How to create and optimize the ultimate sponsored post on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is powerful for a simple reason: LinkedIn profiles are real people presenting their professional faces to the world, complete with tens of data points about their professional attributes.
And unlike Twitter, Facebook, or other large advertising platforms, if you select a target group on LinkedIn, you can be relatively sure they a) are real people, and b) work for the actual companies and have the actual job roles, skills, and other attributes that they claim.
LinkedIn is widely used to grow professional networks and create and consume content by most commercial B2B roles, such as sales, marketing, e-commerce, product, and so on, making it an ideal platform to reach these target audiences. However, it is not necessarily so good for technical roles. In particular, developers don't necessarily spend a lot of time here, so if you are targeting developers, you may want to look elsewhere.
But assuming your target audience is indeed among those listed above, here is how to create LinkedIn sponsored posts that will give you maximum click-through or engagement rates.
1. Define your sponsored post audience at the content brief stage
Just as every content piece should be created for a defined audience, every content brief should identify this audience before a content marketer or copywriter starts work.
But if you are intending to promote this particular piece of content on LinkedIn, it also helps to identify the key professional traits that your target audience has - the more specific the better - and then create a target audience on LinkedIn.
For example, say you have a new Magento plugin and want to target e-commerce managers at SMEs who will be either decision-makers or at least highly influential on what type of plugin to buy.
The first step is the job role. This is pretty straightforward - according to your brief, you are looking for "e-commerce manager" and related.
Depending on your target audience attributes, you may want to also add filters for geographical location, company size, and so on.
But there is one key attribute missing, which is the secret sauce to identifying the most relevant target group possible. "Magento" is not likely to show up in many job titles, but if someone is serious about Magento it will be reflected in one, and maybe two places.
The first is member skills. This is an under-appreciated targeting feature on LinkedIn because it offers so much specific detail on a person's professional interests that cannot be captured by other types of targeting. And combined with the other attributes, it helps narrow your focus to only relevant results. "Ecommerce managers" = meh. "E-commerce managers who have been endorsed for Magento, or self-identify as a Magento expert?" Jackpot.
The other great way to identify specific audience attributes is through member groups. Joining a professional networking group on LinkedIn is a sure-fire way to identify people with the interests you are targeting, so drill down on the combinations of keywords in your brief, and see what comes up.
And if you are lucky, you may find a group or groups that meet not one, but two or more of your targeting criteria.
2. Write ad copy directly aligned to your niche audience that connects them seamlessly with your content
Note: To keep things simple, we will look at LinkedIn's single image ad format for our example. Other sponsored content formats on LinkedIn including carousel, video, text, and more can also be used effectively with these principles.
Your ad copy is the critical link between your targeting and your content. So on the one hand it needs to speak directly to the professional interests of your highly-targeted audience. And on the other hand, it needs to set strong but realistic expectations about what they are going to see when they click on your ad.
There are many different ways to write ad copy. But the critical thing here is that you need to get your keywords in the ad copy itself.
The real estate of your sponsored post is made up of three key components, which all need to work together to maximize the effect of your ad.
Introductory text: This is the "post copy" that appears above the image. LinkedIn recommends keeping this under 150 characters to avoid truncation.
Ad image: Your image should include a short, powerful, and very visible piece of copy that is the headline of your ad.
Headline: This goes under your ad image, and should be the same headline that visitors see once they click through to your page. This helps set expectations and ensures that visitors know they are in the right place.
We now have an example target audience and criteria for writing copy. So, for argument's sake, now let's imagine what kind of copy we could create that meets the criteria of targeting a case study of a company that is using your Magento plugin at your audience.
Introductory text: The e-commerce manager at <Company X> is seeing outstanding results with this Magento plugin.
Ad image: How <company X> grew XX% with this Magento plugin.
Headline: Learn how <Company X>...
This is a pretty basic example, but you can see how we leverage:
The target audience's job title.
The target audience's skill set - something at which they consider themself to be an expert.
Social proof - the competitor's company name and sales growth.
In combination, these elements should work together seamlessly to ensure that your target audience feels they should click on the ad to make sure they maintain their level of expertise and stay up-to-date with any new trends or products.
3. Optimize your sponsored post till it runs out of steam
Every company has different goals, budgets, and expectations around its marketing initiatives. Having said that, one good approach is to kick off an initial campaign for a few days with a relatively low budget and check in on progress daily. Based on my own experience, if my click-through or engagement rate exceeds 0.5%, I am a happy camper and am inclined to let it run. If not, I start to look critically at some of the targeting elements.
For example, are there any targeted Member Groups that do not align particularly well with your audience criteria (example: if a group for a more technical audience when you are targeting commercial roles)? Perhaps one of your targeted Job Titles (example: are you targeting "e-commerce marketing managers" as well as "e-commerce managers", and is this a potential issue)?
If you think you can isolate a targeting attribute that may be causing your click-through or engagement rate to be lower than it could, try to remove this attribute and monitor how your click-through and/or engagement rates respond. Depending on time, resources, and target audience size, you can also put the suspect target group in its own isolated campaign and see how it compares against the rest.
Likewise, if your campaign click-through or engagement rates are really strong, 1%+ for example, you may want to look at expanding your target audience slightly, to include adjacent roles, skills, and groups.
But remember - it only works if your content delivers
This post is about how to create and optimize the sponsored post itself, but it is equally critical that your content delivers on the promise of the ad. Think of it this way; your targeting, ad copy, content, and call-to-action should be a seamlessly integrated journey where expectations are set and delivered on right the way through. And no single piece of content should be isolated. After this post, you should have more relevant content targeted at the same group to push them further down the funnel - here are some thoughts on how to build that strategy: Funnel versus flywheel: why not both?
This means setting expectations in the ad that your content can deliver on, both in terms of the key points and consistency in the messaging. For example, if the central message of your ad copy is that your client grew sales 25% using your Magento plugin, this should be a big highlight of the content, with detailed information on how they achieve the result. Meeting the expectations of your ad will translate into a healthy time on page, and a greater chance your target continues to engage or reaches out to you to find out more.