How to Win at LinkedIn Sponsored Updates

Social Media Marketing


Looking for ways to improve your social media strategy in the new year? Or simply searching for a new tactic to try? You might want to add LinkedIn Sponsored Updates to your social advertising arsenal. Unlike their predecessor (LinkedIn text ads) these posts appear in your audience’s update feeds, giving them a more organic appearance.

Here’s a recent Sponsored Update from Marketo:

marketo sponsored updated MSM

But although these ads were introduced in July, many companies have yet to crack their code. After months of trial and error at Marketo, we’ve learned a few best practices worth sharing.

Target Like A Champ

Sponsored Updates allow you to get incredibly specific with your targeting. Want to target marketing managers who work at enterprise companies, are skilled at marketing automation, and who don’t already work for one of your competitors? You can. Here’s a screenshot of LinkedIn’s targeting options:

Marketo sponsored update audience filter

Check out the “Audience” tab on the top right. When you add and remove targeting options, you’ll see this number increase or decrease — this represents the size of your audience that will be shown the ad. At Marketo, we’ve found that casting a targeted net to a small audience keeps our Sponsored Updates relevant, and earns us the highest engagement by far.

You’re probably already mapping your content offerings to specific buying stages (i.e. educational content to early-stage prospects; product-focused content to prospects who have demonstrated interest). You can do the same with your Sponsored Updates. For instance, we have an asset called The CMO Guide to Inbound Marketing, so when we use it in our Sponsored Updates, we make sure to only target executive-level marketers.

Here’s a Sponsored Update targeted toward people whose job function is in marketing, and are also members of social media-related LinkedIn groups:

marketo DG2SM targeted update

Note that the message, title, and meta data are all adjustable. If your content doesn’t necessarily call out the audience in its title, you can always adjust that copy for better reach. Your copy should also make the value of your content immediately obvious. How will your asset or event provide value? A dynamic summary and a strong call-to-action go a long way. As a side note: LinkedIn may be “the professional network”, but that’s no excuse to be boring.

Here’s another hint: LinkedIn allows you to place “exclusions” on your ads. These decrease the cost of your ads by excluding competitors or members of LinkedIn groups that aren’t relevant to your audience.

Test and Tweak

While you should definitely base your targeting on engagement, it’s still best to test. Try two different messages in a post about an asset, target two different sections of your audience with the same post, or promote two different assets to your entire audience. A few days later, note which post or posts had the highest engagement.

Here’s a screenshot of one of our recent campaign results. We ran four different Sponsored Updates for a week, targeting our entire audience.

results of sponsored update ad

When we looked back at the results, we saw that The ROI of Marketing Automation and The Definitive Guide to Marketing Metrics (DG2MM) performed much better than The Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation and The Gartner Magic Quadrant for CRM Lead Management. This told us that our LinkedIn audience was more interested in measuring marketing success than marketing automation or lead management in general. As you can see, we stopped running the last two ads — you never want to inundate your audience with messages they won’t find relevant.

In Closing

Because these ads are still very new, we can expect even better targeting, and even more useful features in the future. That said, LinkedIn has already become one of our top two performing social media channels — thanks, in no small part, to Sponsored Updates. To leverage Sponsored Updates for your own company, keep your ads targeted, write compelling copy, and measure continuously.

Want to learn more about social marketing on LinkedIn? Check out our Tips for the Social Marketer Cheat Sheet: LinkedIn.

Have you seen success with LinkedIn Sponsored Updates? Are there any tips you’d like to add to the list above? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below!