LinkedIn Sponsored Updates – A Great Opportunity for Content Marketers?


The new LinkedIn ad format straddles the fence between advertising and targeting content at your prospects.

B2B marketers have been looking for an opportunity to target contextual messages within the social framework of our favourite social network – LinkedIn – for ages. And very soon, we might just have it!

Up till now opportunities for advertising on LinkedIn have been limited to 100 characters line adverts which tend to be tucked away at the bottom of pages and in hard to spot areas. Brightfire have had success in generating traffic and leads from traditional LinkedIn ads but they are easy to ignore, and the CTR of ads reflect that. Although we have had CTRs of 0.06% for some campaigns, LinkedIn reckon that a CTR of 0.025% is quite good.

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We also love to generate interest in our clients and ourselves by sharing our updates and our new content assets with those who follow our company profiles. But doing that has been limited to those who already follow us, and they are likely to find out about those updates and assets from other sources – emails, updates on Twitter or other platforms. They already know about us. How do we reach prospects who don’t already know us?

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I have always felt that there was a huge opportunity if LinkedIn could offer a more visual and visible way of letting me push my message. I love Facebook’s Suggested Post format (above) which appears dead centre in the middle of my newsfeed. And in addition to it being a more visual format, it can be laser targeted to the demographic I want to see the ad. It’s just a pity that Facebook doesn’t work for B2B, right?

It seems LinkedIn have been listening to my inner voice, because they are about to launch Sponsored Updates as a new advertising format after a successful pilot with a number of advertisers such as Xerox and American Express.

The new format is called Sponsored Updates, and I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that the format looks just a bit like Facebook’s Suggested Post.

Now I can craft my creative and have it appear in slap bang in the middle of my prospects’ Updates feed (not at the bottom of a page or tucked away on a sidebar), whether they are on their desktop, mobile phone or tablet, and in the same format as updates from individuals or companies that they have followed.

How do I go about creating a Sponsored Update? It’s a simple two step process:

    1. I post a company update via my company page – it could be a new whitepaper, a webinar or a blog post. If I want to move that prospect into a nurturing funnel and continue to communicate with him or her, I also need a lead capture mechanism (perhaps a Hubspot landing page and form).
    2. I then ‘sponsor’ the update by using the same interface as I would use to build a traditional LinkedIn ad campaign – I select my maximum cost per click, daily budget and use the audience picker tool to choose who will be exposed to my message. Want your update to be visible to senior marketers with large companies in the UK? You can do that.

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Hey presto – my update starts to appear in my chosen audience’s feed.

Of course, there’s a bit more to it than that.

I need some quality content to promote, otherwise the next stage of the marketing qualified lead generation process – building a relationship with a prospect – falls down. This isn’t a tool for spamming prospects with poor quality content. It is a tool for getting your message out there and seen though. It has the potential to be a vital part of promoting a content marketing initiative.

What have the results been like?

At the moment Sponsored Updates has been a beta program. However, some of those who have taken part have reported 15% conversion rates and a cost per lead that’s 50% below target.

“At AMEX OPEN, we focus on developing relationships with small business owners to help them grow. With Sponsored Updates, we’re sharing highly relevant content with the small business owners we want to reach and deepening valuable relationships.” Scott Roen – VP Digital, American Express

Any drawbacks?

With any type of new advertising, particularly on a platform which has been (reasonably) advert-free like LinkedIn, there have been grumbles. Some users have complained that they are seeing content that they didn’t subscribe to (the Sponsored Updates) and LinkedIn have rolled out an option to allow users to opt out of seeing Sponsored Updates.

However, I recall similar complaints in 2001 when Google started to show adverts on their search result pages. However, now I barely register the Adwords ads and I suspect most Google users are the same – if the advertising is done well then what’s seen are relevant relevant links.

I’m sure as Sponsored Updates matures and is used by smart marketers that what will be seen on LinkedIn – relevant and targeted content that is of interest to the reader.

Will it work?

It might work for your business. It might not.

What I do know is that Brightfire will be assessing the new format as we see considerable potential in Sponsored Updates as a method of promoting our content to a targeted audience.

As is the case for any new marketing opportunity, though, the proof is in the execution, the testing and the analysis of the results.

See you on LinkedIn…

Did you know content marketing and social media marketing are part of an inbound marketing strategy? You can find out more on this by listening to this recent Q&A webinar on inbound marketing here:

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