linkedin sponsored updates lessons

LinkedIn adds two new members every second of every day, making it one of the largest online communities of influential, affluent, and educated people. These professionals regularly engage with high-quality content from news sites, thought leaders, and brands, but not all 300 million of them follow your Company Page. So how can you make sure that your content reaches them?

That’s where LinkedIn Sponsored Updates can help. Launched in July 2013, the ad unit lets businesses pay to promote updates to a much broader audience. As a result, your content appears alongside the content your target audience is already engaging with. Early testers have seen positive results — HubSpot, for example, used Sponsored Updates and generated 400 percent more leads.

LinkedIn has analyzed some of the top performing Sponsored Updates on the platform and highlighted some of the reasons why they did so well. We’ll explore those insights more in-depth while providing you with best practices you can apply to your next campaign.

1. Hook Your Readers

Whether you’re sharing a status update or an ad, you should always be providing readers with something of value. LinkedIn’s user base is made up of educated and experienced professionals looking to connect and get ahead in their respective industries. Even if the purpose of your business isn’t to directly help professionals, the content you share on the platform should still be relevant to this audience.

Citi, a provider of banking solutions for consumers and corporations, diversifies its content, sharing resources and topics that matter to its LinkedIn community. In the Sponsored Update highlighted by LinkedIn, the company got a lot of things right. For starters, Citi used “you” to speak to its audience.

This is a big point that’s easily overlooked. Replacing “you” with terms like “professionals,” “entrepreneurs,” or “business owners” can make readers feel like you’re not talking to them. Chances are if they’re on LinkedIn that they fall into one of those categories, but using “you” to address your audience creates a personal connection right away.

Another easy way to capture a viewer’s attention is to start off with a question. If you’ve done your homework, then you probably already know the questions your target audience is asking. Prove that you’re of similar mind by kicking things off with a question and drive viewers to your solution with a clear call-to-action.

2. Make Content Easier to Consume

Social media moves fast and content doesn’t have a very long shelf life. Don’t work against yourself by sharing long-form content where it doesn’t belong. LinkedIn Sponsored Updates should be intriguing yet concise. LinkedIn recommends keeping your posts under 150 characters. And if you’re hoping to maximize click conversions on mobile, ditch the extra copy and keep only the link headline and description.

“Successful posts provide clear value oriented to helping professionals be more productive and successful,” wrote LinkedIn. “Top posts demonstrate high relevancy in a professional or aspirational context.” Angle your content around advice, education, or interesting facts for optimal consumption by your LinkedIn audience.

Adobe, for example, promoted links to relevant thought leadership content, including infographics on marketing trends, tips and insights for marketers, and humorous videos promoting the Adobe Marketing Cloud. Sponsored Updates proved to be an effective way to shape marketers’ perception of the company in the digital marketing field with marketing decision makers 2.5 times more likely to agree that Adobe’s Sponsored Updates “captured their attention.”

The company also recommends sharing infographics and numbered lists. In fact, three out of the five best performing Sponsored Updates it highlighted featured this type of article structure. This doesn’t mean that every piece of content you share needs to have a “Top 3” or “Best 10” angle. Use it when it’s relevant and always diversify your content to keep it fresh for followers.

3. Help Your Posts Stand Out

This is something that will depend a lot on the type of content you share, but there are some steps you can take to optimize your overall approach. For example, the simplest way to draw in more eyes is to include an image in your Sponsored Update. Citi, Financial Times, and Chevron all used relevant images to help their ads stand out in the feed.

The key here is to use images that are relevant to the copy. So if you’re promoting an article about resume red flags, it doesn’t make much sense to use your company’s logo or a photo of sleeping cat. You may even want to look beyond images and include other forms of rich media.

LinkedIn Sponsored Updates currently support videos, presentations, PDFs, and Word docs — in addition to images. Choosing which one to include will depend on the content you’re sharing, your target audience, and your marketing objectives. For example, if you’re promoting an eBook, a PDF or a presentation might make more sense than a screenshot of its cover.

Additionally, consider your targeting options carefully. You’ll want to decide whether to target your campaign to your Company Page followers, non-followers, or both. Keep in mind that your followers have already opted in to receiving regular updates from your company and might be interested in different content than non-followers.

And as with any type of ad on any platform, we recommend creating and testing a couple of different Sponsored Updates to see which elements perform best among your target audience. If you’re unsure about how certain content will perform, you might be interested in Direct Sponsored Content, which gives you the ability to test and retest a variety of content in real time without having to originate posts on your Company Page.

For more information on Sponsored Updates, as well as other advertising options, take a look at our Complete Guide to LinkedIn Ads.