Unlike Adwords you should do it all yourself. You will need to have a company page to start with, and then be posting updates to that page. Once you have updates on your page you can start to buy impressions and clicks through Sponsored Updates.
- Results on a budget. You can build a highly focused set of targeting parameters to produce better results, and to keep costs down. In my experience clicks are costing around $7-$8, so a small-medium business could spend $50/day, and start to get experience, and see results. For some this will still seem like a lot, but in the realm of paid media I count it a bargain.
- LinkedIn “blog” platform. Although it’s not actually part of the Sponsored Update services, LinkedIn is also a venue to publish your business content not directly related to your company (like this article), without having to run your own personal business blog. These posts can also be sponsored.
What’s Not to Like
- The user experience is terrible and they know it. Almost everything wrong with LinkedIn Sponsored Updates has to do with the really bad user interface. Particularly compared with a platform like Google Adwords where the challenge is to uncover all the deep layers of functionality, starting and managing Sponsored Updates can be confusing, lacking in expected features and with pieces of information displaying differently in different places. Don’t bother complaining, they know.
- Can’t revise updates! The biggest and worst problem, IMHO, is that once you’ve saved an update (prior to sponsoring it) you cannot edit it at all. That’s right, find an extra comma a week later and your only options are to live with it, or delete it and repost, but be aware that you will delete all the data connected with that post if you do. You can’t even “retire/archive” the update and add a new one, so unless you’re happy having two of the same posts on your page’s news stream you’ll have to live with what you posted originally. It’s worth noting that you can always edit your LinkedIn Posts (blog), but not the Update announcing the post - so it’s not like they don’t know how to do it. This also means that you can’t do any sort of headline/text/graphics testing.
- Features and functions are in strange places. Do you want to know how many followers your Sponsored Update gained? You won’t find that in the Your Campaigns overview page, that number is lumped in with “Social Actions” and includes clicks, likes and shares. You won’t find it on the specific campaign information page either, but click on the Update Preview tab (at the bottom) and you’ll get to a page that shows the full update, including a breakout of Social Actions into Clicks, Interactions and Followers Acquired. Clicks and Likes are still lumped together under Interactions, but you can expand the Like field to see who liked your page, and look at the comments.
- No specific info on clicks and followers. If I were running these campaigns on an email platform I could tell who opened and clicked. On LinkedIn you get aggregate data only (although LinkedIn certainly knows who clicked). You can see specifically who your followers are, but you can’t tell who followed as a result of the campaign, or even who followed you this week. Personally I find this particularly annoying, in that I could manually record all followers each week and compare them in a spreadsheet, so it’s not that they’re withholding the data, it’s just in a crippled format.
- Reporting seems primitive. The basic reporting does work, but there are few options to dig into your data and, as noted, critical users interactions like clicking, sharing, liking, commenting, and following are in some views buried under “Social Actions” or partially broken out in others. There don’t seem to be any automated reports, and while you can export a .csv of (some) of the data, options are limited.
- Can’t restart a campaign if it runs out of money. If you let your campaign hit its budget limit it stops and cannot be restarted. You can duplicate it, but it will be a separate campaign from the original, and so have separate reporting. If you want to keep a campaign running, add money to it before it hits limits.
LinkedIn Sponsored Updates are excellent for B2B content marketing, even with the many UX faults. If you get stuck trying to find something that you know has to be there somewhere, don’t get stymied, and don’t ask customer support. Just click random buttons, even if it wouldn’t make any sense to put the thing you’re looking for behind that click. If you still can’t find it, then Google search your problem, you will probably find a user forum (often on LinkedIn itself) full of annoyed users figuring out that the very sensible thing they want Sponsored Updates to do just can’t be done.
Note: I’ve transcribed the targeting parameters for LinkedIn, which I include separately here, as they wouldn’t all fit on one page.
This article was first published here.
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