LinkedIn is bringing sponsored updates to its primary news feed, calling it a core feature of the company’s content-marketing strategy as it strives to become a more prominent publishing platform.
Sponsored Updates are a new ad unit available to marketers and brand managers that run company pages on LinkedIn. Users will begin seeing the ads on desktops, smartphones and tablets alongside the organic posts from people in their network and companies they follow.
"With sponsored updates what we are doing basically is giving them a way to go beyond their followers and increase their distribution,” said Gyanda Sachdeva, product manager at LinkedIn. "We expect our members to see more content from these companies, institutions, businesses, and at the same time give our marketers and all these entities a bigger channel to distribute this content and get in front of a professional audience on a mainstream channel like the news feed.”
More than 3 million active company pages will be able to purchase the ads in either cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-mille (CPM) based pricing by the end of the month.
"In the CPC in particular, we don’t charge for social actions. So any virality that happens post that is to the advertiser’s credit," Sachdeva said.
Adobe got in on the action early, with a group of brands selected by LinkedIn for a trial phase. The company issued regular sponsored updates over a two-month stretch aimed at raising the profile of Adobe in the digital marketing space.
At the end of the initial campaign, the company learned that at least half of the marketing decisions makers who saw Adobe’s ads were more likely to agree that the company is shaping the future of digital marketing, and 79 percent were more likely to agree that Adobe can help optimize media spend.
"We like to think of ourselves as a very social forward company... We probably spend more on digital marketing strategy than most companies, so we're pretty ahead of the game there and social's a big component of that," said Matt Rozen, group manager of corporate social media at Adobe. "LinkedIn has this perfect niche for us as we try to get awareness out of a very important part of our business - our digital marketing solutions business, the Adobe Marketing Cloud. A lot of marketers don't know that we're in this business."
Marketers are already gathering on LinkedIn to talk about digital marketing, Rozen said.
“You can find a bunch of them on Twitter, we can talk news and information sharing on Twitter and that's great. Some of us are on Facebook too but we tend to want to talk about our favorite movies and our favorite foods, our kids and things like that, or politics, so Facebook isn't this super ideal place. But LinkedIn, people who want to talk about marketing are actually going there to do it,” Rozen said.
Adobe used LinkedIn’s targeting parameters to deliver its messages to professionals in digital marketing or advertising, members with specific marketing functions, chief marketing officers and creative.
"We essentially wanted to reach and engage marketers," he said. "I think there's room for growth in terms of targeting, which LinkedIn would say as well I imagine. There's always room for growth, but it was pretty good."
Rozen said he looks forward to testing sponsored updates as a way to drive conversions or increase the amount of followers Adobe has on LinkedIn.
Sponsored updates may have launched but it is still unclear just how many users will see in their feed.
"We are testing many different configurations and it's very early days, so we don't know yet. There is no specific number that we are tied to,” Sachdeva said. LinkedIn emphasized that it and advertisers will learn more and make changes to its algorithms accordingly after the full launch.