LinkedIn is the No. 1 platform for business-to-business (B2B) marketing, with 94 percent of B2B marketers using the channel for content distribution. According to the site, LinkedIn is also the biggest driver of traffic to B2B websites and blogs, with half of all social media referral traffic stemming from LinkedIn.

Recent changes to its advertising platform make the social channel all the more attractive for B2B firms. In November, LinkedIn announced the beta rollout of its new objective-based advertising in Campaign Manager. The new interface seeks to streamline Campaign Manager and optimize ad campaigns by tailoring them to specific and unique marketing objectives – customizing the ad creation to best achieve a stated objective and craftily placing it in the feeds of those most likely to take the desired action. Marketing objectives include Awareness, Consideration (website visits, video views), and Conversions (lead generation).

LinkedIn Objective-based campaign: awareness, consideration, conversions

Source: LinkedIn

In January, LinkedIn announced an innovative “interest-targeting” offering. Business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers are no strangers to narrowing and reaching prospective targets based on interests, often harnessing the internet data and history of prospects to efficiently advertise based on known interests.

But in the world of B2B marketing, targeting is generally based on external factors such as industry and job title that ignore the more “human” characteristics of prospective connections – namely individual interests. While B2B seeks to connect businesses to other businesses, it’s important to consider the people on the end of each transaction.

“A lot of B2B targeting is based on reaching accounts or looking at job titles and so forth, and that is something we’re trying to change by combining profile data with expressions of intent to make the targeting more compelling,” said Abhishek Shrivastava, LinkedIn’s director of product.

Historically there has been a lack of data on target interests for B2B marketers. LinkedIn’s new offering strives to change that. The channel cultivated its list of interest categories by aggregating signals derived from how users engage with content on its platform. And there are increasingly more signals to pull from, Shrivastava said, including likes, shares, comments and the types of groups people belong to.

According to LinkedIn, the new system works. “We’ve been running tests since October and we see that marketers can reach a larger number of people this way, Shrivastava said. According to Lloyd Palmer, senior paid social specialist at Digitas UK, one of LinkedIn’s beta testers, the company saw a 25 percent increase in click-through rate for campaigns that included interest targeting.

Initially, marketers will be able to choose from 200 professional interests, with broad groups such as “Business and Management,” “Finance and Economy” and “Politics and Law” that narrow into specific member interests including “Artificial Intelligence,” “trade and taxation,” “global economy” and more. For example, an investment firm seeking to promote a whitepaper on how geopolitical factors influence their investment strategy could reach users who have an interest in “investing” or “global economy.” This might be a better use of advertising dollars than trying to target people with certain job titles in the finance industry.

Source: LinkedIn

LinkedIn’s expanded targeting options create an opportunity for B2B firms to capitalize on the site’s data capabilities in a way that only B2C marketers have been able to before. To take advantage of this opportunity, B2B firms may need to broaden their marketing mindset to include a greater focus on individual interests and behaviors rather than relying on the demographic-based status quo.