Sponsored Content: The five pillars of all effective LinkedIn ads

Sponsored Content: The five pillars of all effective LinkedIn ads

Published date: 29 Jun 2018

Businesses have long since recognised the benefit of using social media to reach customers. On average they spend 35.5% of their advertising budget on this channel alone (1). 

Today is Social Media Day, so we’re taking a closer look at the world’s largest business network LinkedIn, and sharing our top tips for effective B2B sponsored content.

Launched in 2003, LinkedIn has grown into the world’s largest professional social network. This is where professionals go to discuss business ideas, look for new opportunities or partnerships and grow their business connections. It’s no surprise then that brands have taken advantage of the reach of this network to make connections with new clients.

According to LinkedIn there are 500m professionals on the platform, with four out of five members driving business decisions (2). That’s a big pool of potential customers, customers that have the ability to influence or even make large-scale buying decisions. One of the best ways to reach them is through great content that showcases your business services and expertise. Around 94% of B2B organizations rely on LinkedIn for content marketing and distribution (3) and with Sponsored Content, you can get your content in front of exactly the right people.  

These ads appear right in the middle of people’s newsfeeds. There are two different kinds: Sponsored Content (promoting existing LinkedIn updates beyond a profile page) and Direct Sponsored Content (content created especially for ads, which does not appear on a profile page). For a list of the ad formats that LinkedIn provide, click here.

Here at Purple, we’ve planned and managed a range of LinkedIn campaigns for our clients using LinkedIn’s self-serve tool, Campaign Manager. What we’ve learned is that there are five key features of effective Sponsored Content ads that really deliver results.

1. Engaging copy and CTA

People scroll through social media newsfeeds quickly, and aren’t usually willing to pause and read paragraphs of text.  So it’s best to keep the text concise - 150 characters for the intro text and 70 for the ad headline (otherwise the text will be truncated). Also, try to avoid too much jargon – demonstrate your knowledge without using overly complex text that could lose the interest of your audience. Finally, always include a strong, specific CTA – why should people click on your ad?

2. Audience size and targeting

LinkedIn have a range of targeting options that allow you to define your target audience, including location, job title, industry and company size. Based on the targeting filters you apply, LinkedIn can then predict the size of your audience. As a guide, they recommend that the audience for Sponsored Content should be a minimum of 50,000 (4). Obviously, this will depend on how targeted you want to the ads to be, but it’s important to remember two things:

  • If the audience is too broad, your ad may not be shown to the right people, resulting in plenty of impressions but little engagement.
  • If the audience is too narrow, your ad will get less visibility and the CPC will be high. So although it’s tempting to add lots of targeting filters to pinpoint your target audience, stick to a maximum of three (location and two more) to make sure you’re not reducing your audience pool too much.

LinkedIn also have a handy feature to maximise your ad reach, called Audience Expansion. When this is switched on, LinkedIn will search for lookalike profiles that share similar attributes to your audience – a useful tool if you want to scale your campaign.

3. Optimisation

For each campaign, always include two to four variations of your ad. The differences only have to be small, for example a slight copy change, a different approach to the CTA or a different image. LinkedIn will then prioritise the most successful ad, meaning that after a couple of weeks you can determine which resonated most with your audience by comparing impressions and clicks (5). Once you have these insights you can optimise your existing campaigns in real-time, by reinvesting budgets or pausing the underperforming ads. Then when you come to your next campaign, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions about the copy and creative you use.

4. Imagery

As previously mentioned, people scroll through their newsfeed quickly so you need a striking image to grab their attention. Make it bold and consider including an impressive or shocking stat to interrupt the scrolling. Or consider using video to bring your content to life – according to the Content Marketing Institute, 77% of B2B marketers rated video an effective content marketing tactic (6), so why not give it a try? Finally always make sure you adhere to LinkedIn’s ad specs to create your images.

5.Tracking and Reporting

Once you’ve determined the objective of your campaign and set up your ads, it’s important to decide on the specific metrics you’ll use to measure success. Luckily, Campaign Manager enables you to monitor heaps of data in real-time. On the performance tab you can track multiple metrics such as impressions, clicks and cost, to keep an eye on your budget. LinkedIn can also provide a demographics report, which gives insight into the people seeing and clicking on your ads, for example their job function, industry and location. All of which will help you to optimise and adapt your ads to suit your target audience.

You can also track conversions to see which ads are driving results. You’ll need to add a bit of code to your landing page – the LinkedIn Insight Tag – then you can use the Conversion Tracking to track different actions, like a download or sign up.

As the world’s largest professional network, LinkedIn is a powerful tool for B2B marketers and Sponsored Content is an effective way of reaching a specific audience. Whatever your budget, the most important things to remember are quality of ad content, the right targeting and continual optimisation.

Happy #SocialMediaDay! 


1. https://www.smartinsights.com/social-media-marketing/social-media-strategy/new-global-social-media-research/

2. https://business.linkedin.com/marketing-solutions/ad-targeting

3. https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-statistics/#linkedin

4. https://www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/answer/722/targeting-options-and-best-practices-for-linkedin-advertisements?lang=en

5. https://business.linkedin.com/marketing-solutions/best-practices/ad-tips/sponsored-content-tips

6. https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/2018-b2b-research-final.pdf