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social media how toDo you use LinkedIn to prospect for new business?

Want to reach a highly targeted professional audience with your message?

LinkedIn ads are an excellent way to increase visibility and generate leads.

In this article I’ll explain the different types of LinkedIn ads and show you step by step how to set them up to reach the ideal audience for your business.

create linkedin ads

Discover how to create LinkedIn ads that generate results.

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Why LinkedIn Ads?

No matter what industry you’re in, it’s likely your business audience is on LinkedIn. The platform’s 350+ million users are almost entirely businesspeople, so why not use ads to get in front of your ideal prospects? Ads increase your visibility, and therefore improve the “know, like and trust” factor.

If your advertising budget equals or is more than $25,000 a quarter, you can get access to some amazing (and premium) advertising tools such as Lead Accelerator, display ads, sponsored InMails and sponsored groups.

The alternative, which is perfect for small- to medium-sized businesses, is sponsored content (similar to Facebook news feed ads or sponsored tweets) and text ads (similar to PPC ads on Google, or Facebook ads).

While LinkedIn ads tend to be more expensive than other platforms, they can be worth the money if you use their specific targeting options (companies, titles, education, etc.) and do micro-campaigns (instead of doing one big campaign that reaches 50,000 people, do 50 micro-campaigns that reach 1,000 people each). This reduces the cost, is easier to track and gives you more visibility.

sponsored update example

Sponsored updates, like this one, and text ads on LinkedIn are great for small- and medium-sized businesses.

There are two ways to set up ads: cost per click (CPC) and pay per impression (mille) (PPM).

When you do sponsored content, go with CPC, because people don’t click through as much on sponsored updates. LinkedIn will keep showing your ad until they get their money, which is why micro-targeting is such a good idea. This is perfect if your strategy is to start getting recognition and visibility.

When you do text ads, go with PPM. These ads are a good option for lead generation. For example, you can send a white paper or another incentive to get someone into your marketing funnel. Once folks feel like they know you because of your sponsored updates, they’ll be more likely to click on the link, and then you’ll have them in your funnel.

#1: Get Started

To use any ads on LinkedIn, you need to have a company page, which is easy to set up. Just click Interests and choose Companies from the drop-down menu. On the next page, click the Create button. Then input your company name and email address, and click Continue. Upload logos and content, and you’re good to go.

To set up an ad, go to the LinkedIn Ads page. Click Start Now to get started and then select the ad you want to set up.

linkedin ads start screen placeit

Getting started with LinkedIn ads is easy. Image: Placeit.

#2: Set Up a Sponsored Ad

To set up a sponsored ad, click on Sponsor Content. First, type in a name for your campaign.

choosing sponsored content in campaign manager

Choose Sponsor Content, give the campaign a specific name and then select the relevant company.

Choose something specific that you can easily recognize and track. Then select your company. If you manage pages for a lot of companies, you’ll get several options.

Now, choose an update that you’ve already created or create direct sponsored content. The limitation of doing direct (new) sponsored content is that you get fewer characters to work with.

choosing an update to sponsor

Select the update you want to sponsor.

To promote an update you’ve already created, you can use 600 characters plus an image. If you choose to promote new, direct sponsored content you’ll have to limit your ad to 160 characters, and it won’t show up on your company page. If you want to offer something that you don’t want to show up on your company page, this is the route to go.

Once you’ve selected the content, do your targeting. Choose your audience, and at the very least, you have to choose a location. Be as specific as possible.

Then you can target by company or category (industry or company size). Focus on job title, job function or job seniority, as well as education. Another option is to target by group, because if you share a group, it’s easier to connect later on.

In addition to targeting who sees your ad, you can also eliminate specific groups, companies, skills and fields of study. So if you’re targeting marketers, but don’t want your competition to see your ad, you can exclude a specific company or companies. Or if you’re growing your mailing list, but you don’t want people with a specific skill set to click on your download (because it would be either over their heads or too simplistic for them), eliminate those skills.

linkedin targeting options

There are many options for targeting ads on LinkedIn. Run many hyper-targeted campaigns.

You’ll also notice an option called Audience Expansion. It’s a good idea to uncheck this box, because it keeps your search as targeted as possible. According to LinkedIn, “Enabling this feature can increase your campaign’s reach by also including members similar to the target audience you’ve selected.” Test your ad for a week or so and if you don’t see the results you’re after, go back in and check it.

Once you choose your audience, it’s a matter of paying for it. As previously mentioned, do cost per click on sponsored ads if your goal is brand awareness. Pay per impression is usually three to four times more expensive.

Start with a minimum bid. Then if you’re not getting the results you want, update and increase your spend to somewhere between the minimum and suggested bid.

Next, set the daily budget. The minimum is $10/day. Be sure to include an end date.

Keep an eye on the campaign so you can adjust if necessary. You can edit an ongoing campaign, but you get cleaner metrics if you just start it over again, which is easy to do.

 duplicating a linkedin campaign

It’s easy to duplicate existing campaigns. You also get cleaner metrics than you would from editing a current campaign.

To change a campaign, first end the current campaign. Then go back to your Campaign Manager and either duplicate the campaign with different pricing and targeting or start a new one.

#3: Set Up a Text Ad

To set up a text ad, click Create an Ad and then name your campaign. You don’t have to choose a company for this kind of ad.

For each text ad, you need to add a 50 x 50 image, a 25-character headline and 75 characters to describe the content. Since the image is so small, the simpler it is, the better. Also be careful with the language you use. Similar to Facebook, you can’t do words in all caps. For example, “FREE” will get tagged, and your ad probably won’t pass.

Next, enter the ad destination, which could be a page on LinkedIn (such as your company page) or a URL.

 creating a linkedin text ad

For a text ad, name your campaign and upload the details.

Pick your audience and pay for the ad. For a text ad, you might pay for impressions, because you want more clicks. You can use text ads to feed people into your funnel.

You can do up to 15 variations of one ad. You can change the image, headline, text and destination. For example, use the same image three times with three different headlines, use different images with the same headline, etc.

creating linkedin ad variations

Add up to 15 variations per LinkedIn text ad.

When you launch your ad, LinkedIn will run as many variations as you create, and you can see which one was most successful in metrics.

LinkedIn is really good about metrics. Sort by amount spent, clicks, impressions, click-through rate (number of clicks divided by number of impressions), average cost per click and social actions.

linkedin ad metrics

LinkedIn offers a variety of metrics for ads.

If you choose to change an ad, just click on it, view the details and then edit it.

#4: Select Options in the Campaign Manager

Go to the Settings tab in the Campaign Manager for notifications.

There’s also a check box to select called Network Updates. LinkedIn will send your ad to your network for free.

linkedin campaign manager

Go to the Campaign Manager to update notifications and to check the box that will send your ad to your network for free.

One more thing: Every now and then, LinkedIn will offer you an ad credit as an incentive to run ads. This is something you’ll want to take advantage of. Just set your limits so you don’t go over budget.

Final Thoughts

While it’s true LinkedIn ads tend to cost more than Facebook ads or sponsored tweets, you may see some really positive results if you tweak your targeting strategy.

Try sponsored content and text ads, and experiment with different content and targeting to see what works best.

What do you think? Do you use LinkedIn ads? Which ones are most successful for you? Do you use pay per impression or pay per click? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

LinkedIn ads page image created with Placeit.
how to create linkedin ads that generate results

Tips for creating LinkedIn ads that generate results.

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  • Melissa

    When you say “Pay per impression is usually three to four times more expensive,” are you referring to social networks across the board or just LinkedIn?

  • Shaun Guidolin

    Varies by platform .. In itself LinkedIn is 3-4x more expensive than other social networks.

  • linkedinexpert

    On LinkedIn – in general – the PPM is just for LinkedIn Members (the exception might be if you are using LinkedIn’s Lead Accelerator which crosses over platforms but then you are looking at a substantially bigger Spend…)

  • linkedinexpert

    Thanks Shaun – I assumed that – but have only paid for Facebook ads which were WAY cheaper than LinkedIn Ads :)) I wasn’t sure about AdWords or Twitter Ads…

  • I admit that I’ve neglected my LinkedIn Ads because of client work. Yay! Seriously though. LinkedIn ads haven’t worked for me in the past but as soon as I clear some space on Do Now List, I’ll revisit and rewrite.

  • Great article! Super Useful thanks!

  • The great thing about Linkedin is that you can come back whenever you want and pick up where you left off!

  • Murray Beaulieu

    Excellent article as always. Unfortunately after 10+ years on Linked In, I have yet to meet anyone who has been happy with the results of Linked In Ads. They are way too expensive to the degree that it’s almost like they discourage you from using them. I will give it another shot after reading this. Thanks

  • I personally tell my clients to buy the premium membership and run searches. I think that’s more cost effective than ads, unless you have a huge advertising budget.

  • Amazing Alia

    Thanks for the tips…

  • Marlene44845

    I l­ef­t m­y desk job an­d now I get paid eighty five dollars hourly. How? I am working online from home! My old work was bad for me,s­o I decided to take my chance on something different… 2 yrs have passed since And I can say it was a best decision I ever made! Check it out, what i do…

  • 1) If I have 13K+ people in my first circle, will LinkedIn send my ad to all of them for Really Free? And if someone from this huge company click on my ad I will not be charged by LinkedIn?
    2) what if we have our site on two different languages? Now we use LI only for English-version of company ( SafeUM ) page. How can we use LinkedIn for the second language audience?
    Thank you.

  • Priscilla

    Make $90 every day for working over the internet from your own home for several h /day… Get regular payment on a weekly basis… You’ll need a computer, access to the internet, and a little spare time…

  • Venkatesa Prasad S

    Will Linkedin show who clicked the ads. If Yes how?. If No, is there any way to find that out

  • linkedinexpert

    So true – although they do change things around a bit 🙂

  • linkedinexpert

    Thanks John!

  • linkedinexpert

    I wish – makes sense right? Not with the DIY Ads, although I believe you can do that as part of Lead Accelerator with Display ads and Sponsored InMail….

  • linkedinexpert

    Not for the DIY Ads – but I’m sure using UTMs there is some way to figure that out…

  • Great article for those who start advertising on LinkedIn. Update however is recommended, since LinkedIn introduced their new campaign manager in july. The layout has been changed and amongst other things, Direct Sponsored Content has been improved.

  • Antonia

    I Have also recently received ad campaigns as Direct Messages – how is that done?

  • This is great, thanks Viveka. I’m heading over there now to get started.

  • Line Lund Sørensen

    Hi Viveka Do you know how to set up ads to get more followers on LinkedIn? Thank you 🙂