LinkedIn continues to cross off the checklist for assembling a modern digital advertising business after pressing reset a year ago.
Later this year LinkedIn will once again let businesses target the people who visit their websites with ads on the Microsoft-owned, business-centric social network. On top of re-adding website retargeting — which is already offered by Facebook, Google, Twitter and Pinterest — LinkedIn will also enable business to target ads based on people’s email addresses, as its aforementioned rivals already do.
LinkedIn’s plans are detailed in a presentation published to the company’s Marketing Solutions site as well as videos posted to the division’s YouTube channel. Manny Rivas from digital ad targeting firm Aimclear brought the YouTube videos to our attention earlier on Monday.
“Matched Audiences is a natural evolution of our Marketing Solutions business and we’re currently testing it with key customers. We’ve spent the last few years heavily investing in our infrastructure, and regularly enhancing Campaign Manager translates into better results for our customers,” a LinkedIn spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
The new website retargeting and email targeting options will be part of a new ad-targeting program called Matched Audiences that LinkedIn plans to make available to certain advertisers in November 2017, according to the leaked presentation. In addition to incorporating the account targeting option that LinkedIn introduced in March 2016, the Matched Audiences program appears to be where LinkedIn will resurrect the Lead Accelerator program that it announced in February 2016 it would shut down. The previous program enabled advertisers to aim ads at LinkedIn users who visited their sites when those people were on other sites, including but not limited to LinkedIn. While LinkedIn exited the ad network business altogether, the company said it would merge the then-standalone Lead Accelerator program into its main ad platform.
Based on the presentation and videos detailing Matched Audiences, the new website retargeting and email targeting options can be used for LinkedIn’s Sponsored Content ads that appear in people’s LinkedIn feeds and Sponsored InMail campaigns that are slotted in their LinkedIn inboxes. And they can be combined with LinkedIn’s standard ad targeting options, like the target audience’s location, job title, seniority level, gender and age.
LinkedIn’s Matched Audiences program seems fairly standard compared to similar versions from Facebook, Google, Twitter and Pinterest, except for the main thing that differentiates LinkedIn from its competitors. When marketers advertise to people on those other sites and apps, they’re running up against baby photos, cat videos, news articles and home decor ideas, which may not be the ideal context for a company to court a new client. Meanwhile on LinkedIn they’re catching people in work mode, plus people are more likely to have their work email addresses attached to their LinkedIn accounts than their accounts on the other platforms.
LinkedIn paved a path toward returning to website retargeting last year when it added a way for businesses to track when their ads on LinkedIn lead people to do something on the advertiser’s site, like buy a product or register an account. The piece of code used to perform that conversion tracking — called the “LinkedIn Insight Tag” — will also be used for website retargeting, according to the company’s presentation.
LinkedIn’s website retargeting option appears to work the same as other platforms’ web retargeting options. Businesses can combine multiple URLs or URL fragments to retarget against, so that they can aim their ads at anyone who visits any page on their sites, anyone who visits certain categories of pages or anyone who visits a single page. For example, an advertiser might want to show one general ad to people who visit its home page, a more tailored one to people who visit its product pages and one aimed only at people who checked out its contact page. To make these retargeted ads less creepy, they will not run until at least 300 people with LinkedIn accounts have visited the specified pages on the advertiser’s site.
LinkedIn appears poised to roll out its email-based targeting in waves. Starting in November, the feature will be limited to an early access program for advertisers that are customers of marketing automation software providers Eloqua, LiveRamp and Marketo. Eventually LinkedIn plans to let advertisers upload CSV files containing the list of email addresses to target. As with other platforms’ email-based targeting options, LinkedIn will use a process called “hashing” to scramble the matches between an email address and a LinkedIn account. As a result advertisers won’t be able to see which individual email addresses were matched to a LinkedIn account or access information about those LinkedIn accounts.