LinkedIn wants to be more than where you look for jobs – so it's taking a big page from Facebook’s playbook

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  • LinkedIn is gunning for bigger ad budgets with a new ad format that replicates carousel ads on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
  • The Microsoft-owned company wants to be the digital water cooler where people share and talk about news happening in the business world.
  • Meanwhile video is LinkedIn’s “fastest-growing ad format” and is averaging 30% view-through rates, the company says.

LinkedIn wants to be known as more than a platform used to job search.

Over the past year, the site has made a number of changes to its site—most notably native video—that position it closer to newsfeed-like social apps Facebook and Twitter. LinkedIn has also beefed up its publisher partnerships that help big name media companies like Forbes, Bloomberg and the New York Times develop strategies for sharing content to the platform’s more than 562 million users.

Today the Microsoft-owned property is unveiling a new ad unit called carousel ads. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all have their own versions of carousel ads for brands that want to show multiple products in a swipeable gallery.

According to LinkedIn, 300 brands have tested carousel ads that allow marketers to piece together up to 10 slides. In its initial tests, advertisers like Volvo Canada and RBC Wealth Management claim that the ads resulted in twice the response rates seen previously.

However, beyond just enticing people to interact, LinkedIn says the ads are meant to appeal to big brand marketers that use photos and videos for deeper storytelling than data-obsessed business-to-business brands that are focused on acquiring new customers through digital ads.

“This is a rich canvas for telling compelling stories,” said Abhishek Shrivastava, LinkedIn’s director of product. “You move someone from the very beginning of awareness to maybe consideration to asking them to submit a lead [form].”

LinkedIn’s bread and butter is still B2B marketing

Take wealth management firm RBC Wealth Management, for example. The firm has been piloting carousel ads as part of a bigger campaign to promote an Asia-themed package of content, such as an article about what parents need to know before sending a child to study abroad in Asia. The ad also linked to a page where consumers could fill out a form to download a research report about wealth management in Asia, which doubled click-through rates compared to the click-through rate for average LinkedIn ads.

LinkedIN carousel adsThe carousel ads “allowed us to showcase multiple content assets to a global and targeted audience,” said Ashleigh Patterson, senior director of global content marketing and social media at RBC Wealth Management. “We were able to optimize as we went.”

But the site is also courting big brands like Volvo

While LinkedIn still caters to business-to-business marketers, “we see high-consideration B2C marketers doing well because a lot of things they look for in terms of a target audience happens to be on our platform,” Shrivastava said.

One example of a high-consideration brand: Cars. People often spend months researching and visiting dealers before they settle on a new car. Plus, automakers are one of the top-spending advertising verticals.

So, Volvo Canada decided to target its ads to people based on the seniority of their job position. “It gives us a way to get an indicator of income, which is a great advantage,” said Kerry Mitchell, president of m/SIX Canada, Volvo’s agency.

LinkedIn carousel ads
More than a job portal 

LinkedIn might not be a full-blown news platform that can compete with Facebook and Google’s size but internal data from the company suggests that people are reading more general news on the site.

Here are the top 5 general interest headlines from LinkedIn between May 1 and June 7:

Video is another way that LinkedIn is gunning for more attention as an advertising and publishing platform. Since April, brands and users can upload clips to their pages and accounts and then promote them with ads using LinkedIn’s targeting tools.

According to Shrivastava, video is LinkedIn’s “fastest-growing ad format” and averages a view-through rate of 30 percent, which measures how many people stop to watch a video as they scroll through the newsfeed. Videos also average three times the number of engagements than text posts.

Like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, video also lives within LinkedIn’s newsfeed that automatically plays clips as users scroll, which Shrivastava hinted will be a big part of LinkedIn’s products in the future.

“The feed experience that was launched in the last couple of years for us has been a game-changer in terms of changing the value proposition for our members and giving them the content to succeed on a daily basis,” he said.

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LinkedIn wants to be more than where you look for jobs – so it's taking a big page from Facebook’s playbook