They’re the social-networking behemoth of the professional world. With one in three professionals on the planet currently using their service and a further 200,000 joining daily, the juggernaut that is LinkedIn doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.
In fact, they’ve announced that they will be launching a new service that could transform both their business model and B2B content marketing forever – sponsored content updates. That’s right, LinkedIn will be offering brands the opportunity to place targeted sponsored content in users’ newsfeeds. With this update, LinkedIn, whose mainstay up until this point has been recruitment services, will look to grow another revenue stream through content distribution.
“Big deal,” you might be thinking. “Facebook already has its own sponsored posts – what’s so game-changing?”
Let’s take a closer look at how content marketers can utilise this new distribution tool and what it means for your content strategy.
How it works
As we understand it, LinkedIn will be offering three tiers of content sponsorship:
1. Sponsored Updates
This function will allow you to send your company or brand updates to any LinkedIn member, regardless of whether they are currently following your brand or not.
Similar to Facebook, the geographic targeting options include country, state or city. However, the exciting part is that you can also target by industry, company size, a user’s role in their organisation and even their seniority!
The innovative functionality doesn’t stop there. The campaign interface also apparently gives you the option to pay by either cost per click or cost per impression – no more of Facebook’s vague ‘Potential Reach’.
All of these Sponsored Updates must also appear on your Company Page. This is not just a nice way to aggregate your brand’s content, but also functions as a quality assurance measure. Overtly salesy, spammy or just plain poor content appearing on your Company Page will be a lasting reminder of your company’s lack of thought leadership or ability to deliver value to prospects.
Because these Sponsored Updates will also be driving traffic to your Company Page, you will need to ensure that each section of your LinkedIn Company Page contains relevant and useful information. If you’ve been complacent with it up until this point, get writing!
2. Sponsored InMail
The name says it all – the ability to target specific users with personalised InMail.
This is a fantastic way to circumvent the frustration of email inbox clutter. Your content will no longer have to compete with urgent client or internal correspondences. Instead it can be accessed and enjoyed when prospects log in to LinkedIn.
3. Display content snapshots
We all know that no one looks at banner ads, but what if snapshots of content were on display?
In a bold move, LinkedIn appears to be converting real estate in its right-hand column into a space for both ads and sponsored content. This space could specifically feature SlideShare content with full functionality, meaning that a LinkedIn user wouldn’t even have to click away from their home newsfeed in order to engage with your content.
See below for a mock-up of how this might appear:
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional networking database – their users include all of the decision makers in every organisation on the planet. Imagine being able to target every CMO or CEO in your industry with targeted relevant content!
LinkedIn is essentially offering a B2B marketer’s dream:
LinkedIn is offering an awesome new distribution tool, but without great content that fulfils strategic and measurable outcomes, this dream opportunity could turn into a nightmare.
How? If you use this tool to target your hottest prospects and then deliver crappy content, you will not only erode your brand’s reputation, but possibly spoil the opportunity of ever leading them through your lead-nurturing cycle.
LinkedIn is also entering risky territory. As a user’s personal content is diluted by Sponsored Updates, there may be a similar backlash to Facebook’s Promoted Posts. And there is also the possibility that they have condemned their right-hand column’s functionality to banner blindness.
In the end, the key to both parties’ success will be the quality of the sponsored content being distributed. Surprise, surprise – it all comes back to creating and consistently delivering valuable content to your audience.
Which leads me to ask…
If you could InMail your dream lead tomorrow, would your content be so valuable, interesting and helpful that they would connect with your company?
If the answer is no, then you have some work to do before employing LinkedIn’s sponsored content.
By Craig Hodges – CEO
Find him on Google+